Christmas Devotion 2
Our Christmases are busy, bustling times. It’s surprisingly easy to lose sight of the miracle we celebrate: God coming into our midst. Even two thousand years ago in Israel—where people debated and discussed the Promised Messiah—there were few who truly recognised him. But step back into time with me and take a look at two who did.
My fingers graze against the rough walls as I climb the temple steps. I pause at the top to catch my breath, and look back over the sprawl of Jerusalem. In my youth I would have bounded up those steps two at a time, so keen was I to enter Yahweh’s courts. I’m still keen, Lord, just a little slower. The gate ahead of me leads to the broad Court of the Gentiles.
As always, it is noisy here: – workers chant; hammers chisel; money changers shout and haggle; sheep bleat; and above all the voices of Jews and Gentiles—tourists, soldiers, traders, scholars—speak in many tongues. I push through the bustling crowd towards the inner courts.
Another small flight of steps awaits me before I reach the inner precincts, but now a surprising surge of energy propels me forward. Is today the day Lord? Did the pressing urgency I feel to be at the temple mean that God’s promise to me was about to be fulfilled?
The Court of Women is a familiar, welcoming place. “Morning Simeon,” a few voices call and I wave back in greeting. I am drawn to go and join the groups seated around the Rabbis, listening, learning, questioning. How many wonderful hours haven’t I sat here absorbing all the riches in Yahweh’s words, debating the time and place of the coming of the Messiah. But today I walk past the scholars and the chests of the Temple Treasury, my eyes scanning every face.
Yahweh’s promise is imprinted on my heart: You will not die, Simeon, until you have seen my coming Messiah. Many years have passed since He spoke these words to me, but I never wavered in my belief. One day I would see the One that all our ancient scripture points to.
Time passes, but still I watch and wait.
And then I see them—a young couple. She is holding a baby in her arms, while he grips the required pair of doves for the purification sacrifice. Almost of their own accord my feet start to move in their direction, my eyes never leaving the child’s face. Is this him, Lord? Is this child Your promised Messiah?
I hear Yahweh’s answer whispered in my heart. This is my beloved Son, a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. Joy bursts inside me at His words. I am now mere paces away from him, and I become aware of the startled expression of his parents. Yet as I stretch out my hands to the child, his mother gently lays him into the crook of my arms.
A sense of awe fills me as I look at the baby. I am holding the Messiah. Thank you Lord. Thank you. The praise rises from the depths of my heart and surges upwards and outwards; faces turn to me and stare in wonder as I speak.
“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.”
As I speak, images flood my mind. Fishermen and Pharisees; healings and death-raisings; devotion and betrayal. And finally, a man hanging on a cross in the gathering darkness.
I look at the young mother, so full of love for her child, and feel a stab of sorrow. I yearn to speak a word of blessing to her, but the truth is this child has come not only to bring joy and victory, but also sorrow and judgement.
I say: “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” I lay the baby back in her arms, staring into her young face as I speak my last words. “And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Suddenly there is movement from the other side of the courtyard. It is the old woman Anna, who spends all her hours at the temple. She is staring at the child, her eyes reflecting my own awe, and as she reaches us, her praises fill the temple courtyard.
My prayer for us all this Christmas, is that we will be filled with Simeon’s awe and Anna’s praise. That—through the bustle, noise and business—we will go to God’s courts and thank Him anew for Jesus. And that we will wait and watch expectantly for His promised return.
The account of Simeon and Anna seeing Jesus in the temple is found in Luke 2:25-40
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more, take a look at my book Encounters: Life Changing Moments with Jesus, where I step right into the heart of 20 bible stories.