Connections 12.31.2023: Not “The End”

Psalm 148; Luke 2:25-33, 36-38

The post-Christmas letdown can be a relief or a disappointment—or both. The season is over; the baked goods were delicious, gifts received with joy, vacation days spent in cozy napping and family reconnecting… or maybe the whole thing was anxiety-inducing or painfully lonely or full of frustrations and all you can do is thank goodness it’s over. But the days after Christmas can be a bummer too. Cold weather is still ahead and daylight hours are still short, and there’s no excuse anymore for the distractions of decked halls or frosted cookies or yuletide carols.

When I was growing up, my grandmother made sure we read Luke 2:1-20 aloud before we opened any presents; decades later I can still recite the whole thing (in the King James Version, naturally). As far as I knew, the Christmas story ended with Mary keeping “all these things” and pondering them in her heart (v. 19), and the shepherds “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (v. 20). By the time Mary ponders and the shepherds to back to their fields, we have filled recycle bins with wrapping paper, and after-Christmas sales clear store shelves of the last dregs of red and green—sure signs that the season of Christmas is done.

But in the Bible, the birth of baby Jesus is not the end of the story. The Gospel of Luke follows Jesus’s birthday story with the holy family’s visit to the temple, and a faithful response to what God is doing. In Luke, the birth of Christ begins a new story about the way God is bringing about salvation and revelation, and about God’s people recognizing it and responding with praise.

All through the season of Advent, we remembered that it is possible—even necessary—to proclaim Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love not only in spite of but because of the despair that swirls around us in our lives, in our homes, in the church, in the world. Now Christ the Lord is born, and Christmas Day is over, and not only in spite of but because of the world’s despair, we can join our voices with Simeon and Anna to proclaim praise. The story is not over when Jesus is born. Verse 20 is not The End. God is even now bringing about salvation “in the presence of all peoples” (v. 31). Praise the Lord!

Discussion

  • How do you feel about “the end” of Christmas celebrations? Is it a relief or a disappointment, or maybe a little of both?
  • Do you do anything special to observe the church’s season of Christmas, from December 25 to Epiphany on January 6? How might these “twelve days of Christmas” be a time of pondering—and praise?
  • What do you know about the state of the world into which Jesus was born? (Consider reading Jesus’s birth story in Matthew 2 for some context.) How is our time like and unlike Jesus’s time?
  • Do you find it difficult to praise God when people—in your own family and community and around the world—are struggling so painfully? Meditate on Simeon’s and Anna’s reactions to Jesus. How do you think they found the words for praise?
  • Why is praise so important—even necessary—in times of trouble?
  • Where do you see God bringing about salvation today? Write a prayer of praise in response to God’s ongoing story of redemption.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in St Louis, Missouri. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.wordpress.com.

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