Summary: It is through photographs that my family traces time. Simeon was a man who understood the passage of time - then he met the Messiah! A Christmas Eve devotion.
Christmas Eve Service 12-24-98
(Slides of our family Christmases through the years are shown while I’m talking).
Every year at the Christmas celebration in the home of my parents, the camera comes out. It’s somewhat of a running joke among us that our Christmas pictures year after year tend to look pretty similar. We always gather in the same room, for many years on the same furniture. You can tell the years apart because of what the people are wearing and because we keep getting older.
We get older – it’s just a fact of life.
I celebrated my first Christmas in 1969. So long ago that life only appeared in black and white.
I am the youngest in our family. My sister Melody is 13 years older than me. My brother Mark is 8 years older.
I have a lot of special memories captured in snapshots. Like the year I was sick for Christmas, but at least I got new Chicago Bears pajamas.
And the year I got a new 10 speed bike.
My sister got married and had children. That added more faces to the snapshots.
And I continued to grow up.
And my parents continued to age.
My brother got married and had children. More new faces.
And he continued to age.
And so did my sister.
And so did her children.
And so did my parents.
Now my brother has a son.
And my parents have new furniture as of last year.
And we all continue to age.
And eventually fall in love to one day start families of our own.
Christmas marks the passage of time. This year I will celebrate my 30th Christmas in the same room with the same people.
(Slide show ends here)
Through these pictures my family traces time. Time marches on. Hour after hour. Day after day. Week…month…year. Until time is no more. The cynic would say these pictures are just a story of how we all grow old and eventually die.
Christmas gives meaning to time. It was the birth of Christ that makes time something more than just hours to be endured.
In Luke chapter 2, we encounter a man who understands the passage of time. Read 2:25-26
This man’s name is Simeon. He’s a senior citizen. An elderly gentleman. He’s seen many years come and go. He was just a boy when the Roman Empire took control of Palestine almost 60 years ago. He undoubtedly remembers the way Pompey, the Roman general, conquered Jerusalem after a 3-month siege of the temple area, massacring Jewish priests in the performance of their duties and then entering the Most Holy Place. This sacrilege began Roman rule in a way that Jews could neither forgive nor forget. He’s even lived through the changes that have occurred because of Roman rule.
But still, after seeing all this change and all of the bloody destruction in his homeland through the years of his life, Simeon remains a man of hope. Verse 25 says that, “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel,” that is, the comfort, the relief that the Messiah would bring to his people. He most definitely remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah, words that had gone through his mind every day for many years, words that the composer Handel would later carefully put to the music of The Messiah,
“Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Simeon longed to see this comfort come to his beloved city of Jerusalem. Especially because of a promise that he had received from the Holy Spirit. Verse 26 tells us that it had been revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Christ.
My prayer for you is that you will not die before meeting the Lord’s Christ.
For Simeon, life was complete after meeting Christ. He could die fulfilled.
TWO BABES IN A MANGER
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:
It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.