Summary: What are you living for this Christmas?
There was always a lot of excitement at my house on Christmas morning. The night before, we would be debating with my parents about what time we could wake them up. Usually they would start somewhere around 7:00 and my brothers and I would start somewhere around 5:00. We would usually compromise and end up deciding that 6:00 was the time to get up.
Once we were in bed on Christmas Eve, we would lay with anticipation and excitement about what awaited us the next morning. I remember (because it’s not hard to remember a year ago) waking up almost every hour, hoping that when I looked at the clock it would read 6:00. Finally around 5:00, I would hear my brothers talking in the next room and I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. So I would go and hang out with them, playing Play Station or other games, urging the clock forward. Finally, 6:00 would come and we would wake my parents up and rush down stairs to give each other presents.
As this may be very similar to what your house looks like or not, most of us can agree that there is a lot of excitement around Christmas morning. What I want us to consider tonight though, is the excitement surrounding the very first Christmas.
A little over 2000 years ago there was a young teenage girl named Mary who was engaged to Joseph who was a carpenter. Excitement filled the air as preparations and plans were being made for the wedding. One night, as Mary laid in her bed, dreaming of her wedding day, an angel named Gabriel appeared to her. Afraid and confused at first, Mary listened to Gabriel tell her that she would give birth to a child who would be called Jesus and be the Son of God. As Mary, told Joseph the strange but wonderful news, he was scared and skeptical at first but he too was visited by an angel who assured him that Mary had conceived because of the Holy Spirit.
A few days after, Mary went as fast as she could to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the time with a boy would later be known as John the Baptist. The two women shared in the excitement of giving birth together as they spent the next three months together.
As time drew near for Mary to give birth, the Roman emperor, Augustus, issued a decree that a census was going to be taken and everyone had to go to their home town. This meant that Joseph and his family had to go to Bethlehem. As they arrived there, it came time for the baby to be born. The only available space was a stable in back of an inn in town and there Mary gave birth to a boy named Jesus. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him in the manger. There Joseph and Mary shared in the excitement of becoming parents.
Shortly after the birth, they were visited by shepherds who came from a nearby field because angels had appeared to them telling them that the long awaited Messiah was born in Bethlehem. They immediately dropped what they were doing and went to see this baby boy. Amazed and excited they told everyone they saw about what had happened.
Around this same time, some men from a distant land who knew astrology recognized a special star in the sky. Somehow they knew this star signified the coming of the King of the Jews and they followed the star so that they could worship him. When they finally reached the place where Mary and Joseph were, they bowed down in awe and respect. They worshiped Jesus and gave him expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Eight days after Jesus was born he was circumcised, lots of excitement there, and then was taken to the Temple by Mary and Joseph to offer sacrifices to God for their son. It is at this point that I want to slow down the story and take some time to reflect about a man named Simeon. (Text on screen)
***Read Luke 2:25-32***
As Mary and Joseph are at the temple they meet an old man, whose name was Simeon. Verse 25 tells us that he was righteous and devout and that he “was eagerly awaiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.” I think one thing that is sometimes forgotten in the Christmas story is this “eager waiting” that Luke describes in Simeon. What we don’t always understand about the first Christmas is that people had been waiting for it for thousands of years before. Compare that with the excitement that we get waiting just one year for Christmas.
There are many passages throughout the Old Testament that prophecy about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. To name a few, Isaiah 7:14 tells about what the baby would be named. Micah 5:2 tells us that the baby will be born in Bethlehem. Jeremiah 23:5 talked about how the Savior would come from David’s line. And there are more that talk about being born of a virgin, having to go to Egypt, having the wise men come, and many more.