Letter to the Reader
Thank you for reading this short offering of Advent Meditations. It has only been in recent years that I have learned the value of setting aside the weeks of Advent to long for Jesus’ coming and lament the darkness of the world. This practice has been particularly good for me, and I look forward to making it my annual practice until I am with Jesus. Special thanks are given to my dear friends, Mike Neigh and Chris Miller, for helping me grow in my understanding of this season.
This study was presented to the Pioneer Bible Church of Ponca City, OK during the Advent Season of 2022. The first three sections were presented during adult Sunday School, while the final section was a sermon presented on Christmas morning. You may notice differences in the reading due to this difference of settings. This study appeared on the Bible Living Blog in four separate posts during that season. You can find links to these individual posts at the end of this article. You can also find a PDF file of this study on the “Free Resources” page.
My personal suggestion is to read one section of this study on each of the Sundays of Advent. This would be helpful for personal or family devotions. The sections are longer, so you may want to divide them up throughout the Advent season. Perhaps I will make this a personal project in the future.
You will notice repetition in this study. This is by design to help in reflection of the main ideas throughout the season. This will also be helpful if this is read weekly. You will not need to go back and reread the prior week’s section, because the current reading will review the content from the previous weeks.
Finally, the two passages that will frequently come to your attention are Luke 2:22-38 and Revelation 21:1-8. I would recommend reading these each time you visit this study to keep the sense of longing for Jesus and the consummation of His Kingdom.
May the Lord use these studies to transform you from one degree of glory to another.
In Jesus’ Service,
We are in the season of Advent. I used to view Advent simply as the time leading up to Christmas. Advent is the time every year that we study Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. We meditate on John 1:14 about the Word becoming human. We focus on the incarnation.
However, two years ago I spent several weeks talking to two pastor friends about Advent as a Christian festival. Historically, Advent is the time that Christians have traditionally set aside to think of Jesus’ two appearances.
Advent means “coming.” So, when we talk about Jesus’ first advent, we are referring to His first coming to earth. When we speak of His second advent, we are referring to the time He will return to the earth and make all things new (Revelation 19-22). This is what Titus 2:11-14 is about. The grace of God appeared at Jesus’ first advent when He gave Himself to purchase us from sin. We look back to the first advent. However, we are to be looking forward to the second advent, the happy confidence of Jesus’ second appearing.
For the next four weeks, we will take time to reflect on the Advent season. It is important to say that Advent is a tradition. It is not ordained in the Bible. Jesus nowhere commands His people to celebrate a season called Advent. We are commanded to live in consideration of Jesus’ two advents, but we are not commanded to set aside a specific season for celebrating them (1 Corinthians 11:26; Titus 2:13). Interestingly, we are not even commanded to remember Christmas as a holiday. However, these are not bad traditions. It is good to set aside time to remember and to look ahead.
So, we will take time to remember Jesus’ first advent and look ahead to His second advent in this series.
Season of Darkness, Death, Exile, and Longing
The themes I would like for us to reflect on in this advent season are not our normal Christmas meditations. Instead, I would like for us to reflect on some often-overlooked themes. Darkness, death, exile, and longing are good themes for Advent. These are the themes that have been traditionally reflected on by the Church at Advent. By the time we finish our short series, I believe you will agree that they are fitting for the occasion.
We will not leave this study in hopelessness, because all along the way we will reflect on Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world that pierces through the darkness (John 1:5). He is the light of the world who rescues those who follow Him from walking in the darkness (John 8:12, 12:46). He is the One who defeated death by dying the death we deserve to die and rising again the third day. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He gives eternal life to all the Father has given to Him (John 3:16, 3:36, 17:2). He is the one we watch for with expectation, longing, joy, and at the same time hopeful sorrow. We watch expectantly to welcome Him and to be welcomed by Him (Titus 2:13).
