Christmas is certainly a time of good tidings and cheer. But there are serious implications found in The Story, but also in a little adjunct story often overlooked. ♦
It’s the time of year when stories of homecomings, reunions and gatherings of loved ones abound. With giving hearts softened toward those less fortunate, it’s a cozy and homey season of beauty, peace and joy. It’s a wonderful time of lights, ribbons and bows, trees, shopping and food.
And of course there’s also the Jesus issue.
For most it’s deftly handled, appropriately underplayed so as not to offend. Many wish not to get “too religious” about the holiday season. While not overtly saying it, many who lean toward the secular may be thinking: “Tis the season to be jolly and thinking warm thoughts toward my fellow man. Why do they always have to bring Jesus into it?”
Because He is the story.
Like it or not, believe it or not, or know it or not, (one is always free to ignore or turn away), the story of Jesus’ birth is well enough told and understood by most. I’ll not repeat it here. Read the accounts directly from the Bible in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-7.
But Here’s A Story Often Missed
There’s a fascinating story that takes place shortly after Jesus physical birth. This story is in the gospel account written by historian and physician, Luke (Luke 2:21-39). It is only weeks later, perhaps when Jesus is only 2 months old. His parents, Joseph and Mary, take him into Jerusalem and into the temple as is dictated by Jewish law for his presentation to God with a sacrifice of two doves or young pigeons. (see Leviticus 12:2-6)
In the temple there’s a strange encounter with an old man named Simeon. Good and devout, Simeon had the “Holy Spirit upon him.” What does that really mean? Simply that he walked with God and was possessed with His Spirit. This is a good thing and something all of us should be seeking in our own intimacy and walk with God.
Luke learns something about this man Simeon (Luke interviewed people for his accounts, including Mary, most likely):
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’
The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, 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.’ – Luke 2:26-35
The Rest of the Story
Right on the heels of this encounter with Simeon, the little famly have an eerily similar experience with an old woman named Anna.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was 84. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Many might pass over these passages and consider them merely odd and anecdotal. But read it carefully and see what a profound passage this is!
2 Witnesses: Jesus is the Christ
Is it coincidental or so God-like that the Old Testament law speaks of the need for 2 witnesses to condemn one to death (Deuteronomy 17:6)? In this case it is 2 witnesses announcing the advent of One who would be the Savior of the world, bringing life over death for all, both Jews and the Gentiles.
A prophetic word from an old and devout, spirit-led man and woman, who both get more than a footnote in the greatest story every told.
Have you acknowledged the implications of the reality of Christ’s birth?
‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ – Luke 2:11-12