Child of Promise: A Season of Waiting

Child of Promise: A Season of Waiting



Opening Illustration:
This is now my 6th Christmas here at Eastern Shore Baptist Church. It is hard to believe but nevertheless true!  Over the past 6 years, I have told you, the church how much I love Christmas.  It is my favorite time of the year.  I just love the story about how God became one of us.  God lived with us.  He took all of his infinite power and somehow compressed it into human form.  With the exception of our salvation, this may be the most unexpected miraculous event in the history of humanity.  

I have so many memories attached to Christmas don’t you? Let’s be honest, October and November are just necessary months that eventually get us to Christmas.  Yes, I am embarrassed to say that I had my Christmas lights up at my house before Halloween.  This is true.  I just couldn’t wait to get started.  

We all have childhood memories attached to Christmas as well.  How many of you were so excited about Christmas you couldn’t sleep at night as a child.  You woke up early on Christmas day to look at those presents.  I did.  Speaking of presents, I found some Christmas letters from children to Santa over the years.  Thought I’d read a few of them for you.  

Dear Santa Claus,
When you come to my house there will be cookies for you. But if you are real hungry you can use our phone and order a pizza to go.

Dear Santa,
I want a Puppy. I want a playhouse. Thank you. I’ve been good most of the time. Sometimes I’m wild.

Dear Santa, (From a 4-year-old) I
I’ll take anything because I haven’t been that good.

Dear Santa,
I’m not going to ask for a lot. Here’s my list: The Etch-A-Sketch animator, 2 packs of #2 pencils, Crayola fat markers and the big gift...my own color TV! Well, maybe you could drop the pencils; I don’t want to be really selfish.

Like our childhood memories remind us, Christmas is about waiting.  What are you waiting for this Christmas? What are you longing for this season? What are you hoping to receive? What are you looking forward to this year?

Is it prosperity?
Is it trinket or toy?
Is it peace in the world, at work and at home?

What are you waiting for?

When It Comes To Christmas, What Are You Waiting For?

Background:
In Luke 2, a light has broken into the darkness of mankind.  For the better part of 500 years, the Lord’s voice to mankind had been largely silent.  Nothing.  God had not been heard from for so long.  Yet, God suddenly, unexpectedly, delivered on a long outstanding promise.  He sent Jesus! 

In Luke 2 we hear a story that is not often told during the Christmas season.  We are introduced to two characters that are often times never talked about at Christmas time.  We are introduced to Simeon and the other is a woman named Anna.  They are never heard from again in any of the Gospels.  This is their only moment of being mentioned in Scriptures.  One thing that you will notice about these characters is that they are both waiting for something.  They are, as Scripture says, anticipating something important on the horizon.  So, let’s read this morning their story and how their lives intersected, if even for a few moments, the life of Jesus Christ.  

Luke 2:22-38 ESV
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 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.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Jesus Was Worth Waiting For!

I. Simeon Was Waiting For Comfort
Luke 2:25-26 ESV
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.

Point:
As I stated earlier, it had been a rough few generations for the Israelites.  Over the past 500 years they had been passed around as a possessed and oppressed people from country to country.  Currently, they found themselves under the thumb of the brutal Roman Empire.  To make matter worse, their faith seemed dry and stale.  God’s voice had seemingly not echoed in the hearts of His people in years.  

God’s people were in doubt.

God’s people were discouraged.

God’s people were disillusioned.

Sound familiar?  

You might say that millions right here in America feel the exact same way.  

Well Simeon was different.  The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die before the “consolation of Israel” was born.  That’s quite a word.  Consolation.  What exactly is Luke trying to communicate.  The Greek word for “consolation” is παράκλησις and is pronounced par-ak'-lay-sis or paraklésis.  The word is feminine in Greek.  It means exhortation, entreaty, and comfort.  Yet is also means joy and gladness.  

