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, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:34-35

On Sunday, the X Factor winner, Joe McElderry finally got his number one spot with his single The Climb. The week before, there had been a colossal chart battle between McElderry and Rage Against The Machine. Or so it might seem to some. To most people, what emerged was a battle against the X Factor’s domination of the Christmas chart over the last few years. Every year since its inception, the X Factor has claimed the Christmas number one spot, and many felt that it was about time that it was challenged. The X Factor seems to attract strong feelings like that. Millions of people tune in every week, and hang off every word the media says about the contestants and the show. Millions more think it is a cynical money making scheme that does no one any good with the exception of Simon Cowell, who gets richer and richer.

Jesus often attracts strong opinions too. To many billions of people through time, he is the Son of God, the Messiah and the saviour of the world. To millions of others, he has been a positive influence on the world, but not a deity himself. To many millions of other people, Jesus is a bad influence on the world, who draws people away from the joys of living and into a dangerous cultish existence. As Christians, we will have encountered people who actively condemn our faith, question it, and believe that the world would be a better place without Christianity. Simeon, who as we have seen, was extraordinarily perceptive, recognised this. He knew that Jesus would attract opposition, when he stated that Jesus would be “a sign that will be spoken against.” He also understood that whilst Jesus would bring salvation to many, he would also bring about the fall of many as well. He knew that those who accepted Jesus would be saved, whilst those who rejected him would be rejected in turn by God. Through Jesus, the inner thoughts and feelings of all people would be exposed to God.

We will encounter opposition as Christians. People will mock us and belittle us, and some may even persecute us, because people often have strong views about our faith. We must ensure that we hold firm to our faith, however, and do not let those who oppose us weaken our own relationship with God. After all, if Jesus will cause the “rising and falling of many,” we want to ensure that we are in the risers, and not the fallers!

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