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Simeon & Anna - Longing for Christmas

Characters of Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A look into the blues that some suffer during the Christmas season. Focusing on Simeon and Anna and their longing for the Messiah.

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Introduction

"Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Christmas Day” on 12/25/64
At the height of the Civil War in the USA
Henry had married Frances “Fanny” in 1843 and they had five children
In 4/21/1861 the Civil War began
On July 10 Fanny was trimming their seven year old daughter, Edith’s hair. She decided to preserve some of her daughter’s curls in sealing wax. A gust of wind came through an open window blowing hot wax onto Fanny’s dress. Her dress ignited and engulfed her in flames. Fanny ran from her children into Henry’s study. Together they attempted to put out the flames.
Henry suffered burns on his face and arms and hands.
Fanny suffered severe burns and died the next morning.
Henry fell into a deep depression from Fanny’s death and due to his grief and injuries was not even able to attend her funeral.
Christmas 1861 - “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.”
On the anniversary of Fanny’s accident in 1862 - “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”
Christmas 1862 - “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”
Fall of 1862 - Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles, was severely wounded in the war when a bullet passed under his shoulder blades injuring his spine.
Christmas 1863 - Longfellow’s journal was silent.
1864 President Lincoln was reelected and the war was rumored to be coming to an end.
Christmas 1864 - the poem “Christmas Day” was penned
This poem is an echo of our hearts in the face of tragedy in our lives. We often wail at God that “there is no peace… hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” and God answers us “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
The list of tragedies that Longfellow suffered severely affected his mental health. He fell into a long-term depression that might be classified as a Major Depressive Disorder by today’s mental health professionals. Certainly his doctor might have prescribed anti-depressants to help him cope with all the tragedy in his life.
Luke 2:21–38 (NASB95)
Jesus Presented at the Temple

21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord

23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”),

24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.”

25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking 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, ato carry out for Him the custom of the Law,

28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.

34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—

35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end 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 and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

I. Jesus Goes to the Temple

Jesus Meets Three People

Moses - fulfilling the Law of Moses (circumcision)
He was made under the Law - Galatians 4:4-5 (Paul testifying to Jesus’ Sonship of God)

4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

He obeyed God’s Law perfectly - John 8:45-46 (Jesus arguing with the Jews about his father.)

45 “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.

46 “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?

He bore the curse of the Law for us - Galatians 3:10-14

10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.”

11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “bTHE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.”

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—

14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

He set us free from bondage - Galatians 5:1

1 aIt was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Simeon - waiting for the Messiah
righteous and devout
looking for the consolation of Israel
Joseph of Arimathea - Mark 15:43

43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

Luke says this about Joseph - Luke 23:50-52

50 And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man

51 (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God;

52 this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Prophetess Anna at the Temple - Luke 2:38

38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Simeon was clearly filled with the Holy Spirit
had God’s promise that he would not die without seeing the Messiah
Simeon’s Christmas Song: Luke 2:29-32

then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

a worship hymn that “blessed God” (v 28) for keeping His promise and sending the Messiah
a salvation hymn (v 30)
missionary hymn for the Gentiles (v 32)
Anna - longing for the Messiah
began testifying and spreading the Good News of the arrival of the Messiah

The Longing for Christmas

There is a longing for Christmas that goes beyond the yearning of boys and girls for their toys.
In fact, this is the whole point of the Advent season that our liturgical brothers and sisters celebrate leading up to Christmas.
It is too easy to get caught up in the North Pole excitement of Christmas. But there are some people that are living at the South Pole this year.

II. For Some People Christmas is Always Blue

How many of you know people like Longfellow? (suffering tragedy after tragedy)

Why does tragedy strike good people?

Aunt Geneva (Mama Nefa) Bowlin
Lost her husband to prostate cancer 3/17/2007
Lost her grand-daugher to a surprise heart attack 4/21/2007
Three months later her Son-in-Law (the grand-daugher’s father) was diagnosed with cancer
That same night, my aunt’s house burned in a massive fire that completely destroyed it.
Her son-in-law was lost to cancer the following year 8/9/2008
Mama Nefa’s family is solid gold. They all love the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly.
This family was rocked to the core with the disasters that struck them. But one thing I witnessed was that God was never forsaken.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 "to be thankful in all circumstances: for this is the will of God"
THIS was their response

How many families do you know that could weather a storm like this?

People that suffer losses like these tend to fall into depression or turn bitter with anger and resentment.
Some people never seem to get past losses like these.
It can be especially difficult for people like this to suffer through the holidays.
Some people just don’t have the tools in their toolbox to handle losses like these.

Life is Sometimes About How We Handle Suffering

We often forget that Jesus had his own wilderness suffering to go through.
We spend too much time arguing with God whether our suffering is justified or not.
If you find yourself at the South Pole this Christmas, consider that God might have a lesson for you in the wilderness.
The wilderness is tough. But sometimes the wilderness is the very best place for us to learn what God wants for us.

III. What can we learn from Simeon?

Simeon says that God has released him (ἀπολύω - apoluō)
to set free, release
to release a prisoner
take down a tent (an empty shell) - 2 Cor 5:1-8
unyoke a beast of burden - Matt 11:28-30
untie a ship so that it can set sail
Truth -often God has us in a position to learn the lesson of releasing the very thing that we desire most before he can see if we are prepared to accept it properly.
When I think of this truth in regards to loosing a ship so that it can set sail, it reminds me of a poem that was given to me as my father lay on his deathbed nearing the end of his days with us.

Gone From My Sight

by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."
Gone where?
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone," there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"
And that is dying...
Principle - Every struggle that we have with God is an opportunity for us to grow spiritually. If we persist in holding on and refuse to trust God in our struggles then we will lose the opportunity to grow.

What is it that you need to release to God?

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