Summary: Christmas 1: Jesus didn’t remain long in the manger. Where do we find Him today?
There are certain things that we like to be predictable. We want water to come out of the faucet when we turn the tap. We want the lights to come on when we flip the switch. We want the car engine to start when we turn the ignition switch. Even in this crazy age and time – we want certain things to be boringly conventional. We want our paychecks to be there on time. We want no unexpected expenses. No – no, there are just certain things that are just fine the way they are – no surprises please.
Maybe that is what makes Christmas such a lovely event for so many people. Maybe part of what makes our celebration of Christmas so meaningful is that it is easy to find Jesus on that holy day. We expect for Him to be in the stable, lying in a manger. And Christmas never disappoints – we always find our Savior “away in a manger,” “in a lowly cradle,” “on Mary’s lap … sleeping,” with the oxen nearby.
It’s comforting to know that Jesus is just right there for us. We want the Baby Jesus there in the manger – where He can, ‘look cute;’ ‘remain helpless;’ ‘not challenge us to very much.’ In short with Jesus in the manger, we can have our cake and eat it too. We can have a predictable, little, cute, helpless Savior – One Who won’t push us too very hard.
Let’s consider God’s movement for a just a bit. You see, God didn’t permit the Gospel writers to dwell on the manger scene for very long at all. Among all four Gospel writers, relatively little time is devoted to the stable and manger. As important as it was – announced by angels as it was – accompanied by wondrous signs as it was – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John invest just a small amount of ink on the topic. Matthew devotes one verse that speaks of Jesus’ birth. The rest of the verses in Matthew relate to the annunciation and the visit of the Magi. Luke devotes 20 verses. Mark and John don’t even speak of Jesus’ birth directly. So you see, even the scriptures don’t permit the Savior to remain in the stable very long.
Our Gospel lesson today starts out with Jesus at the ripe old age of 8 days. Just a short time after this, his mom and dad are already taking Him to the temple. There, they have an encounter with two aged servants of the living God. Let’s read a bit about he first one – a temple priest named Simeon. Turn with me to the Gospel Lesson in the bulletin. [Read vv. 25-35 of Gospel Lesson here]
Simeon was a pretty ordinary servant of God. We probably would have never heard of Simeon except for this encounter with the Christ Child. The Baby in the Manger that we’ve contemplated for the last few worship services was seen by Simeon as an altogether different person. He wasn’t just cute and adorable. This Baby that Simeon had so longed to see and hold in his arms is described by Simeon described as: “…the reason that many people in Israel will be condemned and many others will be saved. He will be a sign that will expose the thoughts of those who reject Him…” and to Mary, Simeon said that on account of Jesus, “A sword will pierce your heart.”
We don’t get this at the manger, beloved. These are words that speak of tumultuous change. Jesus came to change the world. He came to challenge us. He came to change lives engrossed in sin. He came to bring luster to the dross of lives so long lived apart from God. He came to permeate with God’s aroma those whose souls were permeated with the world’s stench. That, beloved, sure doesn’t sound like the Baby Whom we met at the manger. Simeon knew what this little Child that he held in his arms had been called to do. We read and many of us are familiar with Simeon’s Song. Listen to the words:
“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel.”
Simeon’s quest to see and hold the Baby Jesus had been fulfilled. He had gotten to see and had been privileged to hold in his arms the Salvation of God for humanity. It brought joy to the old man. It brought peace to the old man. It brought hope to the old man. His eyes were able to see into heaven because they had seen Jesus. His quest had ended.