The Conflict of Christmas
by Robby Higginbottom
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’ Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your salvation
that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to Your people Israel.”
And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Imagine being Simeon that day. The Lord has revealed to you that you will not see death until you see His Christ. The Spirit leads you to the temple, and you are fully awake. You hear the sound of God’s Law being read, and you smell the aroma of sacrifices being offered. Suddenly you see a young couple walk in with their baby. And you know He is the One. You move towards the weary parents and take the Child up in your arms. He’s not walking or talking or sleeping through the night, but you know that He is the Savior of the world. Your Savior. After all the waiting, You hold your Hope in your hands. Now you are ready to depart in peace, for your eyes have seen the Lord’s salvation.
Simeon holds his Hope in his hands. What are we holding in our hands? What do we long to hold? The answer to these questions often shows up around a little word we hardly notice. It’s the word “just”. Maybe you’ve said:
“I just wish life were easier…”
“If I could just get into that job…”
“If I could just make a little more money…”
“If I could just get out of this job and retire…”
“If I could just get these people to like me…”
“If I could just find the right person…”
“If I could just get my kids to behave…”
“If I could just ______ (fill-in-the-blank).”
Our “just” gives away our real hopes and dreams. It reveals our functional god, whether it is comfort, possessions, success, marriage, or appearance. What is the crown in your counterfeit kingdom? What is the meaning in life that doesn’t really give life? If we are ultimately waiting for that, we are not really waiting for Jesus. Our hope is in something else. When the Hope of all the earth arrives, He exposes all other hopes and dreams for what they are. The conflict of Christmas means that Jesus has come to expose our sin but also to offer Himself as a true and better hope.
On this wondrous day—perhaps within earshot of temple sacrifices—Simeon warns Mary that her baby will be a sign opposed. Jesus Christ and those connected to Him will suffer. On the cross Jesus would hang as the ultimate demonstration that we oppose God, but that “sign” would also be the ultimate demonstration that God loves us. Jesus paid the price for all our godless hopes and dreams. Now he offers us the joy, not of holding Him, but of being held.
Are you holding so much that you can’t experience being held in His grip? Don’t miss God’s grace in the passage. The Spirit leads Simeon to embrace a life of waiting for the Christ. The Spirit opens his eyes to see Jesus for who He truly is. Friends, put no hope in your ability to fix your waiting or hoping problems. Put your hope in the same God who worked mightily in Simeon!
For what are you waiting? If you get it this year, will you finally have peace? Will you be ready to depart like Simeon? There’s only one Hope that will never let us down…that is truly worth the wait. Only One is worthy of our “just.” May our heart’s cry be, “Just Jesus. Just Jesus.”