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.
Christmas is often associated with waiting and as I sit here and write on the eve of Christmas I can’t help but think of all the boys and girls that are waiting. So let me ask you, “What are you waiting for this Christmas? Are you longing for anything? What are you expecting to receive? Are you looking forward to anything special this Christmas?”
In the Gospel of Luke, we come across two characters who make their appearance in the final acts of the Christmas drama. One is a man named Simeon; the other is a woman named Anna. They don’t appear in any nativity scenes or in many Christmas cards yet they were significant players in the first Christmas story. What they have in common is that both of them were waiting for something or should I say someone. Luke uses a Greek word of anticipation because they were waiting with expectation for the coming Messiah. Simeon was waiting and Anna was looking forward to, they were alert and ready to welcome Him. Both of them were waiting for Jesus but for different reasons.
Simeon was waiting for Comfort
Simeon was a righteous and devout man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Things weren’t going well for the nation of Israel, they hadn’t heard from God for many years and were under Roman rule. They had lost their political independence and were living in fear of the capable, crafty, and cruel King Herod. Simeon’s expectation focused on the comfort that Christ would bring. The desire to be comforted is a universal human need. We all struggle with loneliness, emptiness, and insecurity, and the Christmas season is one of the major crisis times of the year for depression and suicide. The Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple courts at just the right time on just the right day that Joseph and Mary were bringing Jesus to the Temple.
Simeon took Jesus in his arms and offered a prayer of praised to God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
When Simeon looked at the baby Jesus he knew that God’s promise had been kept. Here was Immanuel, “God With Us,” who through His comforting presence would eliminate rejection, fear, and loneliness.
Anna was waiting for Forgiveness
Anna after her husband had died dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. It says that she never left the temple, but worshipped day and night. Anna was looking for forgiveness. Verse 38 says “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.” The word redemption is tied to the reality of captivity. The Old Testament Passover and the release of Israel from Egyptian slavery stood in Anna’s day as the ultimate redemption. It was the reminder of God’s power to release captives, but more importantly it pointed ahead to that day when God would provide deliverance from the slavery of sin. When Anna saw Jesus, she offered a prayer of thanks to God because here was the One who would save His people from their sins.
What are your prayers this Christmas, what are you waiting for? Some of us identify with Simeon we are hurting, lonely, empty, and afraid. We need a fresh sense of God’s presence, we need His comfort. Some of us identify more with Anna. May be you are plagued with guilt this Christmas because of the way you’ve been living, you feel trapped in a pattern of sin that you can’t break out of and you need His forgiveness. Whatever you are waiting for this Christmas become a:
Verse 33 says that Joseph and Mary marveled at what was said about Jesus, to marvel is to be filled with wonder, astonishment, and surprise. Have you been a marveler this Christmas, or are you too caught up in the busyness and stress of the season? Does the Christmas story still astonish you?
Verse 27 says “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” And verse 38 says “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God” Both Simeon and Anna were movers, when the Holy Spirit prompted them to move, they didn’t sit still. I wonder what would have happened if they had not responded to God? Every one of the Christmas characters responded to the Spirit’s leading except Herod
Verse 38 “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” God wants each one of us to become messengers of the Christmas story. There are many who are caught up in preparations for Christmas and their anticipation and longings really represent an inner search for comfort and forgiveness. This Christmas will you offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, will you share the gift that only the Messiah can provide to those who desperately need comfort and forgiveness?