Let’s start our Advent reflections all the way back at the beginning of time. Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As you read throughout Genesis 1 you find that all God made was good (Genesis 1:4 ,10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). He made the heavens and earth, and He filled them with creatures. The final piece of His creation was the crown – Mankind. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Mankind was created in God’s image. Male and female were created to reflect Him and glorify Him. God gave mankind dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:26-28). Man was created to rule over the creation with God. Psalm 8 puts this to poetry, if you would like to reflect on it.
God created the heavens and the earth to serve as mankind’s home. He also created this world to serve as a place where He and man would dwell together. We see this in Genesis 1-3. God spoke with Adam and Eve. God even came to walk with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). God spoke with Adam, giving him instructions for ruling over the earth. He also gave His gracious warning not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. He warned Adam that eating it would bring death (Genesis 2:16-17).
However, Adam and Eve doubted God and rebelled against Him. They ate the fruit of the tree. They chose rebellion. They gained experiential knowledge of evil. They knew what it was to go their own way. They turned from God who is the source and sustainer of life, and they died.
Eternal life is to know God (John 17:3), and they became His enemies. This brought immediate and ongoing consequences. Adam and Eve knew shame in their nakedness (compare Genesis 2:25 and 3:7). They had to hide from God; they were separated from Him (Genesis 3:8-10). They would experience pain, suffering, hard labor, relationship battles, and death (Genesis 3:16-19). They were also banished from God’s presence (Genesis 3:22-24). They were cut off from the life of God. Sin brought death.
This has been our condition ever since that time. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b). Yet, humanity is dead in trespasses and sins, going our own way, walking in darkness, so we are separated from Him (Ephesians 2:1-3; Isaiah 53:6; 1 John 1:6).
Mankind is in continual exile. We live in the banishment of our first parents. We long for God because He has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Yet, we try to fill this longing with idols. We are born in bondage to Satan, trapped in his domain of darkness, blinded to our deadly condition (Colossians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Humanity is doomed to die, because we are sinful dust and will return to dust (Genesis 3:19; Romans 6:23a). In sin we cannot live with God; we walk in darkness, and He is perfect light (1 John 1:5). This is the effect of sin.
The children of Israel were feeling the effects of sin as the time of Jesus’ first advent approached. They had been exiled in Babylon for their rebellion against God. They had returned home, and it was an embarrassment. It was nothing like the former days. It was nothing like the ultimate promises God made about David’s descendant ruling over a new creation (2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 65-66; Jeremiah 23:5-6). They were exiles in their own land. Their land was a proverbial soccer ball being kicked around amongst the nations. The Old Testament ends without the coming of the promised King.
In the days of Jesus’ first coming the Roman Empire had control. The murderous Herod was the ruler over their land. This was nothing like the safety God promised them under Messiah’s rule. There was darkness, exile, and longing.
Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:25-38 are prime examples for us of waiting and longing. They waited a long time to see the consolation and redemption of Israel.
“O Come, O Come Immanuel” really captures the sorrow of Israel with these words in verse 1:
O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
We, God’s new covenant people, are also waiting. Messiah Jesus has come. Yet, He has gone back to heaven. He has promised that He will come in the same way that He left (Acts 1:11). Where is He? We wait.
We wait in a hostile environment. We see the hopelessness of our world. We see the fruit of sin in the world around us and in ourselves. We see rioting, murders, sex trafficking, drug abuse, lying, theft, slander, political upheaval, storms, viruses, earthquakes, volcanoes. We feel the aching in our bodies, the symptoms of sickness, the effects of age, the sorrows of broken relationships, our ongoing battle with personal sin, the death of our loved ones. We suffer depression. We see the persecution of God’s people in various places around the world. We see growing animosity to the God of the Bible in our own culture. All of this is a constant reminder that the world is not right. It is broken. Sin has brought disaster and destruction ending in death and more destruction. We are in exile. We are not Home, yet.
