Well, here we are.

Heading towards the end of January, with those Christmas celebrations of just a month ago now quickly fading in our rear-view mirrors.

The weeks after Christmas can be cold, hollow, and bleak, even though they follow a month of singing about how Christ fills our hearts with love, light, and life. Ironic, huh?

Oftentimes, we’re left to sink into some sort of winter funk after the Christmas holidays. Society tells us life’s meaning is all wrapped up in family, children, spouses, and lots and lots of stuff. All of the activity, planning, shopping, wrapping, partying, gift-giving, decorating, and church programs suddenly spin to an end, like a starter cord that gets ripped from its motor.

The “silent night” about which we sing between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, even though silence proves elusive amidst the holiday din, now hits us with its silence and darkness. And boy, both of those can hurt, can’t they? It’s like when city dwellers take a vacation to the countryside, in the middle of nowhere, and the first couple of nights, sleeping is almost impossible because things are too profoundly quiet, and the air is inky black without the glow of streetlights.

So, here we are, single believers who’ve emerged on the other side of Christmas, with our old routines back in place, the weather more unpleasant than it was just a few weeks ago, the nesting comforts of decorations now back in the closet… and what’s the next big holiday coming up?

Valentines Day?

Oh. Great!

Rub it in, why don’t you? “Bah, humbug,” indeed.

And there we go, forgetting what the Angel of the Lord told the shepherds. He said to “fear not,” right? Fret not. Don’t be alarmed, or dismayed.

Maybe we forget about Simeon and Anna, who had been looking for the “consolation of Israel.” We don’t know anything about Simeon’s marital status, but 87-year-old Anna had been a widow for decades after only being married for seven years. Both of them spent their days, year after quiet year, in the temple, waiting on God and, in the meantime, worshipping him.

The grateful Simeon praised God for the baby Jesus in a beautiful proclamation confirming the purpose of the Christ Child, but he also gave a solemn warning to Mary and Joseph; a warning that doesn’t always make the cut into our happy Christmas services at church.

"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,” Simeon reminded Mary and Joseph, “and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

In other words, Simeon appears to darken the joy of meeting his incarnate Lord by introducing the sober reality that this little baby will not be popularly received. That infant’s salvific purpose would be achieved by unavoidable, cataclysmic suffering. Ouch. Not exactly the ego-boost Christ’s young parents were probably looking for, especially since they likely were still grappling with the ever-evolving logistics, implications, and ramifications of raising the Savior of the world.  

Fortunately for them, Anna couldn’t contain her joy at also being introduced to the Christ Child, and reading between the lines of the text in scripture, she likely created a more conventional fuss over the infant that attracted at least a more appreciative crowd among the other worshippers in the temple.

Indeed, the pleasure and pain experienced by Mary and Joseph as they raised the Son of God must have been one holy roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Don’t you think they probably found their naturally born children boring in comparison?

By definition, the Nativity offers a heavy dose of childbirth, marriage, and even courtship with which many of us single adults, by virtue of our marital status, may not wholeheartedly identify. While being born of a virgin – and an unwed one at that – represents a specific manifestation of Christ’s holiness, sometimes in the familiarity of a story we can practically recite from memory, we can easily overlook one key aspect of salvation.