Christmas, for a child, is full of anticipation. Am I right kids? What are you excited about today? That?s what I thought?Christmas! For those of us who are older, do you feel that same sense of enthusiasm and excitement about Christmas today? Not quite huh? Well, can you remember those days? Can you remember the days gone by when you went through the J.C. Penny Christmas catalog and circled all of the things you wanted for Christmas? Can you remember how excited you were about decorating the Christmas tree? Can you remember baking cookies with your mom and setting them out with a glass of milk on Christmas Eve to help Santa make it through the night? Can you remember waking up on Christmas morning and finding what you had asked for under the tree? Wasn?t that the most magical moment of the year for you? It sure was for me.
Times have changed since I was a child. There is so much that has changed since I was a little kid. I don?t even know if J.C. Penny puts out a Christmas catalog any more, but I know that the anticipation of the coming of Christmas hasn?t changed one bit for kids. Weeks before Christmas morning arrives our little ones begin anticipating the big morning when they will race from their rooms to discover the longing of their hearts. When it comes to Christmas you can almost always find these words knit together in the same sentence?kids and excitement.
I have some sad news to report to you today. Somewhere along the way many adults lose their sense of anticipation and excitement about Christmas. I can?t figure out at what point in life it most often happens, but I find that many adults that I know are not that excited about Christmas. The anticipation that rushes through the veins of children oftentimes turns into anxiety for adults as they worry and wonder. Many adults are anxious about the coming of Christmas because they don?t know if they will be able to find the right gift that their child wants. Some adults are anxious because they are worrying if they will even be able to give their kids a gift at all. Still others are wondering what Christmas will be like without the loved one who has gone home to be with the Lord since last Christmas. Some adults are wondering what Christmas will be like without everyone around on Christmas morning because they?ve gone through a divorce this past year and are splitting time with their kids. Life can sure take its toll on the anticipation and excitement that we all felt as little kids. Christmas should be filled with anticipation and excitement for all of us, regardless of our age and regardless of our circumstances. I?m on a mission today and I?ve come to help you recapture that wonderful sense of anticipation and excitement about Christmas.
I feel absolutely confident that if we will turn to God?s Word and really commit ourselves to implementing the lesson that we will study this morning then God will reignite the anticipation and excitement of Christmas in each of our hearts. Turn with me to Luke 2:22-41 and let?s begin.
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. 41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. (Luke 2:22-41 NIV)
Luke tells us about the enthusiasm and excitement of Christmas that was experienced by Simeon and Anna long, long ago. As we begin our study for today I want us to try and answer two questions: First, how old are these folks? Are they young kids caught up in the hysteria of finally getting the toys they had been waiting for? Are they teenagers still holding on to some semblance of excitement concerning Christmas? Not hardly. We don?t know exactly how old Simeon was when he saw Mary and Joseph with Jesus, but it is very apparent that he wasn?t a child. Luke simply tells us that Simeon was a man. That?s kind of broad isn?t it? He is a man. Was he a young man in his twenties or thirties? Was he an old man in his seventies or eighties? We have no idea. It?s interesting to me that whenever Simeon is written about in sermons he is often described as an old man, but that is reading into the story. When we come to the story of Anna, Luke gives us more details about her age. Luke tells us, in verse 36b-37,
She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. (Luke 2:36-37 NIV)
Anna was eighty-four years old! Now, how many 84 year olds do you know who are enthusiastic about anything? Not too many I’m sure. The passing of years, the hardships of life, and declining health have a way of taking the fire out of most people wouldn?t you say? That?s not the case with Anna.
The second question that I want us to try and answer is this: What were these two anticipating with such great excitement? Before we try and find the answer to that question let me show you something. Look back at Luke 2 with me and you will be able to see a common attitude or emotion that was shared by Simeon and Anna. First, let?s read Luke 2:25.
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. (Luke 2:25 NIV)
I want us to focus our attention on the second sentence in this verse. Simeon ?was waiting for the consolation of Israel.? Hold that thought for a moment while we look at Luke 2:38. Read along with me.
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. (Luke 2:38 NIV)
Here we read where Anna gave thanks to God and then spoke to all of those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. See the phrase, ?were looking forward?? Simeon?s ?waiting? and those who were ?looking forward? are described in the same way in the Greek New Testament. The Greek word, ?prosdechomai? means, ?To receive, to accept, or to expect, as in the fulfillment of promises.? Let me show you some other places where the word is used in the New Testament.
