Following that familiar scene at the manger in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, we read a story about the infant Jesus being taken to the temple. Although this story follows Jesus’ birth, it teaches us how to prepare for the upcoming celebration of his arrival.

At the temple, Mary and Joseph meet Simeon, a man of faith, who was eagerly anticipating the coming Savior. Despite the miracles and angelic visits surrounding Jesus’ birth, it’s hard not to wonder how Mary and Joseph reacted to this man, who took their child in his arms and declared,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Simeon waited and waited for what he believed God had promised him—the opportunity to see the coming savior. Imagine the joy experienced at the fulfillment of this promise, when his eyes fell upon this divine child and his spirit knew God had remembered him and his people. This scene of Simeon’s joy—the fulfillment of all of his anticipation—must cause us to ask ourselves, “Are we growing in joy and anticipation in this season?”

Each year our “Christmas season” seems to start earlier and earlier, as Christmas trees start to crowd Halloween decorations in October. But this expanding holiday season only seems to extend our to-do list instead of increasing our joy. This year, instead of adding more activities, we can cultivate our expectancy, instead of our anxiety. Let’s be on the edge of our seats for Christmas day and the truth that he made a way for us to receive grace, mercy, and new life. Don’t let the distractions of the days ahead—the gift shopping, the cookie baking, and the card sending—shortchange your celebration of this new reality.