Were you looking? Did you see it last Thursday night and Friday? You might be thinking, “Looking for what?” Looking for Christmas, of course. I mean the real Christmas. Sometimes you can see something and not see it. Sometimes you can hear something and not hear it. Sometimes you can know something and not know it. These days we tend to glance at Jesus and gaze at the gala, missing the real Christmas.
E.B. White said, “To perceive Christmas through all its wrappings becomes more difficult with each passing year.” Once a year, the real Christmas comes around again to jog our memories, open our eyes, and reminds us we need a Savior. We need the Savior now more than ever. Just look at the news. Can you sense the atmosphere filled with both fear and anger at the same time?
A man was looking for the one he called "The consolation of Israel." His name was Simeon. The Lord told him that he would not die until he saw the Savior. I'm not sure if he was good-looking, but I can tell you this, he sure was good at looking. Simeon was aware, his eyes wide open, understanding that the time was coming when he would see His Savior. He refused to close his ears or his eyes to a word from God.
At the appointed time, God's Word became visible in Simeon's world. Simeon saw His Savior because he was looking for his Savior. “Now Lord, let me depart in peace...for my eyes have seen Thy salvation.” (Luke 2:30) He saw Christ. Christ was the reason for Christmas. The first step for seeing is to be looking.
In the Christmas account in the Scripture, Elizabeth and Zacharias were looking for the real Christmas. Mary and Joseph were looking for the real Christmas. The shepherds were looking for the real Christmas. The wise men were looking for the real Christmas. Simeon was looking for the real Christmas. Anna was looking for the real Christmas. Christmas only begins ‘to look a lot like Christmas’ if you're looking a lot for Christmas.
It’s easy to look at the beauty of a Christmas gift. Shiny gold wrapping paper, under a tree, with a big red bow on it and your name is on it. The sound of Christmas carols, the smell of lunch or dinner, and getting a few days off from work causes us to overlook the real Christmas. That kind of Christmas is shiny, glittery, tinselly, and perhaps shallow or empty. Many people see the shadows of Christmas but miss the substance of Christmas. They focus more on form than function. The birth of Jesus becomes the vehicle, and Christmas cheer becomes the driver, going where it wants to go, seeing only what it wants to see.
Be aware. There are heaps of Scrooges and Grinches out there, strutting and preening about, wanting us to gaze at them and glance at the Savior. When you do that, you miss Christmas. Herod (local and state government) missed Christmas. Matt. 2:3. The priests (religion) missed Christmas. Matt. 2:4 The scribes (education and media) missed Christmas. Matt. 2:4. The innkeeper (business) missed Christmas. Lk. 2:7. The Roman Empire and Caesar Augustus (federal government) missed Christmas. Lk. 2:1. All of Jerusalem (people in a big city) missed Christmas. Matt. 2:3. The Roman soldiers (military) missed Christmas. Matt 2:16. Remember, seeing starts with looking.
Isn’t what is inside of the present the primary goal of a gift? But it's so hard to see when my eyes are on me. The first Christmas didn't have shiny wrapping and a red bow. There was no glitter or caroling in the stable that night. And a baby in a manger in swaddling clothes was not as exciting as the Patriots vs. the Seahawks. Somehow, some looked beyond the outside of the present and found the real gift of Christmas on the inside of the present. They discovered the best presents are wrapped in heaven.
Those who were looking for Christmas, the first Christmas, didn't just 'cognize' Christmas. They 're-cognized' Christmas. Recognition is cognition on steroids. Here's an empowering takeaway for you: whatever you don’t recognize, you don’t appreciate. Whatever you don’t appreciate, you don’t celebrate. Whatever you don’t celebrate may eventually exit your life. Hint: There could be something you are not seeing because you aren't looking. And, it could be costing you dearly, like our need for the Savior.
For those who saw the real Christmas this year, don't be surprised if God takes you on a lengthy journey of inconvenience and repositions you into your destiny, just like Joseph and Mary. Don't be surprised if a mysterious 'star' appears to guide you to where you need to be to see what God wants you to see. Don't be surprised if wise men come from afar with gifts, blessings, and smiles. Why? You are where God wanted you to be because you saw what God wanted you to see. You will be better for it.
Were you looking for Christmas last week? Did you see it? There’s still time. When you recognize it, Christmas breaks through the fog, the chaos, the hopelessness, and the confusion. Christmas brings clarity. And in today's world, clarity is a rarity.