In Mark 15:42-43, after Jesus? crucifixion, we read where a man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for Jesus? body. As we read the verses I want you to notice what Joseph was waiting for or anticipating. Let?s read together.
42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Mark 15:42-43 NIV)
Joseph was anticipating, he was looking forward to, the coming of the kingdom of God. The same word is used in Titus 2:11-14. Take a look with me.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope– the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)
The grace of God that has brought us salvation teaches us to say, ?No? to ungodliness and to say ?Yes? to living a godly life. We do this while we ?wait? for the blessed hope. What is our blessed hope? It is the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior?Jesus!
Now, can you better understand the emotion and attitude that Simeon and Anna had been carrying around within their hearts and minds for years? They were waiting, looking forward to the coming of the biggest day of all?the appearing of their Savior.
There is something unique about each of these two individuals that I want us take a look at this morning. For Simeon, we learn that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel. That word, ?consolation,? is an interesting word. The Greek word, ?paraklesis? means ?exhortation, encouragement, comfort, or solace.? The Rabbis liked to call God?s Messiah ?the consoler? or ?the comforter.?
When we think of comfort or consoling, we most often think of comforting an individual who has gone through a tough time, but Simeon was waiting for the comfort of an entire nation. The nation of Israel was experiencing difficult days. God had been silent for a long time. There were no prophets speaking ?thus saith the Lord? for many, many years leading up to the birth of Jesus. The Jews were living under Roman rule and they were living in fear under the cruel King Herod. Simeon was waiting for the consolation, the comforting of the nation, when he took Jesus in his arms and praised God.
What about you? Are you still waiting for your consolation? What is it that has you down? What is it that causes you to stay up at night and worry? What is it that dominates your thinking throughout the day? Are you discouraged because you wonder if you will ever get ahead? Or, if you will ever be able to catch up on your bills? What is it that weighs heavy upon your soul? Is it the loss of a loved one, the loss of a marriage, the loss of a job, or the loss of a dream? What is it that has you so down? Can you not find any peace in this life no matter what you try? Are you lonely? Do you battle depression? Whatever it is that is weighing heavy on your heart and mind this morning you need to know that your Comfort is here!
Many try to comfort themselves through many different means. Some try to comfort themselves with a bottle or a relationship or a shopping spree or something else to try and lift their spirits. If you?ve tried any of these things I?ve just listed then you know that they don?t work, they don?t last, we need something greater, something more enduring than any of these. Paul wrote to the folks in Thessalonica and prayed for them to be comforted and encouraged through their relationship with Jesus. Read along with me in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews wanted to remind the people of his day about the great comfort of our God so he wrote these words,
17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:17-19 NIV)
The word that is translated, ?encourage,? in the last two Scriptures that we?ve just read is the same Greek word for ?consolation? that we read about in Luke 2. You and I, regardless of what we are going through, we can experience the anticipation and excitement of Christmas if we will recognize that our comfort and encouragement are not dependent upon our circumstances or our situation in life. Our comfort and encouragement is not dependent upon what our Christmas will be like. Our comfort and encouragement has already come and His name is Jesus!
Now, let?s turn our attention to Anna. We?ve already discovered that Anna was equally as enthusiastic as Simeon. Her excitement was rooted in the fact that she had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem for a long time. Luke tells us, in verse 38.
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. (Luke 2:38 NIV)
Anna, and many others in her day, had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. The Greek word for ?redemption? is ?lutrosis? and it means, ?a ransoming, redemption, or deliverance, especially from the penalty of sin.? The same word is used in Hebrews 9:11-12. Listen to these powerful words.
11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12 NIV)
You see, Anna and the people of Israel were in captivity. I?m not referring to their having Rome rule over them, I?m speaking of their captivity to sin. Since the time of Adam and Eve?s sin in the Garden of Eden all of humanity has been held captive to sin. Societies have tried all kinds of ways to alleviate our responsibility. Religions have tried all kinds of ways to deal with our guilt. Moralists have sought ways to highlight our supposed inherent goodness, but Paul proclaims the power of God. Take a look at Romans 5:6-9 with me.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Romans 5:6-9 NIV)
The word that we are looking at, ?redemption,? is a powerful word. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was written in Hebrew, we find the same word used to translate the Hebrew root word, ?Pada? (pada) which means, ?to ransom, rescue, or deliver.? We find that same word used in Psalm 48:1. Read along with me.
