Anticipating Christmas

I hope that you all are enjoying this Christmas season. I hope it has been a special time for you and those you love. For us as Christians, it is a special time of year, but it should be all the time, celebrating the birth of Christ. Next week or the week after, still a time to celebrate the fact that Christ has come and that He’s coming again. That’s what it is for us. That’s what it should be for us as Christians. Many people enjoy the Christmas season simply because it is a holiday. Most people enjoy time off from work, time off from school, time to do things we don’t normally do in a week, time of vacation; that’s kind of what it’s become for many people, at least in our country. For some it is a special time to gather with friends, it’s a special day when we have family over and see people that maybe we haven’t seen since last year at this time. Many children as well as adults anticipate or look forward to Christmas because of all the special gifts that they might receive and gifts that they give. 

 

For others, the Christmas season is just the end of the year, it’s when we look back at the year to see how things have gone, maybe evaluate the year that is now coming to an end, and we look forward to a new year, thinking about what we may do different in the coming year. Christmas means all different things to different people. I have even observed people that I have known who have been Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist enjoy the Christmas season. Not exactly the way that we do, but again, it’s a time off from work, a time to spend time with family, and even giving of gifts is not exclusive to Christians. 

If you mention Christmas out in the world, in the work place or at a social gathering, it is not always tied to Christ. My hope is for us as believers that we will this year make this a time to contemplate the significance of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that as we have read the Christmas story, read about the birth of Christ, that we will praise God as the angels did two thousand years ago when they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 

In keeping with this special season, I want to share with you this morning from Luke chapter 2, beginning in verse 25. It is a part of the Christmas story, but not of His actual birth; it is a story of Christ and a man named Simeon who anticipated with great joy and great excitement the coming of a savior. As we consider this account of Simeon this morning I pray that we too, as he did, will anticipate not only the celebration of the birth of Christ, but also anticipate with great joy the day when our Lord will return, the day when we will see Him face to face. 

Let’s read together beginning in verse 25 of Luke chapter 2.

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

A fascinating passage. We have in these verses the account of a man who with great hope had anticipated the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah who would be the Savior of the world, and Simeon stated, “the glory of your people Israel” and “a light of revelation to the Gentiles.” It was clear to Simeon that the Messiah, the Christ, would be a savior. Simeon longed for the Messiah, for His coming, he saw it as the most important event not only in his life, but the most important event in all of history.

Isn’t it interesting what Scripture tells us about certain people? There are some people who are just mentioned briefly in Scripture. We talked about this last week; we just hear very little about some people, and yet they have great impact on our lives as we read about them and how they responded to Scripture or to Christ. We mentioned last week as we looked at this man Epaphroditus, and we wondered, “Who is this guy?” We read a little about his faithfulness. I also mentioned Antipas last week, from Revelation. What about Enoch from the Old Testament? Another little known man that we can think and ponder about. Who is this guy? We know so little about him. All we know is that the Scripture says, “he walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Our minds start to go from there about this man, Enoch.

Simeon falls into the same category. We know very little about Simeon, really only what we read here in Luke 2. But in just a few words we can learn a lot. Simeon first of all longed for the coming of Christ. We read also that he was a “righteous and devout man.” For a man to be described as “righteous and devout” is no small thing. He was righteous, or it could be translated “just,” meaning that he was a man without prejudice or partiality towards other people. He was not one who would show favor to certain people because of their standing or their position in society. He would see them as equal. With regards to his fellow man, he was just. 

Simeon in relation to God was devout. Devout means “God-fearing.” He was a man who feared God. Psalm 147:11 says, “The Lord favors those who fear him, those who wait for His lovingkindness.” “Fear God and keep His commands for this is the whole duty of man.” Simeon was righteous towards his neighbor and devout to God. And as we will see in Simeon’s life, a man who is truly righteous and devout, a God fearing man, is one who is interested in going about his heavenly Father’s business.

Being a man of God, he was a man who believed what the Scriptures said. He believed what the Spirit revealed to him. Having been filled with the Holy Spirit, Simeon sincerely believed the Word of God. Verse 25 says that he was “righteous and devout” and that he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” He simply believed the Scripture, and since he believed it, he was actively looking for its fulfillment. He was looking for the comfort of Israel; God had said He would send a savior, and Simeon believed that. He was waiting for the coming Messiah. That impacted his life, it affected how he lived. He was a man of faith, and he believed the promises of God.

