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Waiting for Christmas

The wait is over, comfort and redemption are found in Christ.


Isn’t it so hard to wait to open your gifts? I remember when I was around 9 years old, my brother and I wanted an electric race car set? Anyone remember those? My uncle promised to buy us it and we were so excited to open the big box under the tree.

When we got to it, my uncle said, “Robert and Chris, now I just want you to know that I got this on clearance and they said it might not be all there.” I was kinda bummed about that, but the box looked new and great, so we ripped it open to find an old, broken electric race car set. We were bummed. My uncle apologized and told us to put the box away in the guest bedroom. As my brother and I opened the door, there before us was a brand new, electric racecar set just like the picture! We were so excited! The wait was over, and we finally had what we wanted for Christmas.

Christmas is a season of waiting. We’re all eagerly waiting for Christmas morning when presents will be opened, food will be eaten, and family and friends will be gathered. For those of us who know and follow Jesus, we wait in anticipation of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

We’ve been waiting spiritually and that’s what Advent helped us do. But, what about you? Beyond presents, are you hoping for something more this Christmas? Are you longing for something more significant? Anything special? Maybe the reconciliation of a broken relationship? Maybe you don’t want to be alone this Christmas and you’re hopeful tomorrow will be different? Maybe you are waiting for the New Year hoping for some big changes in your life. Even after Christmas, some of us will still be left waiting.

At the tail end of the Christmas story, there are two people who have spent a lifetime waiting. Their names are Simeon and Anna. You won’t see them in Nativity sets or in many Christmas cards, but they are very significant in the Christmas story.

Their stories are found in Luke 2. Luke tells us Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. They are doing what all good Jewish parents are supposed to. 40 days after a firstborn son is born, Jewish parents are supposed to present their son to the Lord in the Temple. That’s what Mary and Joseph do. But, on that day, two people at the Temple knew this baby was someone greater.

Simeon: Waiting for Comfort

The first to approach Mary and Joseph was a man named Simeon.

(Read Luke 2:25-32)

Luke tells us a few important things about Simeon. He was an ideal Jew, “righteous and devout,” a man of integrity. Simeon was also “filled with the Holy Spirit.” That meant the Holy Spirit came upon him in a unique way. So unique that he was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Up until this point, Simeon was a man waiting for that day to come. Waiting specifically for the “consolation of Israel.” That was another way of saying he was waiting for the long-awaited Messiah. He was waiting for a Messiah who would comfort desperate and hurting people.

We don’t know how long Simeon had spent waiting, but I imagine him coming to the Temple every day to look and to see, hoping one day to lay eyes on the Messiah. That day had come, and Simeon was moved by the Spirit and led into the Temple courts. Then he sees him, Jesus Christ. Immediately Simeon grabs the baby in his arms (I’m not sure how his parents felt about that) and bursts out with a song to God.

The lyrics to Simeon’s song tell us a great deal about this baby. Simeon says, “Sovereign Lord ... I have seen your salvation.” Salvation is not just some theological concept, it’s in the form of a person, a baby, Jesus Christ.

We are saved from something and to something. Jesus would save people from sin, Satan, and death. And save us to live for him. This salvation, Simeon says, is not just for his people, the Jews, but for all nations, that means everyone.

Now, this is big news. In Jewish thinking, the Messiah was supposed to come to save Jews from Roman oppression. But Simeon tells us there is more. The Messiah came not just for Jews but for Gentiles as well. That’s you and me. This would have been a shock to people like Mary and Joseph in their day.

Simeon was waiting for consolation which speaks to those longings for healing and restoration from all past losses and miseries of life. He was waiting for comfort only the Messiah could bring. And before he died, he finally sees the One who would comfort him and his people. The One who would bring salvation to a hurting nation.

Some of you need to be comforted by Jesus tonight. Christmas is hard for you because you’re thinking about the person who was with you last Christmas but not with you tonight. You’ve gone through a tough loss. You’re hurting, lonely, and even depressed. Jesus wants to comfort you tonight.

I did a funeral for a family who lost their seven month old son to a rare liver disease. In spite of such a tragic loss, they are showing incredible strength and faith in the Lord. They told me, before the memorial service, that it was only the Lord that is getting them through this and comforting them in their pain. It’s incredible, but that is what God does. With God it is not just comfort; it is comfort with strength in it, with teeth in it. God is giving that family the grace they need daily.

If you are struggling tonight, God wants to comfort you with his grace. Comfort with strength in it, with teeth in it. That’s why he came.

Anna: Waiting for Redemption

Simeon wasn’t the only person eagerly waiting for the Messiah. Anna was there as well.

(Read Luke 2:36-38)

Anna is a lot like Simeon. She was a prophetess from the tribe of Asher, one of the lost ten tribes of Israel. Anna was an old widow, 84 years young. Luke tells us she never left the Temple but lived there. Most likely she lived in one of the rooms of the many buildings on the Temple hill.

Anna is like one of those people who just never misses church. When the door was open she was there, serving the Lord with fasting and prayer.

The moment Anna saw Jesus, she too gave thanks to God and spoke to all who “were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Redemption speaks to our need to be delivered from powers that hold us in bondage. It could be the power of sin. It could be the power of death. It could be the power of Satan.

That’s what Anna was looking for. That’s what Jesus does. He redeems us. He sets us free from the power of sin, Satan, and death. Some of you tonight are not all that God wants you to be ... yet. You are struggling with sin or struggling to know your purpose in life. Like Anna, you are waiting for God to change you this year, to redeem you.

Jesus not only came to comfort but to redeem. He loves you and wants to change you from the inside out. His redemption gives us hope. Hope that God is up to something good in our lives and our world. Some of us are waiting for God to redeem someone we love—a spouse, a son, or a daughter. It hurts to see someone we love live without Christ in their life. To live without hope and purpose.

Maybe that’s you. You have not given your life over to Jesus and for a hundred reasons you’re holding back. Some of you are angry at God. Others are disappointed in him. Some, just don’t really care. Wherever you are at tonight, know God wants to redeem you.


So, who is at the center of your Christmas? This is important to ask because Christmas today is a multibillion-dollar industry. Almost every country in the world stops and celebrates Christmas, but the focus is hardly on Jesus.

The same was true in the time and day when Jesus was born, there was no celebration. Nobody was ready for the Messiah to be born, except for maybe the Magi. Herod was caught completely off guard. The religious leaders certainly had no idea. Rome didn’t care. Mary doubted. The shepherds were afraid. In the eyes of most people, Jesus was just one more peasant baby being born to peasant parents.

Simeon and Anna were different. They were looking and hoping for God to do something amazing in their day. They were ready for him.

Waiting. Hoping. Expecting. Simeon was waiting for comfort. Anna was waiting for redemption.

What about you? Are you looking and waiting for the comfort and redemption only Christ can bring? If you have not placed your faith in Christ, where do you find comfort instead? Are you waiting for redemption? If not, then how do you break the power of addiction and self-absorption in your life? You can’t do it on your own. Christ wants to be at the center of your Christmas. After all, it is his birthday we are celebrating.

For those of us who have already placed our faith in Christ, the challenge for us is to continue and anticipate his Second Coming and be ready. On that day we’ll be comforted when he makes all things right again. Are you ready for his return? Simeon and Anna were.

Rob Hall is the Lead Pastor at New North Church, located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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