The ones who waited for Christmas.
Luke 2: 25-38
We will look at certain characters in the Christmas narrative over the next three weeks as God gives us opportunity. As we look at these biblical characters, my prayer is that a pattern should emerge on what constitutes the message of Christmas.
Today we will look at Simeon and Anna. These are the ones who waited for and welcomed Christmas.
Welcoming Christmas! Not like what we observe in the commercially steeped, profit mongering, recession ridden businesses who hope they will have a great quarter; thankful that Christ was born so that their businesses can do well. They’ve had a wonderful black Friday and great cyber Monday, in spite of recession. You now hear them saying that this Christmas will be the best ever, forgetting the best ever - the first one that occurred over two thousand years ago.
Two kids were talking and one asked the other if he got all that he wanted for Christmas. To which the other boy replied, “No, but it is not my birthday anyway”.
Childish innocence that speaks volumes.
Christmas is named after the ‘Mass of Christ’ indicating the Communion - the body and the blood of Christ symbolized in the bread and wine. And what better time to begin the remembrance of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us than Christmas.
The colours chosen by the earlier Christians were white, to symbolize joy and holiness, and red, to symbolize martyrdom. Holiness for men and women came at a cost, beginning at Christmas. Yet, consciously or unconsciously, ‘Christ’mas has been replaced with the ‘I’ – “Imas”. It is all about me – I, me and myself, the trinity of selfishness. The ‘I’-specialist.
In light of all that, it is refreshing to read of two people who waited for the ‘Consolation of Israel’. The intent of studying about them is that we would hold a mirror to ourselves and see what lessons we can learn. Today’s may be a very unlikely sermon for Christmas season.
Simeon means “harkening” or “One who listens”.
We are a society of people who have stopped listening. We hear and have become so used to having sound. We need music when we meditate, television when we study and radio when we cook. We can’t take silence anymore, we want sound, even white sound, but none of us wants to listen.
The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.” Source Unknown.
We are introduced to a man who listens. We get six characteristics about this man from the passage, and each seems to build on the other.
1. SAVED: Luke 2:25. He was a just man.
God calls him “just”. How can man who was born before ‘Easter’ be just? And yet this is still Christmas.
In the Bible Noah is the first man of whom it was said “a just man” and it has been true since Abel.
Of Abraham it has been written, “And Abraham believed in God and it was counted to Him in righteousness”. That’s an accounting term that allows the recipient to enjoy the benefits for a payment that will be made later.
Example: When I bought a house I went to the bank with not much in my hand for a house worth $300,000. I signed some papers and it was counted to me as the present owner. I began to enjoy the benefits of ownership immediately, though the payment would be made later.
It is an extremely poor example, because what Christ did on the cross was much, much more than that. Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, David, Simeon and a whole lot went to Christ in God with nothing to their name but believing and it was counted to them as having made the payment, though in the future, and yet begin to enjoy the benefits immediately.
The way men, women and children came to the Lord before the Cross is the same way we do now. The basis of our justification has always been Christ – the Consolation of Israel.
The question is are you SAVED? Are you justified in Christ before God?
2. SPIRITUAL. Luke 2:25. Devout.
The Greek for devout is ‘eulabÄ"s’, meaning ‘taking hold well’. Webster defines it as “a mode of behaviour”.
It is about the character of the person. If we are saved, we will be impacted. The Word of God will sit right in, and it must show in our behaviour.
Matt 7:20 – “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
The word “devout” may be an adjective grammatically speaking, but it really is a verb in a Christian. It is not enough if the heart is right. God begins at the heart, but your hands must also comply.
Remember Lady Macbeth? As she sleep walks and the doctor who is watching her says, “Look she is awake”, but the lady in waiting says, “Yes, but her senses are shut”. Lady Macbeth as she tries to clean her hands utters the famous words, “Out, damned spot, out”. Responsible for the murder of the King before she became the Queen of Scotland, she could not get the blood spot off her hands, even with all the cleaning.
So when the Bible says ‘pray with holy hands lifted up’, we are attesting that the spot is out. There is no more blood on the hands. The heart has been changed; the hands have been cleaned, that is what Christ does.
