Christmas Is Associated With
Giving, Receiving And Waiting
For some, Christmas never seems to get here soon enough and the closer it gets the worse the waiting becomes.
The tree goes up several weeks before and the presents start collecting at the base. All the bright wrapping says “guess what I am?” or “ha ha, you have to wait!” and there’s not much you can do to solve the mystery other than cheat, which no one would do at Christmas time, right?
And that’s not all.
There are also surprise gifts, the ones that can’t be easily wrapped – bicycles, trampolines, large stuffed animals, a car in the driveway, etc. Each person knows what they want – and everyone else knows too – but there is no evidence at all, not even a comment slip, to give it away.
So, we wait.
But really, when you think about it, we have it nice. We only have to wait one year for Christmas and even though the anticipation grows the closer it gets, the smell of Christmas keeps us upbeat, so the waiting is tolerable. In some cases it’s fun.
The First Christmas Was Long In Coming
But what about the first Christmas? The one the Old Testament folks knew was coming, even had clues was near, but didn’t know it was there until after the fact.
The waiting had to be seriously intense and there was a great deal of mystery then too. Most weren’t even sure what the gift was until well after Christmas had come. In fact, for several years after it was still a mystery.
Many people expected a political Messiah – mostly because that’s what they wanted – and were disappointed with the gift they got but that is a topic for another post.
The point here is that “waiting” and “patience” should be just as closely associated with Christmas as “gift giving.” The first Christmas makes that point clearly and it is reinforced every year these days.
Luke shares a great example of patience in his Gospel, in the person of Simeon.
What We Know About Simeon
The text tells us little about Simeon’s personal history but it does reveal his character. He was:
- Just meaning “righteous.” He did the right thing religiously and in other ways.
By the way, being right religiously may mean doing less than religionists say is required. It may mean doing things religion doesn’t allow. That was true for Jesus and the disciples – picking corn on the Sabbath – and has been true for most of human history too. So, Simeon was religiously correct – no more no less. He wasn’t religiously strapped.
- Devout meaning committed from the heart. Very different to mechanical compliance.
- Waiting meaning hopefully anticipating. In this case he was anticipating the “consolation (comfort, solace, salvation) of Israel” and was only one in a long line of patient people.
- The Holy Spirit was on him meaning his relationship to God was personal, not just mechanically ceremonial. Prophets were described in this way.
Simeon was led by the Spirit to the Temple at the exact time Joseph and Mary were there with Jesus – approximately 30 days following the birth. He not only recognized Jesus as the Messiah, he also made some very interesting prophesies: the Gentiles would be evangelized, Jerusalem could be conflicted over Jesus and Mary would experience turmoil.
But, he waited for this moment a long time. He probably contemplated its meaning deeply, along with many others before him, long before it came, never knowing exactly when it would come. But he shows us that waiting isn’t a waste. He was ready for Christmas when it finally arrived.
Simeon – and the Christmas story – teaches us something about patience. He epitomized the following truths. They are lessons we should all learn.
- Patient people are not despondent – they never give up hope.
- Patient people are not indifferent – they never harden (stop caring).
- Patient people are not discontented – they never give in to gloom or bitterness.
- Patient people are not demanding – they remain flexible.
- Patient people are not narrow minded – they are never closed to dialogue.
Yes, Christmas is a time of giving and we all learn something from that experience too, as the giver and the receiver. But Simeon teaches us that Christmas is a time to learn patience also. The best gifts are the ones we wait for, especially when God does the giving.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:25)
Old Testament Prophecies Of Christ’s Birth
You can find a list of Old Testament prophecies giving details of Christ birth here.
It’s a tedious study but The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson argues that the time of Christ birth could have been known before hand. You can download a free copy here or get an inexpensive hard copy at Amazon.