Did you have a nice Christmas? Everyone asks you that. It’s a sort of conversation filler to use between Christmas and New Year’s since it’s too early to say “Happy New Year” yet. So let me ask you a different question. Did you have Christmas? In other words, did Christmas come for you?
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the cable channels are full of children’s shows, done in everything from claymation to CGI, in which the basic plot is always the same. Some mean person or creature does something that will keep Christmas from coming this year. In fact, this formula is so successful that I have noticed it has been expanded into Halloween shows as well. There are now Halloween specials where the basic plot is, “Will Halloween come this year?”
So I was thinking, given all the screen time we devote to making our children and even ourselves wonder if Christmas was going to come this year, to ask ourselves if it really did. The mall moves on to Valentine’s Day and we move on too? But did Christmas really come?
It’s not such an odd question. In fact it’s a question people even asked of Jesus. They didn’t quite phrase it as, “Jesus, how your Christmas?” or “Did Christmas come for you?” Instead, after Jesus began his ministry a few of John the Baptist’s disciples came to him and asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we wait for another?”
During Jesus’ presentation in the Temple as a child, Simeon, guided by the Spirit, enters. He approaches the baby Jesus and takes him in his arms and starts thanking God saying, “Thank you God. You promised I would see the Messiah before I died and today I have. This child will bring your salvation (that is wholeness and reconciliation), not just to Israel but to the whole world. I can die in peace now!”
The recognition of Jesus as messiah, was also confirmed that day by a prophet named Anna. Yes there were woman prophets. Some forty years later, the apostle Paul would ask that women remain silent in church, but apparently Anna hadn’t heard of Paul yet. So Anna, another elderly Spirit-filled person, tells people that Jesus would have a role in the redemption of Jerusalem.
Christmas had truly come for Simeon and Anna. They believed that in the birth of Jesus, the world had truly changed, that history had turned a corner. Christmas was more than a date that had passed on the calendar. It was a world-changing event. Things would never be the same again.
We say we believe it, yet we act as if we don’t. We take the reality of Christmas and casually toss it aside as if it were an empty Wii box. We take the demands of discipleship and leave them at the curb in the rain, hoping someone will take them away.
When Christmas truly comes, when we truly see Jesus as God’s messiah and light of revelation the world looks different. The follower of Jesus doesn’t approach the world with the attitude of “Hey, it’s all good.” The follower of Jesus walks in his light and sees shadows. It’s not all warm and fuzzy praise-the-Lord platitudes. Sometimes it means a sword is going to pierce your soul. And that doesn’t always feel good.
If we want our lives to make a difference, we need to take a cue from Simeon. He found fulfillment not in power, fame, or wealth, but in the mystery of a tiny child. He spent his life waiting patiently for the messiah. He never lived to see Israel fully restored, nor the whole world made right. Yet he said he could die in peace because of what God had revealed to him in Jesus. He could reach the end of his life with a sense of fulfillment even though he didn’t live to see God’s kingdom brought to completion.
You and I may not live to see the kingdom reach its completion either. Yet we can make a difference and we can even die in peace. To be a follower of Jesus, a true disciple is to have the audacity to stand in this world, knee-deep in crap, and brazenly declare that Christmas has truly come. We are a people, who spirit-saturated like Anna and Simeon, have the faith to proclaim that our eyes have seen God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.