However, the darkness of this world makes “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” shine all the brighter (2 Corinthians 4:4b). The Word of God tells us that God had a plan before time began to give rescue from sin (Titus 1:1-3). When Adam and Eve sinned, there was a promise that the seed of a woman would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). God has a plan to unite all things in Christ and make the creation new (Ephesians 1:11; Revelation 21:1-8). He has a plan to dwell with us, again, forever removing the pain of exile (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 21:3). We will finally be Home. He will destroy darkness, death, sorrow, and pain (Revelation 21:4). He has promised this, and He will do it.
Jesus is God come as a man full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus Christ is God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus Christ has appeared to bring deliverance from sin. He has died to purchase us for Himself (Titus 2:11-12, 14). As the author of Hebrews has said, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). He has risen again and has ascended with all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He reigns at the Father’s right hand until His enemies will be put under His feet (Psalm 110:1). He will someday return, and He will make all things new (2 Peter 3:9-13; Revelation 21:1-8).
So, we are left here as exiles. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20). He has started His new creation work in us. “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We wait for God to fulfill His promise of a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13). We wait “…for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13). We wait like Simeon and Anna for our consolation and final redemption, trusting that the Lord is not slow to keep His promises (2 Peter 3:9).
Jesus has promised: “Surely, I am coming soon.” We join the Apostle John and say, “Amen, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
May we experience true longing for that day as we reflect in this Advent season. Amen.
Darkness, Death, Light, Life
This week we will zoom in on the aspects of darkness and death in the Advent season, and we will contrast these things with Jesus who is Light and Life.
Let’s go again to the beginning in Genesis 1:1-3:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Out of the chaos of darkness God created light. Out of nothing, God created everything. All that He made was good. He brought order out of chaos.
God created man in His image to rule over the creation under His Lordship. Mankind rebelled against God’s rule and became his own authority. Mankind went his own way. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, brought darkness and chaos into the good creation through their rebellion. They brought sin into the world in their rebellion. Sin is darkness. It is often pictured as such in the Bible.
God is holy. He is set apart as the only God and sinless in every way. He is perfect in His being, and He is said to be light in the Bible.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
John goes on to say that walking in darkness (sin) is not fellowship with God who is light:
1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
The people of Israel were experiencing this darkness in many forms at the time of Jesus’ first coming. The evil of the Roman Empire. The evil of the murderous Herod. The darkness of dead legalism. The darkness of the skeptics. The darkness that blinded the Jewish people of their King’s coming. The faithful like Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:22-38 longed for the light to come and penetrate the darkness.
It takes little observation with a biblical worldview to see that the world is currently walking in darkness and trapped in that darkness. Satan is the god of this world who has blinded the world “from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…” (Ephesians 2:2). His kingdom is called the Domain of Darkness in Colossians 1:13. We see the effects of this darkness all around us. The world is trapped in the clutches of the evil one. The world is in darkness, and all who remain trapped in the domain of darkness will tragically be cast into outer darkness in the lake of fire, forever (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; Revelation 20:14-15).
The sense of darkness in the world and, sadly, in ourselves causes us to long for all things to be made new. Like Simeon and Anna, we long for the consolation of Israel to come (Luke 2:25, 38). We and the creation long for the final redemption (Romans 8:23). We long for darkness to be removed, for sin to be destroyed (Revelation 21:1-8).
The darkness of sin has also brought death into the world. In a spiritual sense, each person is born dead in sins and alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 2:1, 4:18). We are tormented with this reality by physical death. There is a day appointed for each person to die, and after death comes the judgement (Hebrews 9:27).
Are we not painfully reminded of the effects of sin every time one of our loved ones die? Wasn’t our Lord Christ moved with anger and grief at the death of Lazarus? (John 11:33-35). Death is an inescapable reminder that the world is not right; we are not right.
God told our first parents, Adam and Eve, that disobedience would bring death, and it has happened just as God said it would (Genesis 2:16-17). What God said to Adam is true of us all – we are dust, and we will return to the dust (Genesis 3:19).
