Waiting Well at Christmastime

Dr. Steve Viars December 24, 2019 Luke 2:25-38

- one of the words many of us associate with our Christmas memories is the word “waiting”…

- do you remember when you were a child how long it took for Christmas Day to come…

- some of you might be old enough to remember when Sears would publish their annual Christmas Wish catalog …

- I realize some here tonight have no idea what Sears is, or what a catalog is…think of this as an old person’s Amazon…

- but regardless of your age…most of us remember how hard it was to wait for the day to come…

- then some of us had parents who had some kind of rule regarding what time you could wake up and come out into the living room on Christmas am…did any of you suffer under that kind of parental abuse?...

- because most of us were smart enough that when they taught us how to tell time in school…we connected the dots to Christmas Day…

- and said – wait a minute – that means Christmas Day starts at 12:01 am…

- so we may have even tried that new-found learning out on our parents…

- I’m guessing that didn’t get you very far…

- so you couldn’t get to sleep…and you’d wait as long as you could before looking at the clock again…and only 3 minutes had gone by…

- it was torture…

- did you know that the very first Christmas includes the delightful story of two people who were patiently waiting for the first coming of the Lord?...

- and unlike the way some of us waited for Christmas…and the way we sometimes wait for whatever we want or think we need today…these two people allowed God to develop in them the kind of character that Waiting Well at Christmas Time

- their names were Simeon and Anna…and we read their stories in Luke chapter 2 beginning in verse 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. 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 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 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. 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. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 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—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 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, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 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.

- please think with me about 3 characteristics of people who wait well.

I. They Allow the Period of Waiting to Enhance Their Spiritual Growth.

- that’s why what we’re talking about this evening is so important…

- because waiting is either going to make you better, or waiting is going to make you bitter…

- it is going to take you closer to the Lord, or further away from Him…

- that’s why King David said – to himself and those who would listen - Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

- and many of us are in situations where we are called upon to wait for things far more serious than when we can open our presents…

- for example, you may have been praying for something that is very important for you or someone you love…and the Lord has not answered yet…so you’re waiting…

- or there is a particular promise God has made in His Word…and you believe Him…but in your situation, or our situation, the promise has not yet been fulfilled…

- or just as Simeon and Anna were waiting for the first coming of Christ, followers of Jesus are called upon to wait for His second coming…godly people live with one eye to the sky, so to speak…but that hasn’t happened yet…

- so the question for all of us is – are you responding to this period of waiting in your life in a way that is moving you closer to the Lord, or further from Him?...

- the story of these two saints can help us in that regard…because…

A. By developing a hopeful outlook

- v. 25 – looking for the Consolation of Israel

- this word means comfort, or encouragement, or solace…

- Simeon wanted that for himself, and he wanted that for the people he loved…

- everyone of us has to decide what we are “looking for”…what we are anticipating…what we are hoping to see happen…

- Simeon knew what the prophets had foretold about the Messiah…in places like Isaiah 61:1-2 – The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

- that what Simeon was waiting for…perhaps better stated – that’s WHO Simeon was waiting for…- the reason some of us don’t wait well is because of fear…we’re waiting for something bad to happen, for the other shoe to drop, for the bad news…

- and let’s be honest…in the short term that could occur…

- but that’s why Simeon and Anna’s story is so important – they were focused on spiritual realities and spiritual promises and spiritual values while they waited…

B. By emphasizing personal holiness

- the apostle John explained that…1 John 3:3 - And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

- that’s certainly what Simeon and Anna allowed to happen as they waited…

  • v. 25 – this man was righteous and devout
  • v. 37 – She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers…

- as you think back over 2019, have you followed a similar course as you’ve waited?...

- and someone here might say – well, I’ll tell you what I’m waiting for…I waiting for my spouse to change, or for one of my kids to straighten up…

- I acknowledge that may be very painful for you…but are you becoming a more godly spouse or parent yourself…while you wait?...

- or you might say – I’m waiting for my boss to get a clue, or my company to start treating us better…

- everyone lives under imperfect authority in this sin-cursed world…but are you becoming a more godly employee while you wait?...

- what would need to change in 2020 for you to wait in a way that enhances your personal holiness instead of detracts from it?...

C. Through the power of the Holy Spirit

- there is no question who was giving these two people the ability to wait the way they did…

  • v. 25 – the Holy Spirit was upon him
  • v. 27 – and he came in the Spirit into the temple

- well, how do people like you and me develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit of God?...

- that’s one of the gifts that is available at Christmastime…

- before the Consolation of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ, went to the cross to die for our sins…He told His disciples that after he was resurrected, He would send another Comforter…

- and when a person admits his/her sin and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior…one of the many things that instantaneously occurs is that Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart and life…

  • Romans 8:8–9 - and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
  • Romans 8:11 - But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
  • Romans 8:14 - For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
  • Romans 8:16 - The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

- it is the Holy Spirit of God who enabled Simeon and Anna to develop personal holiness while they waited…and I would ask you tonight in the quietness of this moment…do you possess the Holy Spirit because there is a definite time in your life when you trusted Christ?...

