I was walking through a parking lot recently and spotted someone’s handwritten list on the ground. They had a busy morning of errands, and they had time stamps written by every place on the list. I’m not sure if the time stamps were the scheduled arrival time or the actual arrival time. It amused me to wonder who the person behind this list was.
I used to find lists like these quite often. Typically it was a grocery list left in a cart. Nowadays, a lot of people use their phones for lists, so you miss out on these little nuggets when you extricate your cart and begin your shopping.
Learning about people fascinates me, and these lists are a glimpse into someone’s private life. Do they organize their list? Do they order their items in the same order as the store aisles like I do? Do they schedule their stops? What color is the pen they used? How is their penmanship? I won’t bore you with ALL of the questions that run through my head.
It’s Christmas time, and I don’t always read an Advent type Bible plan, but this year I am. I love how the Scriptures of Jesus’ birth are so familiar and yet because God’s Word is alive, there’s always something the Holy Spirit can speak through fresh and new. This year as I’ve been reading through the plan, I’ve been taking time to notice the individual characters in the story. It’s like I’m staring at their grocery list wondering who the person behind the words really is.
We don’t typically think of Abraham’s wife Sarah as part of the Christmas story, but really her story very much reflects the hope of Christmas. She longed for a child, and months turned into years turned into decades with her hope deferred. Abraham was promised descendants, one of whom would be the Son of God, but Sarah’s hope faded as she watched her youth ebb by. And yet, God did provide her a son in her old age. A miraculous child. How did it feel for her to hold that baby for the first time and know that by Him would come generations and generations? To know that someday the promised Messiah would come through him?
That promised Messiah was the baby Mary was holding when shepherds ran from the fields telling tales of angels interrupting the quiet of the night sky to announce His birth. It must have been such a spectacular occurrence after Mary and Joseph had been turned away from every inn and had to settle for a barn for the birth of their son. I always marvel at how Scripture says that Mary took all of these things and pondered them in her heart. I wrote a whole blog post on this last year. And I’m still captivated by the enormity of what she must have been pondering. I can see how she was overwhelmed in the moment. I can understand why she didn’t have words but chose instead to observe the scene and file away thoughts for later.
Christmas this year probably looks a lot different for most people. For some, it just means seeing fewer family members, or shopping online instead of in store, or buying a mask for everyone on your list. For others, it means reeling from loss, depression, loneliness, mourning the forfeiture of the last holiday season with some loved ones who may not be with us another year. It might be easy to dwell on the things we can’t have or can’t do. Instead I encourage us to ponder the hope instead. Ponder the fact that God had a plan of redemption because we have no other way to be cleansed of our sins and reconciled to that holy God. Ponder Christ’s humble beginnings which made Him accessible to everyday shepherds and you and me alike. Ponder the fact that Christ laid aside His reputation so that He could be obedient to death on the cross (Philippians 2). This is the hope of Christmas.
That promise of the coming Messiah was just what Simeon was waiting for as we read in Luke 2:25-32.
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
How special was it that Simeon’s hope was preserved until he had seen the Lord’s Christ! You can tell he had a genuine relationship with God. And God granted him extended life to be able to see His salvation firsthand. What a wonderful Christmas gift!
What is your hope in this Christmas? Jesus? Circumstances? Inward wonderings? Christmas is a time for hope, but not hope in ourselves or our government and definitely not our circumstances. Jesus is the hope of Christmas…both back on that first Christmas and as we look toward His second coming.
May your Christmas season be filled with God’s joy, the hope we have in Christ, and fervent love for one another!