Christmas in July. Christmas decorations up in the stores in September. Christmas ads running in the early autumn. By the time Christmas gets here, I’m so tired of Christmas shopping, Christmas baking, Christmas Songs, and all the other Christmas hoopla that I just want it to be over. The love of Christmas I had as a child was lost. It was just more work. But this week changed that. I have a refreshed love for Christmas; or should I say a refreshed love for the reason for Christmas.
I am reading the Book of Luke right now. And in the very first chapter was struck with something I hadn’t spent time considering before; the amazing fulfillment of prophecy. The angels in Heaven were witnesses to mankind from the beginning of time. They knew almost from creation that God would send a Savior. As Adam and Eve were told in Genesis 3:15, Eve’s offspring would bruise the devil’s head, then Abraham is told in chapter 12, his offspring would be a blessing to the entire world, the angels are watching and I assume helping God work out His plan.
Throughout the history of the Israelites, the angels knew the day would come in God’s timing when the ultimate Savior would come to earth and the most incredible battle would be fought for His creation’s souls. As the Israelites waited, I’m guessing the angels did as well.
THE DAY IS COMING. Thousands of years after the first promises. Gabriel is sent to tell an older man that his once barren wife will bear a child and his name will be John and he will make the way straight for the Savior who will come shortly after him. Can you imagine the excitement in Heaven? The day is almost here! I can just see the angels gathered and looking down at the earth in anticipation, at least those who didn’t have a role to play in the scene below.
Then that same angel is sent to a young virgin. Can you sense the anticipation? A virgin? The virgin birth was prophesied in Isaiah 7:4. And Gabriel is going to speak God’s words to a virgin. Whohoo! Excitement is mounting. As they hear Gabriel’s words, can you picture the celebration starting in the heavens? Singing, praising the Lord, laughing, dancing. It had to be beautiful. (Maybe they knew all along it would be Mary. We don’t know. Again, I’m conjecturing.)
Mary is with child. By the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit! This is it. This is the Savior. Mary will be His mother. Joseph His earthly father. This baby, human and God is on the way as all of heaven looks on. This baby born in a humble stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. What do the angels do next? One goes to the lowly shepherds in the hills and announces His birth. The glory of the Lord shone around them (Luke 2:9). Can you picture the scene? The glory of the Lord! I picture darkness turned to the most amazing brightness, nearly blinding in its whiteness. An angelic being tells them about the baby in the manger. Then to top that off, a multitude of angels come and begin singing praises to the Lord. These lowly shepherds are not only seeing the glory of the Lord; they are seeing and hearing a multitude of angels. This is no small thing. Had to be nearly incomprehensible for these shepherds.
What would you have done? I think I would have been flat on the ground, weeping for fear and for joy both. Take a moment to put yourself in that scene. You are a simple shepherd, taking care of your sheep. On a hill. Suddenly and shockingly, the hill is light, bright, beautiful, all because a child has been born in Bethlehem. Not only that, now there are all these angels singing in the sky above you (2:13). And when you listen to them, you hear the most soul-stirring singing you have ever heard. Their words are praising God. You hear them say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (2:14). Shivers!
Luke then goes on to tell us that these shepherds talked to each other and wanted to go see this child the angels told them about. I can imagine how they talked to each other. “Did you see that? What was that? Wasn’t it awesome? It was so bright I could hardly see. Did you see all those angels in the sky? I didn’t know there were that many angels. They came to tell us about a baby who will be our Savior. We have to go see that baby.” Off they went in a hurry. To see a baby. Lying in a manger. They excitedly told Mary and Joseph all they had seen and heard. Mary treasured those words in her heart.
Then 8 days later, Jesus is taken to the Temple as required. Mother, father, and baby. And in the Temple, Simeon finds them. Simeon was a wise old man promised to look on the redemption of his people before his death. The Holy Spirit leads Simeon to the baby. Simeon takes this child in his arms and tells the Lord, “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” (2:29-32).
The Israelites had waited for centuries for their promised Savior. Waited in great tribulation, enslaved time and time again. Taken out of their promised land. Brought back. Their greatest hope was the Savior promised in books like Daniel, Isaiah, and the Prophets. Most didn’t know He would come in the form of a baby. They expected a mighty warrior.
Simeon has waited years and years for the promise to be fulfilled. He has prayed prayers untold. Here is the baby! His prayers are answered. He holds his very Savior in his own arms, his very arms. Can you imagine his joy? Put yourself in Simeon’s sandals. Put those arms out and hold the Messiah in your arms. Feel those tears of joy running down your cheeks. Look at that young couple standing before you and wonder at the great gift these two humans have been charged with. God’s plan. In your arms. Can it get any better than this moment?
Then enter Anna. Anna who is 84 years old and has been waiting as well. She has virtually lived in the Temple, praying there, fasting there, even sleeping there. Waiting. Waiting. She comes up to see the baby too; this baby she knows; “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).
What might this have looked like in Anna’s sandals? This old woman who spends her time praying, all her time. Do you imagine she has been praying for a Savior to come? I would imagine she prayed unceasingly for just that. Here he is. Her Savior. She is looking in his dear face. A beautiful newborn. Holding heaven and earth in his hands. I imagine she went down on her knees or maybe even on her face at some point, praising God for His plan in His perfect timing. For sending this child who would do more for God’s creation than anyone could even imagine. I can see her holding her arms up to heaven in praise; bathed in God’s love. What a sight to behold! An old woman praising her newborn King.
A child. A child who is King. A promised child who is Savior. A child who destroys the power of that devil in one act on a cross. The angels watching. The long ago promised seed of the woman, the promised Offspring that would bring blessings to the world, to all the nations.
As Christmas comes up again this year, be a Simeon, be the Shepherds, be an Anna. Look upon the child’s face. Remember why Jesus came to earth. It was for you. And for me. Celebrate His coming. That is my plan this year. Celebrate the miracle of His birth. Celebrate the miracle of your rebirth if you are saved. If you are not yet saved, imagine this perfect child growing into a perfect man who came to earth to save you from your sins as planned from the beginning of creation. Let Him in. Let Him hold you in His arms. Confess your sin and ask him to be your Savior, your very own Savior. Let the angels celebrate in heaven over you (Luke 15:10)! Because that is what Christmas is all about. Salvation. God’s plan for it. Salvation carried out. It’s your choice. He is the Perfect Gift to all of mankind! Unwrap your gift this Christmas. Jesus Christ.