A changed heart will always respond with working hands. The hands must follow the heart.
By this I do not mean merely ‘doing’ but ‘behaving’. It is the question of our very being. Who are we in our weakest moments?
Our actions must confess what we believe. And these are not behaviours we think are right, but what God says in His Word. Are you devout? Are you spiritual?
3. SURRENDERED. Luke 2:25. Waiting.
Only a spiritual life can live a surrendered life. In Matt 6, Jesus after saying to stop worrying about food, drink and clothing, says, “these things the unbelieving fret over” but you have the heavenly Father to care for you.
Mt 6:32 – “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
Example: It is as stupid as the very son of the owner of a transit company worrying that he does not have money for the ride home.
When we worry like the unbelieving, we are saying that God is not enough for us. God says leave the worrying to me, for I care for you. 1 Pet 5:7.
We are much like a bird in the hand. I’ve caught and held birds, and because I am holding it, it can’t do anything else, much less fly. It seems to be waiting, because as soon as I release the grip, out it flies. It waits for the release, but all the while its heart is beating so fast, I am surprised it did not have a coronary.
How do we wait? Our circumstances tie us down as we are forced to wait on the Lord, but as soon as everything is okay, we want to fly to enjoy ‘freedom’. The sooner we learn that true freedom is in waiting under the hand of the Lord, even when His hands are open in liberty.
The saying should really be: “Being a bird in the hand of God, is worth more than being a bird in the bush”.
My prayer for each one of us is that through our behaviour we will prove that we will wait for the Lord, without getting anxious or attracted by anything this world has to offer.
“And strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.”
Phil 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Are you waiting for God? He acts on our behalf as we wait for Him.
Isa 64:4 - “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him”.
As you are waiting for God, He strengthens you.
Isa 40:31 - “But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
4. SENSITIVE. Luke 2:26. “Revealed unto him”.
How many times has God spoken and we have understood? How many times were we sensitive to the still small voice of God in our lives?
Discernment: to recognize or identify as separate and distinct.
Heb 4:12 – “For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Discernment comes from reading God’s Word. It helps us to discern between the emotion of the soul and the principle of God’s will.
Heb 5:14 – “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
Having read God’s Word, we need to then practice. Checking each time, “Is this right for a child of God to do?” Growth doesn’t come from age, but through Godly discernment.
Take a conscious decision. Be an intentional Christian. And you will be a sensitive Christian, hearing God speak to you from His Word. Not till then will you find His Word is alive and exciting.
5. SERVANT. Luke 2:29. “…lettest thou thy servant depart in peace”.
A sensitive Christian is a ‘servant Christian’. We all want to have the privileges of the son, but do not want to take on the responsibilities of the servant.
We cry to God, “O Father take care of me”, and He does; however, when it comes to serving Him, we are too busy, our priorities are so warped.
We forget that when we do not serve God, we serve the devil. Who are we yielding to today? Do the choices we make identify the Master we serve?
Rom 6:16 – “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
We must serve.
J.K. Laney, Marching Orders, p.34. The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to the city of Genoa on the condition that it must never be played. The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly, but set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini’s lovely violin has today become worm-eaten and useless except as a relic.
A Christian’s unwillingness to serve may soon destroy his capacity for usefulness.
Like Lazarus laid up in the grave dead, even his sisters who were crying for him said, “Lord he stinketh”. Let each of us not be accused of being a ‘stinky Christian’ or even of stinking up the name of Christ.
What service do you bring to the Lord today?
Service not when it is convenient and after all else you needed to do is taken care of. God wants a cheerful giver, even it is just two mites you own; service must come at a cost.
An elderly widow, restricted in her activities, was eager to serve Christ. After praying about this, she realized that she could bring blessing to others by playing the piano. The next day she placed this small ad in the Oakland Tribune: “Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent–the service is free.” The notice included the number to dial. When people called, she would ask, “What hymn would you like to hear?” Within a few months her playing had brought cheer to several hundred people. Many of them freely poured out their hearts to her, and she was able to help and encourage them. Source Unknown.
Service is not doing something because it is our hobby, but as unto the Lord. In spite of it being inconvenient, uncomfortable or costly.
