I do so love Christmas, and what is Christmas without children? It was just a few years ago I asked my then 4-year old granddaughter Kairi if she wanted to talk to Santa to which she replied, a bit nonplussed, “No Papaw! I already told him once what I wanted!” Oh how I love that little girl! Here are some actual letters that were written to Santa from little kiddos: “Dear Santa Claus, when you come to my house there will be cookies for you. But if you are real hungry you can use our phone and order a pizza to go.” “Dear Santa, I want a Puppy. I want a playhouse. Thank you. I’ve been good most of the time. Sometimes I’m wild.” “Dear Santa, (From another 4-year-old) I’ll take anything because I haven’t been that good.” And my favorite, “Dear Santa, I’m not going to ask for a lot. Here’s my list: The Etch-A-Sketch animator, 2 packs of #2 pencils, Crayola fat markers and the big gift…my own color TV! Well, maybe you could drop the pencils; I don’t want to be really selfish!”
I read once of a family who had no interest in spiritual things, and therefore never went to Sunday School or church. But one Christmas their little boy was invited by his best friend to attend the church Christmas Program, so he went. This was a new experience for him, and when he got home he was all excited and eager to tell what he had learned about the very first Christmas. Here is a part of what he told them: “Well, way back then they didn’t have any Santa Claus, so they had these three skinny guys riding around on camels passing out gifts. They didn’t have Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer to guide them through the darkness. So they had to use this bright, shiny light that kind of lit up all the world!” What a great observation, and what an amazing truth.
As we well know, Christmas is often associated with waiting. So, allow me a question or two. What are you waiting for this Christmas? What are you expecting to receive? Are you looking forward to anything special? In the Gospel of Luke, we come across two characters who make their appearance in the final acts of the Christmas drama. One is a man named Simeon; the other is a woman named Anna. They don’t appear in any nativity scenes or in many Christmas cards, but they are significant players in the first Christmas pageant. Both were waiting for something. Actually, they were waiting for someone. Luke uses a Greek word for anticipation that identifies them as waiting with expectation for the coming of the Messiah, or Savior. It literally means that they were “alert to His appearance, and ready to welcome Him.”
First we meet Simeon, a righteous man, and devout in His relationship with God. Things weren’t going real well for the nation of Israel. They hadn’t heard from God for many years and were under Roman rule. They lost their political independence and were living in fear wondering if the Messiah would ever come. Luke shows us that Simeon had good reason for his hope and anticipation: “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon’s expectation focused on the comfort that Christ would bring. When Simeon looked at the baby Jesus, now about six weeks old, he knew that God’s promise had been kept. Here was Immanuel, “God With Us,” to make everything right, to provide significance by His presence, and to eliminate rejection, fear, and loneliness.
The other Christmas Character we meet is Anna. After her husband had died, she had dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. In fact, the Bible says that she never left the temple but worshipped day and night. She was looking forward to the same person as Simeon was, but instead of looking for comfort, Anna was looking for forgiveness. Again, Luke records for us, “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” The word redemption is related to the idea of captivity. Here, at last, was the One who would save His people from their sins.
Often this time of year many struggle with loneliness, emptiness, insecurity, even desperation. In fact, the Christmas season is for many a time of battling depression. Do you need some comfort? Some consoling? Do you need a fresh sense of God’s presence? If so, you can find what you’re looking for in the Christ who was born in Bethlehem. Do you feel like you’re trapped in a pattern from which you cannot break free? If you need forgiveness, the gift that God gave to us on that first Christmas is still available to you. I can think of no better time than Christmas to find and receive just what you are waiting for.
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.