You see, Simeon was looking not just for consultation.  He was looking for comfort, joy and gladness.  To give you a mental image, the other day I visited Cody and Sterling Grimes in the hospital.  Sterling had just given birth to their son Grayson.  When I walked in that hospital room, Sterling was holding little Grayson in her arms.  Hovering over his son was Cody.  Both parents were completely satisfied.  Completely joyful.  Completely glad.  It all arrived in that moment because of the birth of a child.  

Now we all know that that gladness and joy will change over the years.  Yet, the joy that Jesus brings doesn’t.  The gladness that He offers is everlasting and supersedes all of our circumstances.  

Jesus brings perfect comfort.  

Jesus brings perfect peace.

Jesus brings perfect hope.

This is what Simeon was waiting for and received in Luke 2.  He received the paraklesis, the peace of Jesus Christ.  No, Simeon’s life was not perfect.  The governmental system was not perfect.  His home was not perfect. His job was not perfect.  Yet, the comfort that he was promised, eventually came in the person of Jesus Christ.  

Friend, maybe you are waiting for joy this morning.  Maybe you are hoping for peace today in the midst of troubled waters.  Simeon received Jesus and received all the things that you are hoping for today.  If you are searching for those things, search no more.  You have found them in Jesus.  

Isaiah 9:6 ESV
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus Was Worth Waiting For!

I. Simeon Was Waiting For Comfort
II. Anna Was Waiting For Compassion
Luke 2:36-38 ESV
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

First Point:
I find it interesting that Luke mentions both a man and a woman in his story.  He certainly didn’t have too.  The story of Simeon would have been enough and his point would have been conveyed.  Yet, he choose to include Anna.  Why? Women were not highly regarded in the society and times of Jesus.  Women had no rights.  

Women's status and freedoms were severely limited by Jewish law and custom in ancient Israel, as they were in essentially all other cultures at the time. Generally speaking:

-most were restricted to roles of little or no authority,

-they were largely confined to their father's or husband's home,

-they were considered to be inferior to men, and under the authority of men -- either their father before marriage, or their husband afterwards.

From the Second Temple period, women were not allowed to testify in court trials. 

They could not go out in public, or talk to strangers. 

When outside of their homes, they were to be doubly veiled. "They had become second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above that of slaves." 

Their position in society was defined in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the interpretation of those scriptures.

Yet, Jesus is introduced to both characters equally.  Both characters are allowed a chance to respond. Why?  I believe that Luke includes this crucial detail to let the reader know that Jesus is available and for everyone.  Everyone, from this moment on, will have an open door to Jesus.  No more cultural battles.  No more conventional wisdom.  No more law, tradition and legalism.  Jesus would be delivered not to just a holy man, but to an old frail woman with no family.  If Jesus could be seen, praised and worshiped by lowly Anna, then He could be for EVERYONE.

Now this has practical application for us today.  This means that Jesus is available across all sorts of lines.  

Jesus is available to all people.
All races.
All nationalities.
All genders.
Sinners like me and you.  He is open and willing to be received by all.  

That’s why Paul wrote “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” in Galatians 3:28. 

Point:
If Simeon the priest was looking for comfort, Anna was looking for something different.  She found something different in her Christmas present.  Anna had a sad story.  Anna’s husband died.  We can read into the Scripture that Anna probably was barren or that her children had all died.  We can also read into the Scripture that she mostly likely didn’t have extended family.  She was all alone.  She lived at the temple and spent all of her time there.  If she had children, she would have had some place to go.  In those days, barren women or women whose husbands died would be taken in by the temples.  They would serve in the temple and the temple would house them and feed them.  

Anna spent her days fasting, praying and worshiping.  Anna, like Simeon was waiting for something and someone.  Verse 38 tells us exactly what she was waiting for.  “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna was waiting for redemption.  

The Greek word for “redemption” is ἀπολύτρωσις.  It is pronounced ap-ol-oo'-tro-sis or apolutrósis.  It literally mean re-purchasing (winning back) what was previously forfeited or lost.  The word emphasizes the tremendous distance and effort that the redeemer had to do to regain that which was lost.  There is great sacrifice in this word.  

