A Light for Revelation to the Gentiles (v. 32)
The first Christmas was the beginning of the end. Christ came to be the full disclosure of God in bodily form. Jesus’ birth tore the distinction between Jew and Gentile like His death tore the veil to the Holy of Holies. Where there was confusion there would be clarity. Where there was division there could now be unity. While it had been clearly hinted at throughout the entire Old Testament, it must now be recognized “God so loved the world” and not just one people group or geographic region.
This portion of Simeon’s prophecy is ripe and overflowing with hope and celebration. Joseph and Mary marveled at his words (v. 33). The reversal of the Tower of Babel (which had continued to unravel like a hole in little boys blue jeans) was beginning. Now instead of their being continual division and only unity through war and violence, the King of kings and Price of Peace (the long-awaited Messiah) steps on the scene to stop the madness.
QUESTION: What promise of God seems too far-fetched to you at this time? Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection should give us hope to conquer our doubts. The fact that God could work through this frailest of human forms in the darkest of times should maintain our hope that we are not beyond His power.
However, Christmas also reminds us that we are caught between the “already” and “not yet” of God’s activity. God is still mending while the world is still unraveling. Sin and death have been conquered but not silenced. As the Jews looked to Christmas (confused, doubting, hurting, longing), so we Christians look to Christ’s second coming. The miraculous faithfulness of the first coming gives us hope for the second.
A Child for the Fall and Rising of Many (v. 34)
The Christmas wars did not begin with the assault on the phrase “Merry Christmas.” From the first records Jesus’ birth has been divisive. The dividing point of history (BC vs AD) is also the dividing point of humanity (believing vs. unbelieving). In spite of the joyousness of the occasion what you believe about Christmas impacts everything else you believe.
Either Jesus was the Son of God incarnate as a human baby sent to save the world from our sin, or he wasn’t. If Jesus is those things, we have a loving, involved God and we are sinful needy people. If Jesus is not those things, we are basically good at heart and an idea of God is fine as long as he serves you and you do not impose that belief on anyone else.
APPLICATION: Christmas is no tame holiday (apologies to C.S. Lewis). Decorations, presents, big meals, and visits with family are wonderful. But they cannot (or at least should not) mask the magnitude of what we celebrate. As you seek to prepare for Christmas use not only the carols, mangers, and lights to stir your reflections, but also the conflict, division, and turmoil. If Jesus were not who He claimed to be then neither the intense pleasure nor intense strife would surround this sacred day.
It is wonderful to enjoy Christmas. Even for those who struggle during the Christmas season with grief or painful memories, we all long to enjoy and appreciate this sacred season for what it is—God’s arrival to earth as a baby.
However, we face many obstacles: the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas; shopping; planning all the visits with family and friends; the familiarity of having “done Christmas” so many times; the longing for it to be like what we’ve experienced before; and the sense that the whole thing is bordering on a fairy tale (apart from divine revelation it would be easier to believe Frosty the Snowman than Jesus the Infant God-man).
Here are some suggestions for all ages about how to prepare yourself to enjoy Christmas for the celebration it truly is.
- Read the opening of each of the Gospels in the week leading up to Christmas (not just on Christmas morning before opening presents).
- Print the lyrics to your favorite Christmas carols and talk about them at family meals.
- Look at baby pictures of each member of the family and how they grew up. Consider the sacrifice it was for God to “grow up.”
- Create a “Gospel Gift” a family. It might be a donation to a mission’s agency. Open that gift first before any other presents. As you “open” the gift share opportunities you had to share the gospel during the year. Leave the package out during the year to remind one another than to share the gospel is to celebrate Christmas.
- Laugh together. Jesus came that there might be joy in unity; not pleasure in individualism. This may be most difficult for the young ones and should be a muscle that is strengthened not a rule that is enforced. The present of Christmas (the Gospel) was made to be shared and the full enjoyment of that present is seeing it bring joy to others. The other-mindedness of enjoying the pleasure and blessing of another is a mark that we truly understand and have embraced the message of Christmas.
Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.