To everyone who hasn’t figured out your family’s Christmas plans, your gift lists, or whether or not you’re going to invite Aunt Sue, the drama queen, to anything – here’s to you! Two weeks from today is Christmas and I’m behind in my decision making and confused. Like being caught between the First Advent and the Second, I am in this tenuous almost there, but not quite mode of either making some hard and fast decisions or just throwing my hands up in the air and go with the flow. My choice is to go with the flow, God’s flow.
Isn’t that what Joseph decided as he heard about the impending birth? He could have really wrecked things. Gosh, Mary absolutely could have refused to say to Gabriel, “Be it unto me as you have said.” All the people from Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Magi, Shepherds, Innkeeper, Herod, Cyrenius, Simeon, and Anna could have make fateful decisions that would have made the Lord’s birth turn out very differently. It is simply amazing how God allowed human freedom of choice to affect his plan of salvation for the world. What a risk, but we have a God who risks and I’m glad!
Now, I know that some of you think that the whole birth thing and everything before and since about everything in life has been a done deal, pre-arranged, and orchestrated, but to do so lessens the love-factor that God embraces for human history. God loves us so much that He allows us to be partners in this thing called life. Our decisions are ours to make, and for God to use, oftentimes having to bring good out of our bad choices.
Well, enough about theological “what-if’s” and human choice and let me get back to what I need to do about Christmas shopping, planning family get-togethers that fit everyone’s schedules, and whether or not we clean the house for the potential aforementioned festivities. I am reluctant to be as compliant as Mary and Joseph, and feel as resistant and befuddled as Zechariah.
Zechariah is an interesting character. He’s a Levitical priest who is married to Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. He’s pulled the duty that places him in the temple and an angel lets him know that he and Elizabeth are going to have a child. What gets me is that he shouldn’t have been very surprised. It says in Luke 1:13 that his prayer has been answered for a baby, but his response to Gabriel the angel is DOUBT in verse 18, “How can I be sure of this?” He’s like people who pray for rain but never carry an umbrella. He’s been praying, but when it comes true, he’s shocked. Go figure, but it sounds like me – maybe you. I think: “Why pray if you’re going to be shocked when you get an answer?”
The character in Jesus’ birth narrative that I would most desire to be like is Simeon. In Luke 2:25-35 we read of this faithful devout man who has been waiting in Jerusalem for who knows how long because the Lord told him that he wouldn’t die before he got a chance to see the Messiah, the consolation of Israel. What I want to emulate is what it says in Luke 2:27, “Moved by the Spirit, he went to into the temple courts.” Wouldn’t my choices turn out better if I did what the Holy Spirit moved me to do? Of course!
Anyway, Simeon sees Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child. He dares to take him in his arms like LeBron James hugging Princess Kate last week in NYC, and then he bursts into song. Simeon sings the “Nunc Dimittis” which says, basically “Now dismiss your servant because I’ve seen your salvation…” He says some other very important things, but what captures me is that he was willing to be faithful enough to wait until God delivered on his promise, obedient enough to be moved by the Spirit, bold enough to take the Savior from Mary’s protective arms, and fearless enough of what other people thought so that he could break out in a song that said, “Lord, now I’m ready to go. I can die in peace because You’ve kept your word and I’ve seen the Savior!”
Who do you want to be like in Jesus’ birth narratives? Who are you like? I may be a Zechariah, but I want to be a Simeon. If I’m like Simeon then the Christmas lists, plans, and what-ifs are going be no big deal. Real choices still need to be made like Simeon’s choice to remain in Jerusalem until God came through, but if I rest in the Spirit my choices will turn out better than okay. Reluctant Zechariah or Expectant Simeon, which shall I be?