Summary: Christmas brought three questions which every person needed to deal with as they encountered the Christ child. Christmas isn’t so much about what God has done for us as it is about our response to the Christ child and to these questions.
The Questions of Christmas
It’s tough to miss Christmas if you live in America today. We hear the ads on the radio and TV, see the lighted houses and buildings, the decorated yards in our neighborhoods, and the displays inside every store remind us Christmas is coming in case we’ve missed all the other signs. The clues many times are there to tell us simply – be prepared. Don’t get caught without just the right gift, the right decorations and the right treats and goodies.
But what amazes me about all the hype and fanfare leading up to Christmas is the paradoxical picture it paints when you compare it to the world of first Christmas Eve 2000 years ago. Who do you think was fully prepared for the first Christmas? Were the stores that day full of last-minute shoppers in search of holiday gifts? Were the huts and houses decked out with twinkling décor? Did anxious children find it hard to sleep that night? My guess is the answer to all the above is “No.” It was just another day for them. But the first Christmas was not without its own signals and signs dating back a few centuries. The prophets had predicted a coming Savior, the Messiah, who would be born of a virgin, from the ancestral line of David, born in Bethlehem. All Jews were taught this from the time they were toddlers. And yet on the eve of the very first Christmas, business pretty much went along as usual for most. People came home from work and cleaned up for dinner. Children played in the dusty streets until bed time. Spouses cooked dinner and then straightened up the house. Ho-hum, life goes on.
So who knew what was happening on the holiest of nights? Apparently, no one. That night everyone in Bethlehem slept the night away. An angel had to wake up some shepherds to tell them the Good News. Some wise men were intrigued by a strange star and followed it to the manger. But apart from these unlikely guests, no one else really seemed to notice the first Christmas. Jesus came, and though many had been waiting for him, few noticed his arrival. The first Christmas might have been easy to miss. But the subsequent ones in our lifetime are practically impossible to overlook. Christmas for us today is a warm, fuzzy and sentimental holiday with nice music, too much good food, presents and family. But that first Christmas was more than that. It brought three questions which every person needed to deal with as they encountered the Christ child. Christmas isn’t so much about what God has done for us as it is about our response to the Christ child and to these questions.
First, what are you living for? The first person in the Gospel to answer this question was a man named Simeon, who wasn’t even at the Nativity. He was a righteous and devout Jew who was waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Luke uses the Greek word of anticipation to describe Simeon which literally means that he was “alert to His appearance, and ready to welcome Him.” Because he was living prepared for the arrival, the Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple courts at just the right time on just the right day that Joseph and Mary were bringing their infant to the Temple. When Simeon saw baby Jesus, he knew that God’s promise had been kept. So he reached down and took Jesus out of Mary’s arms and began to praise God. This is what Simeon had been preparing and living for.
And throughout the rest of Jesus’ life when people encountered him, his very identity and purpose confronted them with the question, “What are you living for?” Jesus came to call us to live for the very purposes of God, “to seek and save the lost”, to minister to the needy and to reconcile people to God. Luke 19:10 God has called each of us to love Him with all of our hearts and He has commanded us to show that love through loving others by sharing the Gospel, the Good News, in both word and action with those around us.
What about you this Christmas, what are you living for? Many of us have gotten caught up in the Christmas of consumerism. Not only that, we’ve bought into the lie of the American dream which says the accumulation of stuff leads to happiness. Since 2005, Americans have spent $1.22 for every $1 earned. So for the first time in American history since 2005, we’ve entered a negative savings rate. How long could that last? We found out. Two and a half years. This is one reason why we have been going through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. We have worshipped and served materialism rather than the Creator.