Simeon and Anna waited for the first coming of Jesus. We read their account in Luke 2:22-38. We are told Anna was incredibly old. We are not explicitly told Simeon was old, but one gathers that from his own words about death in Luke 2:29, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart…” They were waiting for God to bring salvation to His people. They were waiting for light to come. They were waiting for life. All around them was darkness and death, and they longed for redemption to come. They waited for a long time.
Death was a daily reality for Simeon and Anna, but their salvation and our salvation arrived. After Jesus’ birth, in keeping with the Law, Mary and Joseph brought Him to the Temple to set Him apart to the Lord. The Spirit of God had moved Simeon to come into the Temple. Then Simeon saw the Satisfaction of his longing. You see, Simeon did not just say, “you are letting your servant depart…” When he saw Jesus he said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29). Simeon referred to Jesus as more than the Giver of Salvation. Simeon said that Jesus is the Lord’s salvation.
Simeon went on to say that this child, the Lord Jesus, had been prepared by God “in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
Here is the One who will do away with darkness. The Light has come into the world, and the darkness has not overcome Him (John 1:5). The Lord Jesus, who is God, is the light of the world. All who follow Jesus “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). The Father, through the work of Jesus Christ, has transferred us from the domain of darkness and carried us away into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13-14). In Jesus we have been set free from the domain of darkness, having been forgiven of our sins through His death and rising again in our place. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Jesus is the eternal life who was with the Father (1 John 1:2). Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). Jesus has come that we may have abundant life, eternal life (John 10:10). In Jesus is life, which is the light of men (John 1:4). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
As we reflect in sorrow over the darkness and death of this world, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Instead, our grief is a longing for our confidence. We look back to the cross of Jesus Christ, and we rejoice that death has been destroyed in the death of Jesus. We look to the Light of the world and know that we have passed from darkness to light, from death to life. We also look ahead to the time described in Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
We look forward to the time when there will be no night. Revelation 21:23-25 says,
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
Forever we will be with God and the Lamb. Forever we will be free from danger, darkness, and death.
When He comes again, it will be the appearing of His glory (Titus 2:13). In that light darkness will scatter, forever. Sin will be done away. “…death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
It is important as we reflect for me to ask this question: Do you know the Light of the World? Have you been carried out of the Domain of Darkness and brought into the Kingdom of the Son? Can you look back to the cross of Jesus Christ and say, “Yes! My sins are forgiven in His death!”
Hebrews 9:27-28 says,
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Can you look ahead with confidence that when He comes it will be for your salvation and not your judgement? Jesus is coming again, and every person will stand before Him in judgement. Have you been declared right with God through faith in Jesus?
Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has said He is coming soon, and we echo the Apostle John: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Exile, Longing, Home, Satisfaction
Exile. If you are like me, you automatically get a picture of a remote desert island. Perhaps you think of Napoleon Bonaparte who was exiled twice; once he was exiled to Elba and another time to St. Helena where he eventually died. Maybe you think of the fictional Robinson Crusoe who was marooned on a remote island.
We can all understand the idea of exile. It is being forced away from home.
Perhaps you have been in a situation where you were forced away from home. Maybe you were kicked out of home at some point. Maybe you were forced away from home when a landlord sold their property. Maybe you faced family tragedy that caused your home to be torn away from you.
Perhaps you have never had to leave your home, but you have lived in a place away from home where you felt like an outcast. Maybe you moved away from home to a place that was very clannish, and you were always reminded by word or atmosphere that you did not belong.
If none of that rings familiar, all of us have experienced at least a small taste of exile back in 2020.
Perhaps the year 2020 should have been labeled “The Year of Exile” for some. Living in New York was a vastly different scenario with COVID than Oklahoma was.
For over a year, we were not permitted to go places that we wanted to go. Even going to the grocery store was an odd experience. We planned to have family travel to see us in the Christmas season, but it was cancelled due to travel restrictions. There was an empty feeling of exile. Nowhere felt like home.
Exile creates certain feelings in your heart. If you were forced to leave your home, you may have a longing to be back home again. Nowhere else on the planet will ever feel like home, but you cannot go back home. If you have lived in a place that was closed or clannish, maybe there was just a longing to fit in.