Our passage says that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. That’s an amazing thing. We’re not sure exactly how that happened, but we have that in the Word. So what did he do? He patiently waited, trusting in his Lord. Can you imagine being in Simeon’s place? Can you imagine the anticipation of that? Being righteous and devout, he knew that the Messiah would come, he believed the prophets of old. But he had this additional benefit of knowing by direct revelation that the Messiah would come during his lifetime. Maybe we could say it would be like if God revealed directly to us when He would return. Some people thought that last week, but it didn’t happen, did it? Can you imagine if you knew that? If you knew that Christ would return in your lifetime? I just can’t imagine what that would be like, the excitement over that. Simeon knew that the Messiah would come, be born before he died, and he knew that he would be the Savior.

Now we must not forget that the Messiah, a Savior, has been needed since the Fall of Man. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned there has been a need for a Savior. And from eternity past God had planned for a Savior. And to all those who would listen, God through His prophets began to tell of the coming Savior. God was not silent about what was to come. He was to come, but was His coming truly anticipated? Did people really believe He would come? Did those of the house of Israel truly long for His coming? Simeon did. The coming of the Messiah, the Christ, was real to Simeon. 

What a day in which to live, anticipating the birth of Christ. Simeon’s excitement must have been unbearable at times, waiting and watching for that event. He must have been consumed with the thought of it. I mean, given what he knew, what else would there be to fill his mind? I picture a man with a big smile on his face, and maybe a skip in his step, with joy in his heart, on the edge of his chair waiting and watching. Anticipation is a powerful thing, isn’t it?

Sometimes when Tammy and I would plan a special family event when our kids were smaller, like a vacation, we wouldn’t tell them right away. If we tell them too far ahead of time, it would be like they couldn’t stand it. The excitement builds. They would count down the days and pack a week ahead of time. It would overshadow all the other events of life.

Maybe that is how it was for Simeon as he waited for the greatest event that would take place in the history of the world. What I am saying is, I don’t think Simeon would be a man that would be entangled in the cares of this world. I don’t think useless temporal issues would have dominated his mind. He had something bigger to think on. I don’t think he would be easily swayed by the empty philosophies of this world, or a man easily caught up in senseless or foolish talk. He was waiting for something, he knew that it would happen, and it was something big, the biggest event in history. He was waiting for the “consolation of Israel,” for the “light of revelation for the Gentiles,” for the “glory of Israel.” It was coming, and he knew it.

What a day in which to live for Simeon. But what a day for us to live in today, because we know the Messiah did come. We know that He was born of a virgin and that He lived a sinless life and bore our sins on the cross. We live in a day in which we can look back to Simeon’s time and see not only the birth of Christ, but also the finished work of Christ on our behalf. We live in a day in which we can anticipate with great joy not only the celebration of His birth, and His work, but also the hope of His return.

I just wonder if we’re taking the time to do that. Are we allowing things to steal our attention away that are really not so important? Is there anything in your life that would bring you greater joy than to consider, ponder, meditate upon, and celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is there anything greater to get excited over?

The world has done a pretty good job of diverting our attention. Christmas has become a rush, a hectic time of going here and there sometimes instead of a time of meditating upon our Savior. Look at verse 27: the day had finally arrived, the day for which Simeon, a righteous and devout, God fearing man had longed. “And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God.” Simeon had finally met his Savior! Can we grasp the excitement of that for him? Can we share in his joy? He had met his Savior! And then he speaks. Listen to what this man of God says:

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, (Luke 2:29-32)

If we can just begin to picture that. Simeon as he gazed upon the Christ child, he was looking at Him with different eyes than those of the flesh. Think with me for a moment. What had Simeon been told back in verse 26? “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” So one implication of seeing Jesus meant that Simeon would soon die. Simeon could have had a feeling of contempt as he looked at the child, dreading death. If we knew that a certain event would take place, then we would die, how would we take that? But much to the contrary, he saw the child through spiritual eyes. He must have gotten a glimpse of the glory of God in the Child. His spiritual eyes must have been enlightened as he began to perceive the glory of the Son of God to such a degree that he even now, having seen Jesus, he would long to die. “Now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” “Let they bondservant depart in peace, according to thy word.” 

He was now free to depart this life in peace, which means he could die with composure of mind, having obtained all that he had ever desired in life. It had happened in that moment, that was it for him. We speak often of Christ being our “all in all,” or the “pearl of great price,” as Christ being the treasure of our hearts. Is He really? He seemed to be for Simeon. The treasure, his salvation in Christ, was more precious than anything he possessed! He had seen it all, and his soul was comforted. Is Christ the great desire of our souls? Is He the One for whom we long? Simeon had seen the glory of God in the face of the Son, and he had seen it all. Verse 30, “For my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples.”

