First Sunday After Christmas December 26, 2021
“The Other Side of Christmas” Luke 2:25-40
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Once a little girl remarked to her mom shortly after the Christmas Holidays were over, “I wish that Christmas could be every day.” That little girl has spoken the wish of most, if not all, of us. We wish that everyone, including ourselves, were always in that Christmas spirit.
This time after Christmas can be a discouraging, depressing time. Many flounder after Christmas, it seems that we lack direction. We sort of wander through these days. This week between Christmas and New Year’s is sort of a ‘dead week’. The First Sunday after Christmas is known to church workers as ‘Low Sunday’, low in attendance and low in enthusiasm – especially when you have had church 3 days in a row.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! It is wonderful to live on the other side of Christmas. Anna, Simeon and Mary can tell us about living on the other side of Christmas.
Years ago, as the story goes, a young man was going door to door soliciting contributions for an orphanage. The solicitor approached an exasperated mother and asked, “Would you like to make a donation to our orphanage?” He was surprised when the mother quickly said, “Yes, just a minute and I’ll get them – they are ages two and three.”
Sometimes we do get exasperated with our children, but we still recognize how precious they are to us. In our account from Luke 2 we see how precious this Christ Child was to three separate people who lived on the other side of Christmas.
Look at Anna, an 84-year-old widow who was devout, holy, pious and now filled with joy. She had waited for years, even decades, for the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, to come. When Mary and Joseph come to the Temple in Jerusalem to make the proper sacrifices for the 40-day-old Jesus she comes and praises God for the birth of the child. This child was her hope fulfilled. She told everyone about this child. She was celebrating that she lived on the other side of Christmas.
Simeon was blessed to live on the other side of Christmas, too. Simeon was an old man, looking forward to the consolation of Israel. He had been told by God’s Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ.
The Holy Spirit led him into the Temple that day and when he saw Jesus, he took the Baby from His parents and holding the Child said concerning this Baby, “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss your servant in peace. 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)
Some people develop greater problems with their eyesight as they grow older. But not Simeon, at least not with his eyes of faith. He saw in this little child God’s promised Messiah, the one who would save people from sin and death and hell. This was the one who would allow everyone to die in peace. Living on the other side of Christmas gave great joy and fulfillment to Simeon.
But living on the other side of Christmas brought a mixed reaction from Mary. When we began the Christmas story with the angel telling her that she would be the mother of The Most High, she pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart. When Simeon spoke that this Child was the salvation of the world, Mary and Joseph marveled at what was said about Him.
But then Simeon added some very disturbing words about this child on his 40th day of life. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 234-35)i
With the other side of Christmas came a stark reality – as Jesus revealed the thoughts of folks, they would not like it. Jesus knew what was in man, He knew that we would rather delight in darkness than be exposed by the light. Jesus would be hated and rejected, people would speak against Him.
This had to be hard to take. We expect people to oh and ah over a little baby. We see people loving them, caring for them, blessing them.
The other side of Christmas had to be so difficult for Mary. She was told, “A sword will pierce your soul too.” The other side of Christmas would mean a cross, death. A rescuer had to pay a rescue price – His life. Simeon is telling Mary, ‘Don’t linger too long at the manger, He is destined for greater and more bitter things.’
How about you? Do you live on the other side of Christmas, or does Christmas end for you on December 25th? Can you be like Anna with her joy and exuberance, just having to tell someone about your Jesus? Or like Simeon and his eyes of faith, knowing that death can come without fear because you live in peace with God through the coming of Christ? Or like Mary and her words of hope and the reality of pain?
Can all of us who are here today, who live on the other side of Christmas, see God’s planning and working of our joyous eternity?
Years ago a woman missionary was serving the Lord in Korea. A young Korean woman was expecting a baby, and on Christmas Eve she went into labor. There was a major storm in progress, but the woman knew if she could get to the house of the missionary, she would have the help she needed to bring her baby into the world. She put on her winter wraps and started out alone, on foot. She was several miles from home when her labor pains grew in frequency and intensity, and she knew that she could not make it to her destination.
She got beneath an old bridge that afforded a little shelter. There alone, in the middle of the night, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. She immediately removed her coat and then, piece by piece, the rest of her clothing. Carefully, she wound every item around her son until he looked like a little cocoon. Then she fell asleep. Too exhausted to do anything else.
The next day was Christmas and the missionary packed her car and was on her way to see a number of people. A few miles down the road the engine sputtered and the car stopped on top on an old bridge. As the missionary opened the door to get some help she thought she heard a baby crying. Following the sound, she went under the bridge where she found a tiny little baby boy — very hungry, but very much alive. Next to the infant lay his mother — frozen.
The missionary picked up the baby and took him to her home. In time, she was permitted to adopt the boy. As the years passed she told him how his biological mother had given her life that he might live. Her son never tired of hearing the story, and he asked her to repeat it again and again.
On his twelfth birthday he asked the missionary to take him to the burial place of his mother. When they arrived, there was snow on the ground, and he asked his missionary mother to wait while he went to the grave side alone. She watched her son as he trudged through the snow, tears streaming down his cheeks. In amazement, she saw him slowly unbutton his coat, remove it, and gently lay it on the snowy grave. Next, he removed his shirt, trousers, shoes and socks and carefully placed each item on the grave of the mother who had given her all for him.
The missionary could take it no longer and went to her son, placing her coat around his bare, shivering shoulders. Through his sobs, she heard him as he asked, “Were you colder than this for me, Mom? Were you colder than this?” And he knew that she was.
The angels, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph, the manger are all one part of the drama of redemption. They have little meaning, however, without the last act, the cross and the empty tomb. The other side of Christmas tells us that this Baby Jesus would come as the payment of sin, He would save us from the awful effect of sin. Our redemption came at utmost sacrifice – all so we would have full adoption as God’s own children.
The days after Christmas can be difficult. But what a great thing it is that we can live on the other side of Christmas. We celebrate that Christmas is more than just a temporary feeling. We rejoice that God’s eternal purpose for us is the giving of His own Son for us that we would know eternal peace.
What a joy it is to live on the other side of Christmas. AMEN!!