In the COVID situation there were feelings of anger toward those in authority who limited movement or put other restrictions. Exile creates a feeling of fear because things are so different than normal.
Exile, longing, and lament go together. In exile individuals are saddened by their separation from home and family. There is also a longing to be home.
Whether you have sensed the experience of exile or not, you are an exile. Every human being is in exile.
Let’s return to the beginning in Genesis 1-3. In Genesis 1-2 we see God create the world, create mankind in His image, give mankind dominion, dwell with mankind, and warn mankind not to eat from one forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3 we see that Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and God sent them from His presence.
Genesis 3:22-24 says,
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
The Lord drove Adam and Eve out from His presence. Sin has brought separation from God. Mankind has been sent away from the home he was created to enjoy in God’s presence. Mankind is in exile. This has been our condition ever since Genesis 3.
Zooming in on a particular people group we see the Jewish people. God had rescued them from Egypt to be His covenant people and to fulfill His promises to Abraham. He called them to live as His people as a light to the non-Jewish nations of the earth. They were to be God’s kingdom of priests. They were to live faithfully to His promises. If they were faithful to the covenant, God would bless them and keep them in the promised land. However, they rebelled against God over-and-over again. Once again, rebellion led to exile. God sent the people away into exile in Babylon for seventy years.
Even when the people came back into the land, it was not the fulfillment of the promises found in Isaiah 65-66. They were still captives. Their land was changing hands between warring nations. They were controlled by the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and at the time of Jesus’ first coming they were controlled by the Romans.
As we revisit Simeon and Anna they were living in a time where Israel was living in exile in their own land. The pagan Romans and the wicked Herod controlled them. As the carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” puts it, they were sitting in lonely exile. All seemed at a loss.
As we consider the exiles from Adam and Eve to the nation of Israel, it is a dark scene, but it is not without glimmers of hope. Think back to Genesis 3. Do you remember that there was a promise made in the Garden of Eden right after Adam and Eve sinned? In Genesis 3:15 God said to the serpent:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
As God sent mankind into exile, He promised that He would make everything right again through the Seed of the Woman. As God drove Adam and Eve away there was hope that it was not forever.
Consider the Jewish people being sent into exile. As God warned them through the prophets that He would send them away to exile He also promised that they would be comforted and brought home again. Before the time of the exile Isaiah wrote these words of prophecy:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Before Jesus’ birth they had been brought to the land, but where was the comfort? Where was the One who would bring comfort to God’s people?
Simeon awaited that comfort, the consolation of Israel, and he saw the Lord Jesus. God the Son became man to dwell with His people and bring comfort to them.
There was a group of people, a remnant of believers in the Lord, waiting for the redemption of Israel. Anna spoke to them about Jesus. He is the Redeemer.
As Zechariah said at the birth of John who prepared the way for Jesus:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.’ (Luke 1:68-75).
Jesus Christ is the One who came to deliver His people. He has come to save His people from our sins (Matthew 1:21). He came and died in the place of sinners to give eternal life to all who turn to Him. This is not only a promise for the Jews but for all people groups. All who come to Jesus Christ are brought back to God.
As Paul told the Ephesian church in Ephesians 2:11-13:
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Paul goes on to say that Jew and Gentile both have access to God the Father through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:18).
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
May I summarize this in a short sentence? In Jesus Christ we are home.
We have been brought back to our Father. We have access to Him, not only as God but as God our Father. We have been made part of His household. The time of our wandering is over. At least this is the case in one sense.
Yet, we know that we are not home, yet. We are home, but we are not home. We look at the world, and it is still raging against God and against His Anointed (Psalm 2). We do not see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, yet. We still experience the pain of loved ones dying, pandemics, rejection, suffering. Isaiah 65-66 and Revelation 21 have promises that are not complete. We are not living in the unveiled glory of God. All things are not made new. Not yet.
We live in a time of already and not yet. We are already home, but we are not yet home.
