Think You're Anticipating Christmas? Consider Simeon & Anna
- Sunday, December 22, 2013
Full confession – I love Christmas. Of course this includes the non-commercialized, reason-for-the-season Christmas. But, it also includes the Christmas-tree-decorating, present-buying, television-special-watching Christmas season. I loved it as a kid. I love it as an adult. To be sure, the surface of my affection has changed a bit, but not the underlying source. Even as a kid, what I enjoyed the most about Christmas was not a particular present per se but that there were going to be gifts given to me and I was going to give gifts to my family. The season involved a break from school, traveling to see and spend time with family, and activities that make you wonder why you don't make time for them during the other 360-some days of the year.
When it comes to the over-commercialization of Christmas, it is helpful to keep in mind that the problem isn't external – as if the season is commercialized simply out of a desire to drain it of its meaning. The clamor for possessions that ensues before October candy has been consumed is simply a response to demand. Christmas is commercialized because our hungry culture wants it to be that way. You can see it dripping from every advertisement and you can hear it whisper in every jingle – the message that this will be the year, this will be the gift in which we are finally fulfilled. The human heart longs to be fulfilled and the mad scramble to fill the void with trinkets is a reflection of that desire – and a vivid portrait of how painfully low are our expectations.
As a child, I can remember the nearly agonizing anticipation of seeing gifts under the tree while knowing I would have to wait to handle the joyous bounty they held. The two days from presentation to possession was an eight-year-old's eternity! Now as an adult, it is this anticipation of hope realized that always reminds me of my favorite portrait of those who were present at the coming of the Messiah. I love the narrative of Simeon and Anna. It is the recording of the lives of these two people that I believe speaks so clearly to the state of men's souls reflected in the amped-up accumulation of commercialized Christmas. When we find ourselves or others wrapped up in the hope of receiving that for which we have pled, it is the greatest of opportunities to recall the true hope, peace, joy and love that was presented at the coming of God's Christ.
You want anticipation? Consider the context in which we find Simeon and Anna. They stood some SEVEN CENTURIES removed from Isaiah's prophecy that to Israel “a child has been born” and “a son has been given” who would sit on the throne of his father David in an unending rule of justice and peace. Though Israel had received this and many other prophecies of a coming redeemer and deliverer, Simeon and Anna were FOUR centuries removed from any prophetic voice from God! I don't need to tell you that the anticipation of two days waiting for a plush Snoopy toy pales in comparison. And yet, we find these two as examples of those who were believing and waiting, trusting in the promises of the God who had chosen them.
In Luke 2:25 we meet Simeon. He was a righteous and devout man who is described as “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” He was one in a long line of faithful men and women who knew the promises of God and lived their life observing His law as they waited for His promises to be revealed. Except Simeon had actually received a word. The Holy Spirit had told him (Luke 2:26) that he would see the Lord's Christ! He would, with his own eyes, behold the gift promised by God centuries before! Can you imagine the anticipation that grew in Simeon's soul at that revelation?! We aren't given an indication of how much time lapsed between the word from the Holy Spirit and the day that Mary and Joseph brought the baby to the Temple. We do not know how many days Simeon went to the Temple in expectation. But we know this – he went. He was there. He was waiting and looking. THE GIFT was finally going to arrive!
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