In the pantheon of Christmas characters one finds a wide variety of people (and things). On one end of the spectrum you've got the Grinch, on the other Cindy Lou Who. You've got bad guys like Scrooge and you've got good guys like Bob Cratchit. The great thing about both of those stories is that the message of redemption rings true. The Grinch gets a new heart. Scrooge gets a new life.

It is the story of redemption that is at the heart of the Christmas drama. The new heart and the new life are the gifts that the Son brought with Him on that first Christmas day.

As Christians, we need to redeem Christmas from the crass commercialism of modern America. We need to save Christmas from our sentimental selves. We need to read the Christmas story as the very first actors did. Then, we need to respond as they did, with worship.

A set of characters merits our attention: Simeon and Anna. "Who?" our children respond. "I've not seen them in any of those Christmas specials." They're right. Simeon and Anna are overlooked, left off the stage, forgotten until we find them on the pages of Luke. There they wait for us, waiting to teach us about God's grand plan of redemption.

First, there's Simeon. Simeon was a devout man, a righteous man, a man seeking after God's consolation. Led by the Spirit, Simeon was in the Temple the day Joseph and Mary went to dedicate their firstborn, God's firstborn, to God. Upon seeing the child, Simeon rejoiced and gave God the glory for the great things He had done.

He praised God because salvation is from the Lord. Simeon had lived to see the coming of the Messiah. He had trusted God's prophetic word. He had seen His Savior. And, he "blessed God" (Luke 2:28-31).

He praised God because salvation had come for mankind. The Gospel message that Simeon proclaimed was amazing. God had provided the means of salvation for all who will be saved. Both Jews and Gentiles are among God's elect (Luke 2:32).

Lest we get lost in the treacle sweetness of our Christmas festivities, we must not forget why Christ came and how He was to secure the salvation of many. Simeon helps us here as well. Simeon warned the new parents of the coming death of their Son (Luke 2:33-35). You see, the cross is never far from Christmas. We should never forget that.

And, there's Anna. An elderly women, dedicating her last days to the Lord, Anna spent those days in the Temple, "worshiping," "fasting," and praying. Her relationship with God was one of worship.

Anna worshiped with evangelism. When Anna encountered the proud parents and the Baby, her response could be nothing other than worship. She gave "thanks to God" for the incredible gift of His Son. But, Anna went one step further in her worship. She told others about the Christ child. So should we (Luke 2:36-38).

Of all the human characters we meet in the biblical Christmas story, it is Simeon and Anna who most clearly understand the full meaning of Christ's birth. Why? Because they didn't stop to think about the Messiah only on December 25 (or whatever day He was born). No. Their entire lives were devoted to God. Thus, when they encountered the Christ child, they did what was already natural to them. They worshiped.

Oh, that our worship came as naturally from the overflow of our hearts as it did that day in the Temple when Mary and Joseph dedicated Jesus to His Father's great work of redemption.

Peter Beck (Ph.D. Southern Seminary) is assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina and a former Senior Pastor. Dr. Beck also writes at his Website, Living to God.