Peter says that we are exiles in this world who have God as our Father; we are to live in the fear of Him who purchased us with the blood of the Lamb (1 Peter 1:1, 17-19). This world is not our home; we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). We await the Lord Jesus’ coming from heaven. As we meditate on this world not being our home, we grow in longing for the time when God will dwell with us again (Revelation 21:3).
As we wait for Jesus’ glorious appearing and for God to make all things new, let’s not get comfortable in the time of our sojourning. Instead, let’s embrace the exile and live as exiles. Let’s hold on to the longing that exile brings and long for Jesus to come. Rather than trying to remove longing for home, let’s channel that to be longing for God and the new creation’s completion. Let’s take all the longing that death, sickness, isolation, and suffering bring and channel that into longing for God to dwell with us.
Let’s live as people who are on a journey for home rather than living as people who are already home. Rather than looking to this world to satisfy the longings we have for home, let’s joyfully live with longing, knowing that someday God will wipe away all the tears of longing we have shed (Revelation 21:4).
Have you ever cried because you wanted to go back home to see family and friends you haven’t seen for a while? Have you ever cried for our final Home because you long to see Jesus? Perhaps that is an application from this meditation; maybe we should take time to cry for home.
As the famous gospel song puts it:
I’m kind of homesick for a country
To which I’ve never been before. 
May that be the longing of our hearts. May we show it in our emotions and in the way we conduct ourselves in our time of exile.
Let’s also take all the sorrow of our exile and use it to tap into the longing that is in the unsaved world. Those who do not know Jesus Christ are in exile in every sense of the word. They long for comfort and are looking in all the wrong places for it. By grace, let’s live in holiness during the time of our exile and tell the lost about the Prince of Peace the Lord Jesus. With longing for all things to be made new, let’s take opportunities to tell those who are still alienated from God that Jesus has come and died for sinners to end alienation for those who come to Him. Let’s seize the opportunities to warn God’s enemies that Jesus is coming again, then invite them into the comfort of knowing His forgiveness. Let’s invite them Home through the Way, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Advent’s Ending, Christmastide’s Arrival – Light and Redemption
Christmas morning has arrived! We have been taking time to study about Advent in our adult Sunday School class. Advent means “coming,” so Advent is the time we reflect on Jesus’ coming. The Church has traditionally reflected on His first and second comings during the season of Advent. We remember the first coming when Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins. We also look ahead to Jesus’ second coming when His Kingdom is consummated, and all things are made new.
When contemplating these two comings there are some themes to which our attention is drawn. Sin is one that cannot be avoided. Mankind has rebelled against God. The purpose of Jesus’ first coming was to save His people from our sins (Matthew 1:21). The purpose of His second coming is to finish the work of re-creation, removing sin and its effects (Revelation 19-22).
Mankind has sinned against a holy God who is light, so we are lost in darkness (John 3:19-21, 12:46; 1 John 1:5-10). Mankind has rebelled against God who is life, so we are now dead in sin and doomed to face eternal death without Him (Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:18). Mankind has sinned against God and is now exiled from His presence, and if left in this condition we will be forever sent into eternal exile and death (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
Believers in Jesus, through the death of Jesus Christ, God has dragged us out from the Domain of Darkness and has carried us away to the Kingdom of His Son. (Colossians 1:13-14). He has placed us into God’s family, although we were once alienated (Ephesians 2:11-22). Through faith in Jesus, we have passed from death to life (John 5:24).
However, we also experience darkness in the world around us and in ourselves. We confess that we still sin and have sin in us (1 John 1:5-9). We still see the effects of sin in death and sickness, even in the process of decay and dying that we face throughout our life journey (Genesis 3:19). We know that our citizenship is in heaven and not on this earth (Philippians 3:20). We are already home in Christ, but we are not home yet. So, there is a sense of longing for the return of Christ. As Peter puts it in 2 Peter 3:12, we are to be “…waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” We are eagerly waiting for our happy confidence of Jesus’ return (Titus 2:13).
