Christmas is often associated with waiting. Children eagerly await presents, students wait for a school break, adults expect time off work, and parents can’t wait until the festivities are over so they can rest.
But what do you want for Christmas? Is there something you’re hoping for or anticipating? Do you have any special expectations for this holiday season?
In the book of Luke, we meet two important characters toward the end of the Christmas story: Simeon and Anna. You won’t find them in most nativity scenes or on Christmas cards, but they play a crucial role in the first Christmas. Both were eagerly awaiting something, or rather, someone.
Luke describes them using a Greek word that shows they were waiting with expectation for the arrival of the Messiah, or Savior. It means they were watchful for His arrival and prepared to welcome Him. This word is used in Luke 2:25 to describe Simeon, stating, “He was waiting,” and in 2:38 for Anna, who was “looking forward to”.
Let’s dive a little bit deeper into their story.
Simeon — Waiting for Comfort
In Luke 2:25, we’re introduced to Simeon, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the comfort of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon Him.” Simeon was righteous before people and devout in His relationship with God.
During that period, Israel faced challenges. They hadn’t heard from God in a long time and were under Roman rule. Living in fear of King Herod, who ruled harshly, many wondered if the Messiah would ever come.
Verse 26 reveals why Simeon was so hopeful: “The Holy Spirit had told him he wouldn’t die before seeing the Lord’s Christ”.
Simeon anticipated the comfort that Christ would provide. In his time, many Jews referred to the Messiah by the title “Comforter.” I’m reminded of the Christmas song, God rest ye merry, gentlemen. It reads like this:
- God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember, Christ, our Savior, Was born on Christmas day, To save us all from Satan’s power, When we were gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.
Isn’t it interesting that the desire to be comforted is a universal human need? As we see all around us, people struggle with loneliness, emptiness, insecurity, and even desperation. One of the significant times of crisis when there is an increase in depression and suicide is during the Christmas season.
Even in his old age, Simeon believed in the promise of God. His faith made it easy for the Holy Spirit to prompt him to go to the temple courts. How about you? Can the Holy Spirit “move” you?
When Joseph and Mary brought their baby to the temple, Simeon was there at the right place and at the right time. When Simeon saw the six-week-old Jesus, he realized that God had kept His promise: this was Immanuel, “God with Us”.
In Luke 2:28, Simeon reached down, took Jesus from Mary (I’m sure he asked for permission first), and praised God. In his praise, he recognized that God had not only kept the promise made specifically to him but also fulfilled the promises of the prophets to send the Anointed One, bringing comfort to both Jews and Gentiles.
Anna — Waiting for Forgiveness
Another person eagerly anticipating Christmas was Anna. After her husband passed away, she devoted herself to fasting and praying at the temple. The Bible mentions that she never left the temple; instead, she worshiped day and night.
She was looking forward to seeing the same person as Simeon but with a different perspective. Instead of looking for comfort, Anna was looking for forgiveness. Look at verse 38: “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”.
The term “redemption” is linked to the concept of captivity. In Anna’s time, the Old Testament Passover and Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt were seen as the ultimate redemption, symbolizing God’s ability to free captives. Ultimately, Passover foreshadowed the day when God would provide liberation from the bondage of sin.
When Anna saw Jesus, she expressed gratitude to God and shared about Him with everyone waiting for redemption. Finally, here was the One who would rescue His people from their sins.
So let me ask you again. What are you waiting for this Christmas?
Christ provided all the things that Simeon and Anna were waiting for — God’s comfort and forgiveness. Whatever you need, Jesus can give it to you.
Do you identify more with Simeon? Are you holding on to the promises of God? Or are you lonely, empty, afraid, and frustrated? Do you desire a renewed feeling of God’s presence? If so, you can find what you’re seeking in Jesus. He came to comfort us right where we are.
Or maybe you relate more to Anna. Are you believing God to save your family, friends, and community? Or are you feeling burdened by guilt this Christmas due to something you’ve done or the way you’ve been living? Do you sense you’re stuck in a cycle of sin that’s hard to break free from? If you need forgiveness, Jesus can give it to you right now. And there’s no better time than Christmas to do just that.
What to do?
Three steps in this passage can guide you to feel God’s comfort and forgiveness this Christmas.
1 — Become a Marveler
When Joseph and Mary tried to understand everything happening, verse 33 mentions that they were amazed by what was said about Jesus. Being a marveler, according to the dictionary, means being filled with wonder, astonishment, and surprise.
Are you filled with wonder this Christmas, or are you overwhelmed by the busyness and stress of the season? Have the holidays made you rush around, or are you taking the time to make Christmas a truly “holy” day? Has Christmas become routine and familiar? Have you heard the Christmas story so many times that it no longer surprises you? Don’t fall for the fried ice cream; instead, make time to enjoy the comfort of Christ’s unwavering love and solace.
2 — Become a Mover
Verse 27: “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts”. Now read verse 38: “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God…”
Simeon and Anna were both movers. They didn’t sit still when the Holy Spirit prompted them to move. What would have happened if they had not responded? All the Christmas characters followed the guidance of the Spirit, except for Herod.
- Mary was ready to move when she said to the angel, “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 2:38).
- Joseph demonstrated that he was a mover when he woke up from his dream and “did what the angel of the Lord had commanded and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24).
- The Shepherds were movers as well when they said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened” (Luke 2:15).
If you feel like God is telling you to do something, go ahead and do it. Obedience is better than sacrifice. It could lead to salvation or a more profound commitment for some. Do you sense God asking you to take action right now? Don’t wait; you might miss out on something miraculous this Christmas.
3 — Become a Messenger
Surprisingly, as we strive to be people filled with wonder, we naturally become movers, individuals who take action, leading us to the last step: becoming a messenger. Verse 38 says Mary shared the story with those eager for the redemption of Jerusalem. Do you have family and friends caught up in Christmas preparations? Maybe their excitement hides a more profound longing for comfort and forgiveness, something only the Messiah can offer. Or maybe even caught up in drugs and gangs. God encourages us all to share the Christmas story as messengers.
During the hustle and bustle of the December celebrations, take time to appreciate the wonder of Christmas; it’s still amazing. As you move and take action, your needs for comfort and forgiveness will also be met.
Wholeheartedly embracing your role as a messenger empowers you to introduce others to the Christ of Christmas, guiding them to find what they’ve been waiting for. In doing so, you play a vital part in continuing to make Christmas a marvelous, moving message!
I welcome your feedback.