This week, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Christmas.” Through one of the greatest events in human history, we learn an amazing truth about God. Paul wrote about this truth about God here:
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
Through this series, we’ll look at key individuals in the Christmas account and see just how true it is that God chooses the lowly things of this world, the things that are not, and does the impossible through them so that anyone who boasts will boast in the Lord alone!
So far, we looked at two couples which are inseparable from the Christmas story; Elizabeth and Zechariah and Mary and Joseph. This week, however, we’re going to turn to two individuals that are not often recognized this time of the year. In fact, they are not frequently mentioned at all.
These individuals are Simeon and Anna. Simeon was a devout man of God and Anna was a widowed prophet of the Lord
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, 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 on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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 may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of 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 prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, 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 on him.
When we think of the Christmas story, we often think of the angels and shepherds, the Magi, and the animals in the manger scene. Yes, the shepherds were chosen by God to be one of the first ones to receive the announcement of Jesus’ birth by means of the angelic host. The Magi were ones who sought out the timing and location of Jesus’ birth.
Simeon, like the shepherds, was also chosen by God to reveal that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Anna, like the Magi, had also carefully and passionately sought after God and found the redeemer of all mankind.
Simeon and Anna were included in the Christmas story because they possessed the very attribute that makes this time of the year so special and unique. That attribute is hope.
Hope is the very substance that God has given us to fill the gap between His promise and the fulfillment of that promise. It is hope that fills our hearts with eager anticipation of receiving the very thing that we long for, but have not yet received. It is that Christmas Eve feeling that a child has that should so fill the believer’s life that it overflows into the lives of those around us. Hebrews 11:1 defines hope as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Simeon and Anna were waiting. They knew of God’s word that promised them a Messiah, a savior, their redemption and life. Anna waited for decades in hope after a tragic loss and season of mourning, not for a heroic knight in shining armor, but for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Likewise, Simeon was leaning completely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and on a word that he had given him. We can only imagine the life-long hide-and-seek feeling of knowing that you were going to see the savior before he died, but never knowing when or where. For him and for us alike, today is the day!
How is it that we can wait patiently as Simeon and Anna did until the day that God’s word was fulfilled? By possessing an ever-increasing measure of hope! Paul taught about this type of hope:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Hope is always future-minded. It does not dwell in the past nor consume itself with the present. It always clings to God’s truth in the midst of every impossibility. Hope does not worry about tomorrow, but always patiently waits with eager anticipation. Hope trusts that the pain, sorrow, and sacrifices of today will all work together ultimately for good.
This hope is one that can be obtained by only one means; faith in Jesus Christ. Hope obtained from any other source is a false hope, but hope found in Jesus is certain and absolute! The hope that Jesus gives is a living hope spoke of here:
1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
It is important for us to remember that because of our adoptions as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we receive a rich inheritance. This inheritance is being kept FOR us! It is not being kept from us as a form of discipline or punishment for our sins. We are children of God and no matter our past, God’s inheritance is being kept FOR us. Who is this “you” being referred to?
5 you who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Suffering grief and all kinds of trials is not evidence that God is against you. In fact, they come to prove the genuineness of our faith and to refine us. God’s will is not to break us down and overwhelm us with sorrow. God’s desire is to fill us with an inexpressible and glorious joy as we receive the fullness of our salvation in the midst of those griefs and trials. They will certainly come to an end as God’s promises are fulfilled and replace grief with rejoicing and trails with reward!
This morning, Simeon and Anna remind us to patiently wait on God with fullness of hope. He desires to freely grant us this hope and to fill us with an inexpressible and glorious joy! While we’re waiting, let’s remember Simeon and Anna’s journey of waiting and respond as they did as well.
They actively sought after and faithfully followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance while they waited.
They remained fully committed to serving God while they waited.
They trusted God’s word while they waited.
They fasted and prayed as they waited.
They worshipped and praised as they waited.
It’s not over yet, there is still hope!