This longing has been the experience of God’s people since the beginning. In one sense the idea of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has been the theme of God’s people since sin first entered this good world. Come and make all right! Come Messiah! Come, Lord Jesus! We are a people who wait with longing for God to make all things right.
We have had as an example of longing the saints Simeon and Anna. This morning, in Luke 2:21-40, we will read and study about Simeon and Anna’s encounter with the child Jesus.
Let’s be careful that we do not elevate Simeon and Anna as the heroes of this story. We must guard ourselves from that when we look at Bible characters. The only real hero of the Bible is God Himself. So, Jesus is the Hero of this story, as He is of every story in the Bible. Simeon and Anna’s characters lead us to this if we follow their direction.
The Setting and Occasion: The Temple and Jesus’ Consecration (Luke 2:21-24)
It is amazing how Jesus fulfills the whole Law on our behalf, even as a baby. He was circumcised on the eighth day as commanded in Genesis 17:12. He was named Jesus, as the angel had commanded before He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:31).
Then there were set apart days for purification. The new mother was considered unclean for forty days after a baby boy’s birth. At the end of this period, they were to offer a sacrifice for her cleansing, which in the case of the poor was a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. You can read about that in Leviticus 12.
They also came to fulfill the command to consecrate each firstborn son to the Lord (Exodus 13:1-2). These firstborn sons were set apart for the Lord. Here we see the beauty of the only Firstborn Son who would truly be set apart every second of His life to the Lord. Here we have the Son of God being set apart to the Lord. The One who would succeed for every failing son and daughter of God.
Longing and Fulfillment (Luke 2:25-32)
Now we have Simeon enter the scene. He was a man who trusted the LORD. He was a man who was righteous and devout. He was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” He was waiting for Israel’s comfort to come, as Isaiah had prophesied so many years before (Isaiah 40:1).
The word translated “waiting” in the ESV (Luke 2:25, 38) is the same Greek word translated “waiting” in Titus 2:13. Just as the people of God in the New Covenant wait for Messiah’s second coming, the people of God under the Old Covenant were waiting for Messiah to come.
This word “waiting” has a lot packed into it. It has the ideas of confidence, eagerness, watching, longing. Simeon was eagerly awaiting the Comfort of Israel to welcome and receive Him. 
The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and the Holy Spirit had revealed that Simeon would live to see the Lord’s anointed. Simeon would live to see the One chosen by God to rule over and save His people from sin. This gives us the thought that Simeon was an old man, waiting for many years with the promise that he would see the Messiah. He was a man trusting the promises of God and longing for them to be fulfilled.
The Spirit of God led Simeon into the Temple as the small baby Jesus was being brought into the Temple to be set apart to the Lord. Simeon took this little forty-day-old baby into his arms. He received this One he was waiting for with welcome. Here is the Comfort and Salvation of Israel, and not only Israel but the nations.
Simeon blessed (eulogized – spoke well of) God for this work and for keeping His promises. He was now able to die in peace. He was able to die a complete and whole man. The longing of his heart had been satisfied in this child, who is the Lord’s salvation. He did not just say that this child was bringing salvation – HE IS THE LORD’S SALVATION. That is what His name means; the Lord is salvation. The Lord saves. Jesus is the Lord’s salvation. He is the Rescuer and the place of Rescue. This is true for Israel, but it is true for the nations as well. This salvation has been prepared in the presence of all peoples.
Amazement, Falling, Rising (Luke 2:33-35)
Mary and Joseph were amazed at Simeon’s words. The word amazed means that they thought on these words with admirations. They were amazed to the point of worship. It was not shock. It was adoration or worship.
Then we have the first indication in Luke’s Gospel of the pain it is going to take for this to happen. The Jewish mind then and the unconverted Jewish mind now relates to Messiah as the one who will come and destroy Israel’s enemies. That will happen someday, but to get to the glory of that day there must be suffering.
