The whole story

In the book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells about a Jesuit missionary who went to China in the sixteenth century. He took samples of religious art to illustrate the story of Jesus. He discovered that the Chinese loved the pictures of the Virgin Mary holding her child, but were horrified by pictures of the crucifixion. They insisted on worshiping the Virgin Mary rather than the crucified Jesus.

Yancey says we do pretty much the same thing. Go through any stack of Christmas cards, and even the Christian-themed cards have been purged of any reminder of how the story that began in Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.

When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised. They met a man named Simeon who told them wonderful things about what Jesus was to become. Then he told Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many…. The thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Over and over throughout his ministry, Jesus said the same things.

Imagine for a moment that you’re Mary. You followed your Son’s life and ministry with the interest that only a mother has. You saw how he revealed people’s hearts. You saw how the light came on as people believed, and then you saw the rejection and the trial.

And then you saw him hanging on the cross.

I wonder. As Mary stood helplessly in front of her son on the cross, did she think back to that day in the temple 33 years before? Did she think, “I always wondered what Simeon meant. This has got to be it. This is a sword through my soul. A sword through my body would be preferable to this.”

And so, Simeon’s warning has to be part of the Christmas story. We can’t just settle for the baby Jesus.

Jesus stepped into our world, knowing that he would divide people.

He knew that when he revealed their hearts, most would reject him, yet he willingly went to the cross for them.

He was pierced so that we could be healed.


Worn out?

Worn out from all your holiday activities?

Imagine that you were Mary and Joseph, carrying the secret of your child’s identity for months. Then your child arrived when you were a long way from home. Surely you’d be exhausted and want nothing more than to hole up for a month or two. Take some family leave. But Mary and Joseph had one more duty to perform. As observant Jews, they needed to go to the temple to present their firstborn son to the Lord.

They could not have expected what happened there. They encountered two people, Simeon and Anna, who confirmed their child was God’s Son, the ultimate expression of God’s redeeming love. Simeon had seen much in his long life, but when he held Jesus in his arms, at last he’d seen it all.

I wonder. What if Mary and Joseph had decided sleep in? What if Simeon and Anna had decided, at their age, it just wasn’t worth going to the temple anymore?

There will be lots of days when we won’t feel inspired. There will be lots more when we want to sleep in. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. We may even have good excuses. But sometimes, like Mary and Joseph, we need to do the right thing even when we don’t feel like it.

You don’t have to be smart, creative, inspired, well-dressed, or good looking. Anyone could have an encounter with the Messiah.

Sometimes, all you need to do is show up.