J. Hudson Taylor. I used to ask God if He would come and help me. Then I asked if I could come and help Him. Finally I ended by asking God to do His own work through me.
6. SATISFIED. Luke 2:30. “My eyes have seen thy salvation”
That was Simeon. There is something about ‘seeing’ the salvation of God. The ‘salvation of God’ in this passage is a noun, it is the Messiah Himself. For He is the Consolation of Israel.
Job lived a blameless and upright life based on what he had heard. Probably his dad or some patriarch but God becomes personal to Him, and when he sees Him, he realizes his own inadequacy (I abhor myself) and the need for God’s grace (I repent, knowing that God in His grace accepts a repentant sinner).
Job 42:5-6 - “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor [myself], And repent in dust and ashes.”
Isaiah has the same response.
Isaiah 6:5 – “So I said: “Woe [is] me, for I am undone! Because I [am] a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.”
I want you to notice that always a vision of the Lord spurs people to action, not complacency. It never leaves the truly humble person, humbled, but lifts him up to act on behalf of God Himself. That’s not human, that’s divine.
Can you really say, “My eyes have seen the Lord?” Only then will you be satisfied. There is nothing this world can provide that can quench that inner need you seek.
Anna, the Prophetess
Her name and her description appear only once here in Luke and yet enough is said to challenge and motivate us.
Anna means ‘Grace’. She was a prophetess, the one who gave the oracles of God. She was the ‘daughter of Phanuel’. Phanuel means the ‘face of God’. She was of the tribe of Asher. The eighth son of Jacob, and Asher means ‘blessed’. What a heritage. She was married for seven years and lived as a widow till she was eighty four and this is what the Word of God has to say by word of testimony:
• Presence: Never departed from the temple
• Prayers: Served God with fasting and prayer, night and day
• Passion: Spoke of Him to all them that looked for the redemption in Jerusalem.
Which of these do you want to be known for? Not her situation or her circumstance, but her testimony. Here is a woman during a time in history when women were not recognized for any service except as homemakers. I love how it is said of her in Luke 2:38. “she…spoke of Him”.
See some common themes between Simeon and Anna.
a. Servant: Luke 2:37 - “served God”.
You serve God by serving people. The word used for serve here is that of a slave. It may also be used for a paid hire, and so probably that is how she sustained herself.
b. Thankful: Luke 2:38 - “…thankful likewise”. 'Likewise’ meaning just like Simeon, she was also thankful. We are to be thankful IN everything, not necessarily FOR everything.
1 Thess 5:16 – “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Just like Simeon and Anna who were thankful in spite of their situation, because they saw the Consolation of Israel, we can be too, because we have Christ with us, in all circumstances.
c. Eager expectation: Luke 2:38 - “looked for the redemption in Jerusalem.”
She was among those with Simeon who waited for the redemption in Jerusalem. It is important to note that they were looking for redemption in Jerusalem – the city of peace. And yet it wasn’t the city but Christ who would bring peace. No wonder the angels would proclaim, “Peace on earth and goodwill upon men”.
Since time is short. I want to sum up by looking at what difference it should make to us at this time.
First, these two characters bring the two contrasts of Christmas. One has seen the Consolation of Israel and realizes it doesn’t get any better than this, and his prayer is for him to depart from this earth. Anna on the other side, though advanced in age continues to ‘speak about Christ’. The contrast is therefore of our ‘eager soul’ and an ‘evangelistic heart’. Our eagerness to depart should not make us useless for God, but pushes us forward on our feet to be evangelistic.
2 Cor 4:16 - “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
Second, Simeon and Anna were not comfortable in their settings and yet it did not affect their godly lives, and God blesses them with a view that Moses had desperately prayed for, “Lord show me your glory—I want to see your face.”
Thirdly, we see they were cheerful and victorious, when it should have been so difficult.
Luke 2:38 - “She never departed from the temple.”
Always abiding close to God. For us now God does not abide in the temple, but has made our very bodies His temple. Do we live with that eager expectation and evangelistic fervor, knowing that Christ dwells in us?
May this Christmas season birth in us that fervor. If Christ has come to dwell in us and not just with us, then let us be festive about Him in word and deed.