“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.” Luke 2:34-35
Christmas is upon us. Everywhere houses and business districts are decked out in beautiful lights as the sounds of Christmas songs play over loud speakers. The Red Kettles of the Salvation Army stand ready to receive Christmas donations for the poor. Christmas concerts and parties fill the calendar. There are no shortages of celebrations and Christmas shoppers. But… if you were to ask the average person on the street why all the hubbub surrounding Christmas, I wonder what they would say. Would the name of Christ even be mentioned?
In Christian homes, you will likely find families at least reading the Christmas story together from Luke 2. Yet, few will read further than verse 20. Luke records in the remainder of chapter 2 another crucial part of the Christmas story surrounding this newborn Jesus. It is the story of Simeon. The elderly Simeon, a righteous, devout and patient man, had been expectantly waiting for a long time for the coming Messiah. The Holy Spirit had promised him he would see the Messiah before he died. Luke records that moment beginning in verse 22.
We are not told how Simeon knew this was the child, except that Luke clearly records that Spirit of God was upon him, and so we can conclude God revealed it to him. When that moment finally arrived, it must have been an adrenalin rush for Simeon, tingling with excitement as he held in his arms the One who was the consolation of Israel and the salvation of the world.
Luke records not only the joy of this moment but the sober reality that this child would be the focus of relentless hostility. Simeon knew that this Jesus, God in the flesh, would not only renew the hearts of many, but would also stand as a great offense to many whose hearts would be exposed for who they really were.
Source of Offense or Joy?
That’s the thing about Christmas. If we take time to stop and think about why this Holy Day is so significant, we are forced to look beyond the superficial trimmings and traditions to the heart of the matter and answer the question… what will you do with Jesus? For some, this will be a great offense. For others, the joy of the world.
What we do with Jesus determines what this whole holiday is about. Christmas is either another national holiday to talk about peace on earth, do good, give gifts, lift up Santa Claus and have a good time, or it is the moment that the most incredible thing imaginable occurred—the God of Creation entered our world in human flesh to reveal the Father’s love and save us from our sins.
This child we worship as the Prince of Peace and Savior of men is also the focal point of division and opposition. Ironically, many in the world say that if we remove Jesus from the equation, conflict will be resolved and there will be peace on earth. No other man in history stirs such emotional response as Jesus, the Light of the world. Jesus is the problem, we are told. Why?
Because He, who alone can bring peace, is a threat to our illusions of being in control of our lives and destinies. He exposes our futile attempts to earn God’s favor or be the master of our own souls. Jesus is a nuisance to those who do not want to bend the knee, but a sweet fragrance to those who seek the Savior. We cannot avoid the question: What will you do with Jesus?
That is the question we must address this Christmas if we are to be true to what this season is about. “Jesus is the reason for the season” is more than a Christmas card slogan—it is the truth. How will you make sure He is the focus of your Christmas celebrations this year?
The Advent Wreath
If you are using the Advent Wreath in preparation for Christmas, today you will light the fourth candle, the candle of Peace, and read Isaiah 9:6-7. It would be a good time to talk with your grandchildren about the significance of the names listed for the Messiah in this passage, the One whose coming we celebrate with joy. Remind them that Jesus is a threat indeed, but only to those who reject Him. To us who receive Him, He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
And that alone is why Christmas is a time for celebration and joy! It is why the heavenly host sang, “Glory be to God in the highest!”, and why song writers throughout history since Christ’s coming still write songs of joy and praise to Him who brings peace to those upon whom God’s favor rests. What will you do with Jesus this Christmas?
Love Was When
“Love was when God became a man,
Locked in time and space, without rank or place…
To reach and love one such as I.”
— “Love Was When” lyrics by John E. Walvoord