If Simeon could now approach death with such cheerfulness and composure having seen the Christ, while Christ was still a child, then how much more should we go forward in peace with the benefits of having seen not only Christ as a child in Scripture, but also His finished work? We have the whole story now; Simeon didn’t have that. We’ve seen the completed work of Christ from birth to death to resurrection. It is true that we did not see Him with our physical eyes, or hold Him in our arms, but we have the testimony of the evangelists in the gospels. Simeon was able to go cheerfully forward unto death at the appointed time.

December 13, a few days ago, was Santa Lucia day. You may not be familiar with the story of Lucia. Lucia was a young Christian woman from Sweden who lived about 1600 years ago. She lived in a time when Christians were being severely persecuted. In her day, Christians had to hide in deep tunnels and caves in fear of their lives, in fear of being martyred as believers. Now Lucia did not hide because no one knew that she was a believer. So she would gather large amounts of food, put the food in baskets, and take it to the Christians in hiding. In order for her to carry the large baskets through the dark tunnels she would wear a ring of candles on her head in order to light her way.

Every time she made the trip, she did so risking her life in serving her Lord and her fellow saints. During this time her father chose for her a husband. And as was the custom, Lucia had a dowry to give to her husband which would help them to begin a home together. But Lucia had such compassion and love for her fellow saints that she sold her dowry, took the money, and purchased food for the Christians in hiding. Her husband to-be found out, and in great anger notified the authorities that Lucia was a Christian. 

As a result, Lucia was captured, taken to a public place, tied to a wooden stake, a fire was built around her, and she was burned alive. In some accounts of this we are told that she did not struggle, complain, or fret, but that with peace in her heart she willingly died a martyr’s death. She, like Simeon, had seen the Savior, and Jesus was her all. He was everything to her. And to Lucia as well as to Simeon, to die was gain, because it meant to be with Him in glory.

Not only was the presence of Jesus the climax of Simeon’s life, but it was also to mankind as a whole. Simeon states in verse 32 that this salvation will be a “light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” To the Gentiles Jesus is the light. He is a light in the darkness. Jesus Himself said, “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness.” Apart from the coming of Christ into the world we would still be in darkness, and the darkness would overpower us. If He had not come we would be as blind men, stumbling around in the dark. If the Father had not sent the Son, there would be no hope of salvation, no hope of life, no hope of eternity.

Just as Simeon longed for and anticipated the coming of the Savior, we too can long for and anticipate the celebration of His birth. I pray that our desire and our love for Christ might overshadow all other activities during this Christmas time. That whatever we do, whomever we are with, that the glory of God will be in our hearts and minds as we go.

Simeon was a righteous and devout man, a man who believed that God would faithfully fulfill His promise of a coming Savior, and he never wavered in that hope. And we have the same opportunity today to long for and anticipate with great joy, not His first coming, but long for the day when we will see Him face to face. Before Jesus departed He made it very clear that He would come again, that we will see Him, and we know that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess. John 14 says, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” And in John 17, Christ praying to the Father says this, “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, in order that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou didst love me before the foundation of the world.”

Is that not something to anticipate with great joy? Jesus Christ desires that we be presented with Him, and that we may behold His glory! His desire is that you and I may benefit from his glory. That is what we have to look forward to. We can anticipate with happiness in our heart our life with Him in glory, a time of glory in a sinless state. Our being with Him in glory, our being with our Savior means being absent from this body, it means being absent from affliction, pain, sorrow, sin, tears, shame, and disappointments. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 5 when he says,

For we know that if the earthly tent, which is our house, is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; insomuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)

Paul is speaking of a day when we will leave this dwelling place to dwell with Christ. And in verse 5 He tells us God’s purpose for us. “Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God.” The purpose of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is that we may one day dwell with Him forever! 

God was so gracious to Simeon, to allow him to see the Savior, Jesus Christ, to actually hold Him, and proclaim to those around that the Messiah had come. To proclaim salvation to both the Gentiles and the Jews. What a blessing that must have been. And God has extended His graciousness to us also in giving us His Word and telling us that He is returning. He has enlightened our hearts and minds to know that He’s coming back, and He’s coming back soon. He has allowed us to see the Savior with spiritual eyes. 

I want to encourage each of you to meditate on these type of things during the Christmas season. We can teach our children about the birth of Christ, and share with neighbors and other family members, that Christ has come, and He is coming again. I pray that we will all long for that, long to be with Him.