December 25, 2011

Dec. 25: Christmas for the Generations


By Goshen College President Jim Brenneman
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:22-40 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Christmas day! Presents unwrapped, Christmas dinner eaten. Grandpa snores silently on the easy-boy. Grandma fusses over the newest grandbaby. Aunts put puzzles together, while uncles watch reruns on TV. Nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, cousins all, go bowling in the basement on the Wii. Awesome are the experiences and deeds we expect and take for granted at Christmastide. The coming together of generations, whether in our families of origin or in the church or with friends and others we love, is one of the priceless gifts of Christmas!

The divisions in our nation seem many these days, and not just between political parties. “What divides Americans most,” said a recent Time magazine article, “isn’t race, gender, geography or ideology. It is the year we were born.” The biggest gap between us is the generation gap. An extensive new Pew Research Center poll found that today we have the largest generation gap since 1972. The sheer numbers of people in the middle (Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) creates a demographic chasm between the Silent Generation (0ver 65) and the Millennials (18-30 year olds). The survey revealed that the youngest and oldest generations have strikingly different views on everything from how they feel about the Internet, the government, how they’ll vote, the economy, the church, interracial or same sex marriages and so on.

By contrast, the Christmas day passage (Luke 2:22-40) reminds us that the birth of Christ ushers in strong possibilities of uniting generations across time and space. Jesus’ parents bring him to the Temple to offer a sacrifice of two young turtledoves to fulfill the law of dedication. No doubt a few of Jesus’ extended family were with them for this auspicious occasion.

It isn’t long, however, until the infant attracts others, especially two older people, Simeon and Anna. Both are awed by this unexpected visitation. Simeon immediately proclaims Jesus to be his Savior and the Savior of the world, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, O God…a light for revelation to [all people].” Simeon can now die, happy. Then old Anna, a widowed prophet living in the Temple for years, “gave thanks to God and spoke of Jesus to everyone looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” And Mary and Joseph awed by the whole thing, “marveled at the things which were spoken” about Jesus.

What greater Christmas gift could there be to one another? What more unexpected sign of the power of Christ’s birth in our lives than the coming together across time and space, across the generations, however wide the gap? Before this season is over, if you’re of the older generation, whether you agree with them or not, reach out and embrace that youngster nearby. Tell him or her that you believe in them, care for them, love them no matter what. If you’re a part of the younger generation, make sure in this season to give the gift of your hug or kind word, or volunteer to read or do some other loving deed to an older person you know or encounter.

To all of us, Millennials, Generation Xers, Baby Boomers or the Silent Generation alike, whatever our differences, whatever the gap between us, let us all unite to sing with one voice, and not just on this Christmas day, but every day, “Christ, the Savior is born, Christ, the Savior is born!”

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:22-40 (NRSV)
22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.



Comments (9)

  1. Words of wisdom and compassion all around. Affirmed as we journey by the coming of the Christ child, setting the world upside down. Yet bringing true peace on earth. Thanks again to each who took a risk and gave each reader a true gift of themselves.

    Randy Springer December 25, 2011 |
  2. thank you for sharing God’s Word. thank you for your thoughts and insights. May God’s blessings and peace be upon you in this Christmas Season & in the coming New Year.

    Sandi December 25, 2011 |
  3. Thanks for reminding our older generation to embrace a younger member whether we agree or not with the prevalent thinking of many of that generation!

    Ethel December 25, 2011 |
  4. Full of grace… grace from God!! It’s nice to read your thoughts!! Me impacta la gracia que Dios te ha dado para escribir estas reflexiones!! Siempre es un placer leer o escuchar tus reflexiones Sr. Presidente!! Feliz Navidad… desde Paraguay!

    Dora Ramirez December 25, 2011 |
  5. In the first paragraph, you nailed my family’s Christmas tradition! I can just see each of the things you mentioned happening in my relatives’ house on Christmas Day. But, more importantly, your devotional gave me a new insight into this familiar Scripture passage. I must have heard the story of Simeon and Anna a hundred times, yet never had I thought of how these two bridged any generation gap that may have existed at the time. I myself don’t really experience the generation gap – most of my friends belong to different generations – but it’s still important for me to remember what you mentioned in this reflection.

    Thanks to you and all others who wrote reflections this Advent/Christmas season! Merry Christmas!

    Elizabeth S.O. December 26, 2011 |
  6. Jim, Thanks for a fresh and meaningful perspective on this scripture. (I’m now remembering three uncles snoring with their mouths open on the couch after a big lunch, while my generation played a loud game of “Pit” at the table.) It’s good for me to have a reminder to connect with young persons who cross my path today!

    Susan Garboden December 26, 2011 |
  7. This reflection is so helpful to me this day after Christmas. As a seventy year old mom and grandmother I am especially praying for ways to bridge “gaps” between my 15 year old grandsonm who has a special place in my heart, and myself. You have helped me realize how the Scriptures teach us, as always, a way of wisdom and compassion, of insight and understanding.and produce faith and hope when there are large questions, both personal and universal. Thank you.

    Joy Fors December 26, 2011 |
  8. I read the Time magazine cover article on this topic recently, and as a person closer to the older side of this topic than the younger side, I would like to add something to what President Brenneman has said. Your Goshen College devotions have among your internet readers many people my age and older. President Brenneman exhorts his readers to do some sort of outreach to the older people. I would like to see the older people do some sort of outreach to the younger, because I think we have to take some of the responsibility for this gap. How can we, who were young during the Vietnam era, be so indifferent to people who are young during the era of Iraq, Afghanistan, industrial, economic and political dishonesty and indifference, global warming and environmental disaster, issues which have so much impact on the young? If we have any quality of life at all at our age – and many of us enjoy comfort, even luxury, in our retirement years – we have profited to a certain extent from those very practices which now help to impoverish the young. We need to reach out, volunteer, get involved on college campuses – demonstrate to the young that we are not just going to live like gilded lillies of the field, but are still interested in social and political justice. If we look like the “enemy,” perhaps it is because we are.

    Tess Hoffman December 26, 2011 |
  9. Those family times you described are priceless moments and a time when generations make connections..So I’m guessing you were in the uncle rerun viewing group…
    God strategically placed Simeon and Anna in the advent story. It is inspiring to know that even in older years we can still be entrusted with important assignments in the Kingdom of God.
    Thanks for highlighting the significance of crossing generational boundaries and sharing respect and honor. We can be enriched by our differences.

    Ruth December 31, 2011 |