Christmas Lessons For Modern Living
A wide array of diverse people appear throughout the Gospel narratives surrounding the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Kings and shepherds, Gentile wise men and Jewish priests, and a number of other completely different kinds of people show up before, during, and after the birth of the Messiah. One way or another, they all provide examples to instruct us – some good and others bad. Mary, Simeon, and Anna highlight three different qualities that every Christian ought to emulate.
In the aftermath of the shepherds’ visit, Luke 2:19 records Mary’s response: “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The key word to notice is “ponder,” meaning “to give careful consideration to various implications of an issue—‘to reflect on, to think about seriously, to think deeply about.’”* Another commentator adds: “Literally, ‘casting together,’ i. e. comparing and considering; like our ‘casting in mind.’ Comp. Genesis 37:11, ‘his father observed the saying.’ She did not at once understand the full significance of all these events.”** To put it slightly differently, she was one who meditated on the things of God, carefully and repeatedly turning truth over in her mind.
The modern world presents many challenges to regular meditation on Christ as He is revealed in the Scriptures. Endless e-mails, interminable texts, intrusive iPhones and a host of other contemporary innovations threaten to distract from what is of ultimate value. The frenetic pace of life on the digital superhighway must not overwhelm our minds. We must assiduously carve out the time to feed on the Christ of the Bible, mentally masticating thoughts concerning His person and work.
Like Mary, Simeon gives modern believers a valuable and practical lesson worthy of imitation. He is described as “…waiting for the Consolation of Israel…” (Luke 2:25.) “The Consolation of Israel” is rightly capitalized in the New King James Version for it is a Messianic title. Simeon was not merely awaiting an event such as world peace or heavenly glory, he was expecting a person. As David Gooding explains:
The delightful term ‘consolation of Israel’ suggests that his expectation was based on the programme enunciated in such passages as Isaiah 40ff. He was looking for the day when Israel’s warfare and chastisement would be over, and God would ‘comfort his people’. Nor was Simeon narrowly concerned simply for the future of Israel. Basing himself again on Isaiah’s predictions (e.g. Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6 etc.) he foresaw the time when the light of God’s salvation would spread to the very ends of the earth (see Luke 2:31-32).***
In other words, he was looking forward to the Lord’s coming. Likewise, Christians today ought to eagerly anticipate the coming of Christ – this time He returns to receive His people to Himself (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.) Is this our daily focus and earnest hope? May the Holy Spirit stir us to long for the Lord’s coming like Simeon of old.
Spread The Word
The third of our nativity role models, Anna, demonstrates the great privilege of believers to proclaim the good news of Christ. She “…spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38.) The glad tidings of Christmas are that the Son of God took on human flesh in order to give His life as a sacrifice for sin so that God His Father could reconcile sinful and fallen mankind to Himself. Anna was an excellent example of an ambassador for Christ, faithfully discharging the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21.) Like her, we must share the good news with those we meet.
Mary, Simeon, and Anna remind us of the ongoing impact that the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ have upon our lives. Such truths go beyond mere sentimentality and must form the bedrock of our behavior. We must meditate on the Word while we wait for the Lord Jesus to return, and speak of Him to those that we meet.
*Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996, pp. 349f.
**F.W. Farrar, The Gospel According to St Luke, With Maps, Notes and Introduction. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1891, p. 70.
***D.W. Gooding, According to Luke. pp. 55f. Electronic ed., accessed here: Key Bible Concepts on 3/29/11.