Anna was waiting for forgiveness and she knew immediately that this forgiveness was not cheap. It was expensive.  It would be costly.  God, at great effort and sacrifice redeemed her and the entirety of Jerusalem.  

Point:
Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like to be Anna.  I wonder if she lived in the shadow of guilt and disappointment.  Surly she was plagued by grief and loss.  Maybe she dreamed of what could have been.  Her life never amounted to what she wanted it to be and certainly society at large didn’t give her a second glance.  Whats worse she was locked in to a legalistic faith of rules, laws and regulations.  Everyday she hoped for redemption.  She worked.  She prayed.  She worked.  She worshipped.  She fasted.  She worked.  She prayed some more. She worked.  It was a never ending cycle.

That is until Jesus came and broke the cycle. God, at great cost and sacrifice sent redemption into Anna’s world.  She had the compassion of the most high.  She met the comfort of Simeon.  

Anna found redemption for herself and for Israel.  

Point:
Are you looking for comfort?  Perhaps you are like Anna and you are looking for redemption, compassion and forgiveness.  Perhaps you are haunted by your past life.  Maybe you are carrying heavy burdens of disappointment and sin.  Maybe you are filled with regret.  You are living life in the rear view mirror.  If’s that’s you, then you have a lot in common with Anna.  Friend, let me tell you that your redeemer has been delivered to your doorstep.  You have found redemption, forgiveness and compassion.  

Ephesians 1:7 ESV
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…

 Jesus Was Worth Waiting For!

I. Simeon Was Waiting For Comfort
II. Anna Was Waiting For Forgiveness 
III. Are You Waiting For Salvation
Luke 2:29 ESV
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation…

Illustration:
Many of you remember the famed actor Steve McQueen.  McQueen is well known for being a man’s man.  For decades he was the epitome of cool.  Every man wanted to act, look, drive and dress like him.  To be honest, McQueen in many ways led a life as tough as the ones he portrayed on the silver screen.  Success filled his life until alcohol and a failed marriage left him empty. In his despair he attended a crusade led by one of Billy Graham’s associates. McQueen made a profession of faith and requested an opportunity to speak with Billy Graham. A connecting flight in Los Angeles allowed Dr. Graham to spend a couple of hours with Mr. McQueen in the actor’s limousine. Dr Graham shared numerous scriptures in his quest to give spiritual hope and assurance. Steve McQueen struggled with the thought of God giving eternal life to a man who had such a checkered past. 

In Titus 1:2, however, he found a promise that spoke to him - "the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago" He requested something to write down the verse, but Billy Graham gave McQueen his Bible instead. Later, Steve McQueen died in Mexico while seeking experimental treatment for his terminal cancer. He passed into eternity with his Bible opened to Titus 1 and his finger resting on verse 2. Regardless of our past, we have the assurance of our eternal salvation because of God’s Word.

Point:
McQueen tried to fill his life with many things but nothing would give him the satisfaction and fulfillment of salvation through Jesus.  Perhaps you have been looking for comfort and forgiveness.  Maybe this Christmas season you have been waiting for salvation.  Listen to the words of Simeon the priest.  “For my eyes have seen salvation”.  Can you hear the joy? Can you hear the overwhelming happiness that flooded his life in that moment?  Finally, salvation has come. 



Simeon and Anna’s life was dramatically and forever changed.  They found hope, healing and help.  They found comfort, forgiveness and salvation.  it is my prayer today that each of you will embrace Jesus today as your Savior.  It will be the greatest Christmas gift that you will ever receive.  

Remember, Salvation’s Gift Is

A. For YOU!
Titus 2:11 NLT
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.

B. Free
Ephesians 2:8 NLT
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

C. Forever 
Romans 8:38-39 NLT
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.


How Will You Respond To This Free Christmas Gift?

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