Some people will tell you Christmas isn’t all about gifts. Pah. Christmas is all about a gift. Let’s be honest – if you asked people for the things that remind them of Christmas then it’s likely that, in true Family Fortunes fashion, gifts would be one of the top answers. Gifts are one of those things that human nature loves.
A gift is an opportunity to show someone that you love them, value them and care for them. It’s an opportunity to take a moment out and say to someone that you thought about them and that you wanted them to know their worth to you.I think that sometimes we can get into a mode where we tell ourselves to remember the reason for the season, and yet still get swept into life and forget to act out our words. We can easily turn inwards and instead of sharing with others who don’t know Christ, become introspective and just talk amongst ourselves.
Christmas is not about us. Christmas is about God gifting humanity with His only Son. It’s about the divine becoming flesh to present all of us with the opportunity to be saved. Christmas is about a gift, but it won’t be under any of our trees. Yes, we should celebrate together the reason for the season but a key part of that is sharing it with those who don’t.
Forty days after the birth of Jesus He was taken by His parents to the temple in Jerusalem, as was Jewish tradition. (Luke 2:22-38) Into the hustle and bustle of the temple walked Mary and Joseph; their son was wrapped in a blanket to be redeemed by His father and Mary carried two turtledoves for her own purification.
The greatest gift the world has ever received was carried into the temple amidst no fanfare; for the teachers, the pharisees, those bringing offerings, those selling, life carried on as normal. The redemption of the first born was customary and for almost everyone in the temple, the priest included, this was just another baby boy to be redeemed by his father in exchange for five shekels. God’s gift would have went entirely unnoticed were it not for two people, Simeon and Anna.
Simeon had waited for this moment. Simeon had, quite literally, lived for this moment. The significance of the gift was not lost on him; this was the gift of salvation, the revelation of the gentiles, the glory of Israel – this was huge. Simeon grasped the baby and held Him and there and then gave praise and declared his life complete just because He had seen the gift. Then there was Anna, the eighty four year old prophetess whose life was dedicated to worship and prayer. Coming up at the very hour that this was happening she gave thanks to God and then, full of joy, started to tell everyone who would listen. “It’s Him, He is here!”
There is so much happening at this time of year and life can become so frantic. I know that in a few days time I will be rampaging around Newcastle like a frenzied bull in Paloma, desperately seeking presents I should have bought months ago and panicking about irrelevancies. Somehow I need to take up the challenge that when that happens what’s most important isn’t fresh air, a cup of cocoa or actually finding that elusive gift somewhere. All of those things are nice and good, but am I showing anyone love? Am I introducing anyone to the gift the season is really about?
Amongst the rush of life are we getting on with our routine or are we, like Simeon and Anna, giving praise and declaring aloud the great gift? In all of those people around at the time only those two were aware of the magnitude of gift that God was giving and they could not stay silent. All were in the temple carrying out their religious observances but only two were really recognising what God was doing. Are we the same, or do we just get on with our lives and keep the God part restricted to the church service?
For Simeon and Anna there was nothing routine about that day, there should be nothing routine about the way that we do Christmas. We should, like Simeon, take the opportunity to praise God within it and, like Anna, miss no opportunity to spread the news of what happened two thousand years ago under a star.
If you’re reading this and you don’t yet know Jesus personally, I want you to think about the fact that you’ve made it this far into the post. Something has stirred interest in you, some thing perhaps suggests that maybe there is more to Christmas than a miniature nativity on the windowsill. I’d love if this Christmas you actually took a chance on getting to know the real Jesus. I’ve known Him many years and yet He still never fails to go beyond expectations, to bring fresh surprises and new things. If you’ve never gotten to know Him, He’s probably not what you expect. Take a chance this Christmas, go to church and actually connect with someone and ask them to help you know more about Him.