In our text Simeon tells Mary that this child is going to cause many in Israel to rise and many in Israel to fall. Many will rise to salvation. Many will fall into judgement. This child is going to be opposed. We know that opposition led to the point of death. Here we begin to see that God is not operating according to our expectations. Things are not going to go the way that everyone expects, and that is a theme carried throughout the Gospel records. The Messiah faced great suffering to bring salvation to His people. He died in our place for our sin.
Simeon warns Mary of the opposition Jesus will face. Then he warns her of her own anguish. Your heart will be stabbed with a sword. This is not a literal statement, but a picture of the suffering Mary would face as she watched her perfect, promised Child suffer.
The Redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38)
Then Anna enters the scene. Anna was a prophetess. She spoke to the people on behalf of God. She was a very old woman who had been widowed many years. She had devoted herself to the Lord and His work in the Temple.
She identified herself with the people who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Here we have another saint, who is waiting for a long time for the Messiah to come.
Anna also came up at that time when Jesus was being set apart for the Lord at the Temple.
She gave thanks to God. She also spoke well of God. Then she did as a prophetess would do; she spoke on God’s behalf to His people. Simeon and Anna were not the only ones waiting. There were others who were waiting for Jerusalem to be purchased (Luke 2:38). The word “waiting” is the same as in verse 25. They were longing for Messiah to come. They were eagerly watching for His arrival. They were waiting to receive Him, and in a sense the wait was over.
Waiting for His Coming
In another sense the waiting had only begun. The Lord Jesus has come to die for the sins of His people. He has come to rescue His people from our sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Christ has died for our sins and has come back to life again. He has gone up to the Father, and He reigns from the Father’s right hand. He has saved us and is saving His people from every nation.
Yet, we know that all is not right. Sin is still in the world. There is still darkness, death, and exile because of sin. We see it in the darkness of this world. We see it in the sin of our own hearts. We see it in the groaning of creation (Romans 8:20-22). We see it in the death of friends and family members. We see that the world is not right when we see and hear the reports of friends whom we love so much deteriorating from cancer and other sicknesses. This world is not right. In our hearts we long for it to be right.
We also know that Jesus Christ has promised to return. When Jesus returned to the Father to rule with all authority at His right hand, it was also promised He will return in the same way (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-21; Acts 1:11). Then all will be made new (Revelation 21).
So, here we are, where the people of God have been in most of history; we are in waiting. It must not be a waiting of complacency or despair. Instead, by the grace of God we are trusting in God to keep His promises and eagerly longing for Him to do so. We await the coming of Jesus with a desire to welcome Him and receive Him when He comes. We wait as Simeon and Anna waited. As certainly as they saw God’s promises fulfilled so will we see God’s promises fulfilled. Jesus will come again.
May this Christmas find the people of God around the world celebrating. May the Holy Spirit produce celebration and praise in our hearts. Jesus has come and has overcome the world (John 16:33). Eternal Life that was with the Father has come to give eternal life to all who trust Him (John 11:25-27). Someday, He will come and destroy death forever (Revelation 21:4). The Light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not overpowered Him (John 1:5). Someday, He will return in the light of His glory and darkness will be dispelled forever (Titus 2:13; Revelation 21:25). Someday, He will come and there will be no more exile or isolation again.
As we move from the Advent season into Christmastide may our hearts long for Jesus’ coming when sin, darkness, death, and exile will be done away. As you celebrate Christmas and there is sharp pain from longing to be with loved ones who have died, may that cause your heart to long with confidence. As you celebrate Christmas with pain from sickness or loneliness may it cause your heart to long for sin to be ended in the light of Jesus’ coming. The Comfort of God’s people has come and is coming again. We will see the final redemption. The creation will stop groaning and instead rejoice. The King is coming again. By grace may we rejoice and long for Him to come.
May we join the Apostle John in saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
- Parsons, Squire. (1979). “Sweet Beulah Land.” On Sweet Beulah Land. Beulah Music.
- Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 4327.prosdechomai. This work was originally published in 1841 and is in the public domain.
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