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.”
- Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 4327.prosdechomai. This work was originally published in 1841 and is in the public domain.