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Summary: Christmas can be a very stressful time. But Simeon and Anna hold 3 secrets to getting hold of the peace and tranquility that Christmas is supposed to offer us.

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AP story reported in the Indianapolis Star 12/25/99

Dateline LOS ANGELES – A shopping mall Santa Claus had a meltdown after refusing to cuddle a bawling toddler, calling the mother evil and ripping off his beard and costume in front of startled children.

Kelly Fornatoro, 33, said she told Santa her 19 month old son, Brian, would stop crying if he put his arm around the child. According to her, he balked and told her, “I will not imprison your child.”

“When I went to pick up the baby, he said: ‘Was it worth it? Was it worth it for you to torture your child for a picture? You must be an evil person.’”

The woman then told Santa she planned to file a complaint.

At this, she said, the man leaped from his throne and said: “You can complain about me if you want, but I am Santa Claus. I am the best person in the world. I am good.”

The mother then told Santa he should not be around children.

“With that, he got really angry,” she explained to the paper. “He started to rip off his clothes. He took off his beard, his wig, his coat, his belt.”

Some stunned parents covered their children’s eyes.

Santa was then led away by security guards, and a replacement was brought in. Westfield Shopping-town Promenade Mall and Cherry Hill Photo (suppliers of the Santa) wouldn’t give his name.

YOU COULD SAY this Santa was stressed out. In fact, I’ve heard that Christmas can be a very stressful time of year for a lot of people.

Last Thursday I heard Paul Harvey tell of a man in England who had rented an old bomb shelter. His intention was to stay there from the middle of December until sometime in early January. His purpose: to escape Christmas. Paul Harvey said that the sad thing was - there were 49 others in line behind him wanting to do exactly the same thing.

Why would these people go to such lengths to avoid Christmas? I believe it was due to stress. I mean, Christmas can be stressful:

¨ buying presents

¨ mailing Christmas cards

¨ going to the parties

¨ AND getting kids to all their events

In fact, December has such potential for stress, that it has gained a reputation of violence. December has the highest rate of suicides, homicides and robberies of any month of the entire year. It’s as if there’s a rebellion against the promises and hopes of Christmas which results in a denial of the season.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The angel declared to the shepherds that God’s purpose (in sending Jesus) was “peace." “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

But, if that was the purpose of Christ’s birth, how can we assure ourselves of that peace?

Luke introduces to us two people who meet the baby Jesus at the Temple when He’s been brought by Joseph & Mary to be dedicated to God & circumcised according to the Law.

There’s something about the way that these 2 react to Jesus that may hold the secret of how you & I can escape the turmoil & stress of Christmas. In fact, there are 3 things I believe we can learn from Simeon & Anna that can help us have peace and contentment this Christmas.

1st, THEY DIDN’T FALL PREY TO BELIEVING THAT MONEY WAS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATING CHRIST’S BIRTHDAY.

One of the BIG stresses of this season is the pressure (not only to buy gifts), BUT ALSO to buy fairly expensive gifts for others. For example, if someone buys us a fairly costly gift for us we feel duty bound to buy the same type of gift for them.

ILLUS: I get caught by that trap myself. I visited the hospital this past week and spoke with a woman in the waiting area who was making gifts for her children and grandchildren. She was making Santa faces out of plastic & yarn. And I thought to myself "that’s not a very impressive gift." I couldn’t picture a child getting all excited about something that looked so ordinary. But really, she had the right attitude, not me. She may not have had a lot of money, but she was cheerfully offering gifts made (in love) by her own hands. That was the important point of Christmas in gift giving. The reason many people hate Christmas is because we find ourselves getting trapped in a vicious cycle that makes us think that the point of the season involves spending lots of money.

Simeon & Anna didn’t fall into that trap. They were looking for the Messiah… and who did they pick? They picked Jesus, this baby being carried by Joseph & Mary. Now, you have to realize – Joseph & Mary didn’t come into the Temple carrying a sign like you see sometimes in airport waiting areas that declare: "The Smiths." They weren’t carrying a sign saying: “This is the Messiah”

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