If ever a season comes packed with expectations (a sleigh full?), it’s the span between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Our current plans can be tugged to and fro by memories of holidays past, a continual advertising bombardment, fluctuating family relations, and pressure we put on ourselves.
We can fall into the trap of the legendary Griswold family and think joy will be found through all the outward trappings of the season being just right. If one thing goes sideways, we can also “go Griswold” when our expectations aren’t met.
The time leading up to Christmas has always been filled with anticipation. This mirrors the expectation shown first by the nation of Israel, then all nations, as they waited for the One who would set things right.
Worship of God for the Israelites always involved animal sacrifice— a painful reminder that things were not right between a just, good God and wayward, self-absorbed mankind. Our behavior had erected an insurmountable barrier between God and us: the constant sacrifices reminded worshippers that an ultimate price must be paid to make relationship possible.
Israel’s prophets spoke of a Messiah, a man who was also God and would redeem all who trusted in Him. For this Person a nation and the world waited.
Two millennia ago, an obscure old man who loved God was shown that the wait was over! “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.” (Luke 2:25 NLT)
One day, God’s Spirit nudged Simeon to worship in the Jerusalem temple, as he often did. While there, a couple of modest means arrived to dedicate their infant Son. Simeon had no clue about all the events Luke records surrounding Jesus’ birth, but God showed him: this is the One for whom you’ve been waiting!
Mary allowed Simeon to hold baby Jesus, and the old man cried out in joy, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)
Jesus is the promised Messiah and Savior, but even He did not meet others’ expectations. Most people anticipated a political leader: Jesus lived a faultless life and then offered Himself, the perfect Sacrifice, in exchange for us when He died on the cross.
Simeon told Mary that day, “And a sword will pierce your very soul” (v 35), foreseeing the time she would watch her Son pay the price for our sin.
If we look to outward circumstances to bring us fulfillment this season, we will be disappointed— again. However, if we see that we were made for a relationship with our Creator, and faith in Jesus provides the only way for us to be made right with Him, we will discover our personal wait for joy and peace is over.
Don Baumann is the retired Outreach Pastor at Hilltop Community Church