“I’m sorry, I can’t do Christmas anymore”

Ripples of horror shook through the family when Aunt Jane suddenly announced by email last week, “I’m sorry everyone, I just can’t do Christmas anymore.”

Her sister, Bertha, the alpha female in the family and the organizer of ‘The Family Christmas’ every year, struck back with the speed of a viper who’d just been trodden on. “Whaddya mean you can’t do Christmas?” she yelled over the phone, “we’ve always done Christmas, Jane, and I’ve got you making the Christmas cake this year so you’d better come through, sis, or you’re horsemeat.”

Jane sighed. So much for the spirit of Christmas. Every year it was the same, though. Somewhere around the middle of August, her sister became General Patton, issuing commands to the entire family as to what they’d all be doing for ‘The Family Christmas’, and woe betide anyone who didn’t follow orders.

The result was always the same too. Those who loved the rush of baking up enough goodies to feed a Third World country for a week, who loved the hustle and bustle of buying gifts, booze and candy, and loved decorating the house and the Christmas tree with lights and other paraphernalia, launched into action like a highly-trained army. But then there were the slackers in the family, those who couldn’t stand the whole sickly mess of trying to be extra nice and having to go to all this work and expense for just one day, who always messed things up by leaving gift-buying to the last possible minute and forgetting to bring the potatoes for the potato salad.

So there were always spats, and sometimes the hints of outright war between those who loved The Family Christmas and those who hated it. But for Aunt Jane there was something else. The Family Christmas wasn’t anything like the birth of Christ. His birth was peaceful for a start. No alpha-female screaming orders, no raucous booze laughter, no kids ripping paper off gifts they didn’t need – in fact, none of the din and frantic self-indulgence so typically associated with Christmas.

That lovely picture of peace and serenity at Jesus’ birth began to grow in her mind. She compared it to the high-intensity guilt-trip her sister wanted Christmas to be every year, and there was simply no comparison. So she wrote to the family saying, “Sorry for bowing out of Christmas this year but if anyone wants to join me on Christmas Day for a quiet chat and a snooze, you’re more than welcome.”

So long as not too many of them turn up, she thought.

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What Simeon saw in Jesus

Jesus was just over a month old when Simeon saw him. It wasn’t a chance meeting either, because “It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,” Luke 2:26. Clearly something vital in God’s plan was about to happen when the two met.

Why Simeon? Because he lived and breathed one hope and dream, that he would see the Messiah come to Israel in his lifetime. All Jews shared that dream, because it had been pumped into their heads for centuries. They knew the amazing prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures that one day the Messiah would come, but it was Simeon that God wanted to reveal the Messiah to first. Why? Because of Simeon’s reaction, and a statement he would make that would rock the mind of anyone who understood what it implied.

Simeon, meanwhile, was about to have his dream come true because the Spirit made sure he was at the Temple on the very day Joseph and Mary arrived with Jesus to make the redemption payment for a firstborn child. When they handed over their son to Simeon the old man suddenly found himself staring down at a face he’d never seen before, but he knew exactly who it was.

To Joseph’s and Mary’s astonishment Simeon swung the boy high up in his arms and in a voice choking with emotion he thanked God and cried, “You can take my life any time now, my Master, because all that I longed for in this life of mine is right here in my arms. Here is the Saviour you promised I would see before I died, the Saviour that all nations will know about, Gentiles included, but destined for a special place of honour among your beloved people, Israel,” verses 28-32.

What Simeon saw in Jesus was the opening of a new era, a vast door clanking open through which the bright light of salvation would burst through and shine on every human being, Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, penetrating to the depths of the darkest jungle and piercing the conscience of the most hardened criminal. No one would be immune to the light and reality of a new world in existence.

And all people will know it, Simeon cried, because Jesus would “expose the garbage that fills people’s heads and hearts,” verse 35. Such would be the power of the Saviour as he set about healing the whole world of all that messed it up. And that healing is happening right now, as Simeon’s great prophecy continues through the centuries.