- if not, we would invite you to do so this evening…

- [if time allows, develop how some in our church family are struggling with cancer – yet the Holy Spirit is helping them wait well]…

- People who wait well also…

II. They Allow the Period of Waiting to Sharpen their Biblical Faith.

- a key phrase in this text is when Simeon was holding baby Jesus in His arms and he said…Luke 2:28–29 - then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word;

- the more you know and love the Word of God, the better prepared you are to wait well…

A. By living according to God’s Word

- if time allowed tonight, we could march our way through each of these verses and it is amazing how these events connect key principles and prophecies from Scripture…

- even the intimate detail that when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus into the temple, they brought…

- Luke 2:24 - and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

- the reason that matters is because if you go back to the book of Leviticus, we learn that the normal offering would have been a one-year old lamb and a pigeon or a turtledove…but there was a provision for those who were poor…they just bring a pair of doves or pigeons…

- of course you could also say…they were bringing the Lamb in a different kind of way…

- but the point is that each one of these details is connected to the truth of the Word of God…

- friend, you may have trouble waiting were because you lack knowledge of the Scripture that makes waiting more tolerable…

- if that’s your story…it doesn’t have to be that way…

- why not decide right now that 2020 is going to be different for you in that regard…that you will make learning the Word of God a priority?...

B. Finding answers even for the “king of terrors”

- that was the point if Simeon’s words in verse 29…

- Luke 2:29 - Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

according to Your word;

- Simeon was saying – now I can die in peace…

- when your eternal destiny is secure…that makes whatever else we might be waiting for in this life pale in comparison…

- that was Paul’s ultimate point is the passage we saw a moment ago in Romans 8 about the Holy Spirit…

- Romans 8:17–18, 24-25 - and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us…For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

- at this time of year, we often reflect back on all the men and women who have placed their faith and trust in Christ this past year…think about people who received the ultimate gift, the gift of eternal life and the assurance that comes that for a believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord…

- and that puts whatever else they have to wait for today in complete perspective…

C. Recognizing the centrality of our need for redemption

- Luke 2:29–30 - “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation,

- see, we wait for what we especially value, or deem important, or believe we really need…

- once a person has received salvation…the other things we might be waiting for just aren’t that important…

- Paul made that point too in Romans 8:1 - Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

- so we don’t have to wait until everyone else agrees with us…or says we’re right…or vindicates us in some way…we have salvation in Christ – everything else pales in comparison…

- that’s the way Romans 8 ends…Romans 8:38–39 - For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- maybe we would wait better for things in this life if we placed a higher value on what’s promised in the next life?

- there’s also the issue that some people don’t believe they are in need of salvation – one of the current presidential candidates once – “I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

- I don’t mention that tonight to make some kind of political point – but my concern is – how many people might hear this message tonight and essentially think the same thing?...this was fine for Simeon and Anna, but I don’t need salvation – I’ve earned it myself…[develop]…

- now, I realize someone else might say…well, this is all fine and good for people like Simeon and Anna…but it’s not for me…

- my life is far different than theirs…I’m beyond help at this point in time?...

- that’s why what Simeon said next is so delightful…

D. Being amazed at the breath of the invitation

- Luke 2:30–32 - For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

- the great news of Christmas is that the invitation the accept the gift of the long-awaited Messiah is available to everyone who will come to Him in repentance and faith…

- [develop – another aspect of God’s goodness to us this year – the different nationalities represented in those who became members of Faith this year…cf. Carson’s Christmas Devotional around Dec 17]

- so how did all of this impact Simeon and Anna on that day?...

III. They Allow the Period of Waiting to Tell the Truth to Others

- some of what Simeon testified was hard to hear…

A. That some will oppose Christ

- Luke 2:34 - 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—

- it wouldn’t be long before they would be freeing Bethlehem because…Matthew 2:16 - Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

- what Simeon said was true…for those hardened in their unbelief, the message of the Messiah was a sign to be opposed…

B. That this unbelief would grieve Mary

- Luke 2:35 - and a sword will pierce even your own soul…

- do you remember what happened at the cross?...

- John 19:23–25 - Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus was His mother…

- our family has now been blessed with 4 grandsons…

- imagine a young mother with her 8-day old son in her arms…realizing what would happen to this dear Lamb…

- because remember – v. 22 – they brought him up to present him to the Lord.

C. That the thoughts of many would be revealed.

- Luke 2:34–35 - 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— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

- that’s why Anna…

- Luke 2:38 - 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.

- sure – we may be waiting for all sorts of things…but in the meantime…a Savior has been born…that part of the wait is over…

- and the thoughts from many hearts will be revealed by His coming…

- so we want to be sure to joyfully and faithfully proclaim the message – so as many hearts as possible, will be revealed to be ones that have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord…

- [conclusion – woman who recently testified about her grandmother who was suffering from dementia, and could only remember the name of Jesus]…

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video