Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…Anna

Anna – Luke 2:36-38 Waiting a Lifetime

The stories of Simeon and Anna are usually told together, almost as if they were a couple. I’m sure they knew each other since they were both elderly and served in the temple. It’s more a matter of timing that she appeared just as baby Jesus was consecrated.

To me, the story of Anna stands on it’s own with it’s own message.

In a book where men seem to take center stage (good and bad), here enters a woman.

An eighty-four year old woman, in a time and culture when women and men rarely lived that long. I’m sure everyone knew her, as she was at the temple daily.

Her life had not been easy. Her dream was to be married, have babies, have a home. Instead, after 7 years of marriage, she had no children and her beloved died. Assuming she matured around 14, that makes her around 21 years old when she became a widow.

Obviously, none of the relatives took her in or gave her a child in the old testament tradition. Women like her often became prostitutes in order to survive.

But Anna was different. She made the choice to devoted herself to God. She’s called a “prophetess” but we don’t know what she prophesied. Obviously she was respected and allowed to stay in the temple.

Anna’s response to seeing God in the baby Jesus was twofold: she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Like Simeon, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. Salvation was on it’s way. She had seen the Christ-child.

But she went one step further. She had to tell others. You see, Simeon and Anna were not the only ones waiting for redemption. There were others.

Just like John the Baptist, Anna was a truth-teller, a for-teller of the Christ to come. Can you picture it? Little ol’ Anna, skinny from fasting and age, shuffling down the streets, telling everyone she had seen in the temple truly worshipping, believing, that she had seen the baby, the Christ-child.

Lessons for me from Anna —

  • I’m never too old to tell others of what I know.
  • Women have responsibility also, to make good choices and to speak out the truth. It’s not just a “man’s world.”

Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…Simeon

Simeon – Luke 2:29-36 The Declarations

Let me set the scene again. Simeon waited his whole life to hold the Christ-child. And now he is in his arms. His life is fulfilled.

Why?

Because he has seen God’s salvation for his people.

I’ve never lived in a captured nation. I don’t have any idea of what it is like to live under that oppression. I can’t imagine having 100 soldiers march into my town, going house to house killing all the babies, at the whim of a political leader. I can’t imagine livening in that fear.

For centuries. One nation after another dominating them. Having promises from God you are trying to believe in, only met with silence. Going through the motions of faith, but seeing no salvation.

And then here it is, in a baby.

Because he has seen a light for revelation to the Gentiles.

It’s amazing how much Christian Jews fought Christianity being available for Gentiles, but it’s right here! The baby, the Messiah, was not just for the Jews, but for the people who were oppressing them. Salvation is not just for those who think they are holy, but for those who know they are not. It is offered to all.

Right there, in a baby.

But, that’s not all he sees, or says as he gently, lovingly, adoringly, hands the baby back to his mother and blesses them.

This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many Israel…so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

Simeon knows what will happen when this child grows up, God in the flesh. He knows hearts will be reveals. He knows the sin of his nation, the sin of the whole world, and that not everyone will rejoice as he is currently rejoicing. There are hearts which are sinful, full of pride, and don’t want a Savior. They will reject what he considers to be so precious.

And a sword will piece through your own soul also.

I can imagine Simeon’s eyes piercing Mary’s soul that very moment. She knew what he knew. Motherhood was not going to be easy. Not as Jesus was a child. Not as Jesus was an adult. There would be pain and rejection as he chose his Father’s house, his true heritage.

But no pain would be as great as seeing her beloved son, on a cross, with a sword piercing his side, piercing her soul.

Mary saw God born. She would also see him die.

Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…

Simeon – Luke 2:22-29 Waiting a Lifetime

Our church’s advent series is called, “God at First Sight.”

Fanscinating concept, actually seeing God for the first time…being the first people to recognize God in the flesh.

Simeon and Anna waited a lifetime to see a miracle.

There had been generations of silence from God while his people lived in the midst of the consequences of their sin. But it’s never to late.

For Simeon, God promised he would not die until he saw “the Lord’s Christ.”

I don’t know if he kept that revelation a secret deep in his heart, or if he had told others and received the ridicule of unbelief. But it was something for which he lived for, day after day, baby after baby.

