“For my eyes have seen Your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30–32, HCSB)
Operation Mufambashiva in Zimbabwe was the clearing of illegal structures, thieves, vendors, and orphans from the public land in the city of Harare. It had finished and now it was time to celebrate the birthday of Christ. This was like celebrating Christmas in the U.S. right after Pearl Harbor had been attacked or after 9/11 had occurred. My family and I were serving with Cru in Zimbabwe at the time, and everything at Christmas was overshadowed by the preceding events. It was hard to get into the mood of buying gifts and putting up decorations. That Christmas we had to ask ourselves, “What do we have that is worth celebrating at a time like this?”
The uncertainties of the first century church were not that different from this time in Zimbabwe or, for that matter, from today. Pax Romana had spread over the known world, and most people were not celebrating the first Christmas as much as they were complaining about the current political situation. Nonetheless, Messiah had come and there were a few people who were able to look past the political oppression they felt and see the significance of Messiah’s coming for the world. They celebrated the first Christmas for us all.
Zachariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Mary, and Joseph were among the few who saw what God was doing to redeem His people. What lenses were they looking through? What did they all have in common? One thing! They were looking for His coming when Messiah appeared. No, they did more than just look—they were longing for His coming.
Are you longing for Christ’s return? If so, celebrate Christmas the way Simeon did, being thankful for the Savior and telling everyone: “I have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people!” (Luke 2:30–31).