The “Christmas Story” in the Bible can found in Luke chapter 2. If you grew up going to church on Christmas Eve, you probably heard someone read Luke 2:1-20 starting with Caesar Augustus issuing a decree, ending with shepherds glorifying and praising God.So, now you know where to find the Christmas story. If you’d like, you can now impress your parents, pastor or judgy religious friends this Christmas by waiting til just the right time on Christmas eve and then saying, “Wait, everyone, we need to read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke 2:1-20!” If you do that, when you go out with your friends Christmas night, your mom will assume you’re going to a Bible study – and there will be no further questions. You’re welcome.
However, if you were to keep reading in Luke, you’d get to the part when Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus to the temple as was custom for Jewish families. Verse 25 talks about a man named Simeon, who was “a devout and religious man.” Simeon had been told by God that he would not die before he saw the promised Messiah with his own eyes. It says, “he was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” I love how that is stated – the consolation of Israel.
When I hear the word consolation, I think of the trophies my little league team would get after finishing 11th in the season ending baseball tournament. “Great job Blue Lasers! With good base running and pitching from your pitcher, jeff kerr, you managed 11th place!! Here’s your trophy! See you next year!” And on my trophy would be inscribed the words ‘Consolation Prize.’ But the word consolation means to console, to comfort someone in the midst of loss or hurt. So, now that I know that, those little league trophies sting a little bit.
The Jewish people were in the midst of a dark season. The Old Testament is filled with stories of the Jewish people hearing from God, seeing him do miracles, knowing they were His chosen people. They also had been told a Messiah would come to deliver them and save them. But by the time the New Testament begins, it had been about 400 years since God had spoken anything to anyone. Imagine being God’s people in those years leading up the birth of Jesus. Wondering if their days of being God’s people were over. Wondering if this promised savior would ever come.
Imagine being old Simeon, waiting and believing he would see this messiah with his own eyes. Wondering. He probably wandered as we wondered.
So thought number one this Christmas: Jesus is consolation. He is light in darkness. Jesus, our consolation, can comfort all of your hurt, sorrow heartache and pain this Christmas season.
The story goes on. When Simeon sees the baby Jesus, he takes him in his arms, praises God and says, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. (His reason for living had been fulfilled) For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Thought number 2 this Christmas: The salvation of Jesus Christ is for all people. This relationship between God and Man was no longer just for the Jewish people. This salvation is for Jews and Gentiles (Gentiles are people who are not Jewish.) Luke, who wrote this book in the Bible, was not Jewish. He was a gentile. It’s important and intentional that he includes the words “for all people.”
As Kristie and I are planting a church, we spend a lot of time talking about those things that will be of utmost importance in our church – our “core values.” One of these core values is “everyone is welcome.” You don’t need to believe what we believe to belong with us. You don’t need to behave like we behave to belong with us. Simply put, you belong. You are welcome. Everyone is welcome. We want all people to experience the love and fellowship of God’s people and ultimately come to know the salvation found in Jesus Christ.
No matter who you are, what your past looks like, how dark your reality is, how long it’s been since you’ve had anything to do with God, no matter what… This messiah came for you. You may have been around Christians who say you need to “clean yourself up” and behave more religiously before you can receive this salvation – don’t believe it. He’s not just a Messiah for religious people. He is salvation for all people. He is our consolation. There’s no one too far gone – no darkness the Light of the World can’t overcome.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about the coming messiah about 600 years before Jesus was born. He wrote my favorite words to read at Christmas time:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
Christmas is about light coming into darkness, a consolation for all people.