7 No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him– 8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough– 9 that he should live on forever and not see decay. 10 For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. 12 But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. 13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah (Psalm 49:7-13 NIV)
What we are unable to do, God is able, and He has acted on our behalf through His son, Jesus. Anna and many others in Jerusalem were waiting for the rescue, for God to work on their behalf to deliver them from their sins. God acted through Jesus and God is still acting in the lives of those who are looking for God?s deliverance.
I know many, many people who feel weighed down by their sin. They may never let on to what?s going on in their life, but deep in their heart they know that they have fashioned their own prison. They feel such guilt and shame that they can?t ever imagine God forgiving them. Maybe you are one of those people who know how badly you have messed up. You are convinced that God could never forgive you. My friend, not only can God forgive you, but He wants to forgive you. When Jesus died upon the cross He carried your sins with Him. Oh, how your Christmas would be different this year if you joined Anna and looked with great anticipation to your own redemption!
This is the Christmas gift. God sent His Son. He is our Comforter. He is our Redeemer. He is our everything. He is a friend to the friendless. He is the way-maker to those who have lost their way. He is the light of the world for those who are stumbling around in the dark. He is the healer for those who are broken and don?t think they can ever be fixed. He is the Savior, I didn?t say, ?a Savior,? but the Savior for those who are lost and yet yearning to know God.
The great preacher Dr. S.M. Lockridge spoke to his congregation one Sunday morning about Jesus. Dr. Lockridge describes our indescribable Savior with these words.
The Bible says my King is a seven-way king. He?s the King of the Jews; that?s a racial king. He?s the King of Israel; that?s a national King. He?s the King of Righteousness. He?s the King of the Ages. He?s the King of Heaven. He?s the King of Glory. He?s the King of kings, and He?s the Lord of lords. That?s my King. Well, I wonder, do you know Him? David said, ?The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is a sovereign King. No means of measure can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supply. No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessings. He?s enduringly strong. He?s entirely sincere. He?s eternally steadfast. He?s immortally graceful. He?s imperially powerful. He?s impartially merciful. Do you know Him?
He?s the greatest phenomenon that ever crossed the horizon of this world. He?s God?s Son. He?s a sinner?s Saviour. He?s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands in the solitude of Himself. He?s august. He?s unique. He?s unparalleled. He?s unprecedented. He?s the loftiest idea in literature. He?s the highest personality in philosophy. He?s the supreme problem in higher criticism. He?s the fundamental doctrine of true theology. He?s the cardinal necessity for spiritual religion. He?s the miracle of the age. He?s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He?s the only one qualified to be an all sufficient Saviour. I wonder if you know Him today?
He supplies strength for the weak. He?s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He strengthens and sustains. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. I wonder if you know Him?
Well, my King is the King. He?s the key to knowledge. He?s the wellspring of wisdom. He?s the doorway of deliverance. He?s the pathway of peace. He?s the roadway of righteousness. He?s the highway of holiness. He?s the gateway of glory. Do you know Him?
Well, His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you, but He?s indescribable. He?s incomprehensible. He?s invincible. He?s irresistible.
Well, you can?t get Him out of your mind. You can?t get Him off of your hand. You can?t out live Him, and you can?t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn?t stand Him, but they found out they couldn?t stop Him. Pilate couldn?t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn?t get their testimonies to agree. Herod couldn?t kill Him. Death couldn?t handle Him, and the grave couldn?t hold Him. Yea!!!, that?s my King, that?s my King.
?Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever.? How long is that? And ever and ever and when you get through with all the forevers, then AMEN!?.AMEN!
Now, that is the Christmas Gift! Our God desires for you and me to leave this sanctuary this morning full of anticipation and excitement. Our excitement is rooted in the fact that God has acted on our behalf and our anticipation is focused, not on the coming of Jesus as a baby, but on the soon coming of our glorious King when He comes again for the final time. He is coming back my friends. Will you be ready?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 21, 2008