I wonder if he volunteered regularly to do the consecration of babies, the first born male, anxious to see if today was the day, holding, wondering, and then gently giving it back, a fatherly smile covering his disappointment. Or maybe his duty for consecration was by lottery, and today was his chosen day.

Anyway you look at it, he had done his share of consecrations with no Messiah. And here comes another day, another line of babies, faces he knew and some, like Mary and Joseph he had never seen. Maybe they were there visiting or registering for the census, who knew? The city was bloated with visitors and I’m sure the temple was also.

But Simeon was a man “moved by the Holy Spirit.” It’s mentioned three times: the Holy Spirit “was on him,” the promise was “revealed to him by the Holy Spirit,” and “moved by the Spirit” he went into the temple courts that day.

And when he saw this baby, this one baby, and everything was different!

He took him into his arms, holding God, incarnate. He had waited his whole life for this moment. And just like Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished,” Simeon knew his life was complete.

I can only imagine his feelings as he held, God in the flesh.

 

Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…Joseph, part 3 – Matt 1:24-25

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife but knew her not until she had birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I love Joseph. He’s a man of action. I can picture him waking up, all indecision gone, racing to the priest to have whatever needed to be completed finished to make Mary his wife. Can’t you imagine the conversation they had that first night together after they were married — Joseph excited about his vision; Mary excited about hers; feeling the life in her belly together; planning their future knowing they have a secret no one else knows.

And that secret would be the salvation of the world.

That secret would instill the faith he would need to protect the boy who was his son, yet wasn’t his son. It would fill him with amazement when 3 kings show up at their humble abode to give gifts to their son. It would conquer fear as they fled to Egypt, ahead of Herod’s swordsmen. It would make him crack a grim when he saw small glimpses of the Holy Spirit in his son. It would give him perspective when they thought they lost twelve year old Jesus when he stayed back in his real “Father’s house.”

Joseph lived with the tension of humanity and the super-natural.

As far as we know, God never spoke to Joseph again. Faithfully he executed everything he knew from that brief encounter with God. We know Joseph protected Jesus, fleeing with him to Egypt, and then creating for him a home in the midst of his own hometown when it might have been easier to go somewhere they were not known. Family heritage was important.

We know Joseph taught Jesus a trade, carpentry, even though he knew Jesus would be the Messiah. And we know that he died before Jesus died, probably before Jesus started his ministry, probably never seeing Jesus do miracles or hear his public teaching.

For years he was faithful to the vision, balancing the tensions, believing in a future.

Lord, help me to be faithful to the vision you have for my life. Help me to balance the tensions of mortality and immortality. Help me to be spiritual and physical at the same time. Amen.

Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…Joseph – part 2 Matthew 1:20-21

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David…

God knew him by name. God knew him by heritage. God knew him by character.

 do not fear…

 The issue was fear – Joseph feared he would do the wrong thing. So God was going to tell him what to do.

 to take Mary as your wife,

Ah, sweet Mary, the love of his life! He doesn’t have to cancel all of their plans! He doesn’t have to divorce her before they were really married. He can still hold her, stroke her hair; tease her as she’s baking bread. She can still be his wife!

 …for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

The crazy story of immaculate conception is true, not just from the lips of his pregnant fiancée, but from the voice of an angel! Mary had her miracle; now Joseph has his.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

It’s the logistics, the details, that brings everything together and satisfies prophecy. Now he knows exactly what to do. Damn the naysayers! Let the gossip flow. He was going to have Mary as his wife, and a son, and a hope for the future not only of himself, but his nation.

Lord, thank you for the times you have confirmed your leading in my life. Thank you for the times you gave me a green light in the midst of confusion and the frustration of trying to figure it out by myself. Lord, thank you for speaking to us, either by angels or by a still small voice in our soul. Amen.

(more on Friday)

Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…Joseph – Matt 1:18-19

Our church is starting an Advent series about how the birth of Jesus impacted different people. This week is on Joseph, so I thought I’d get a head start on reading, thinking, visualizing the scenario for myself.

 Now the birth of Jesus took place in this way.

Matthew decided to start his story not with Mary, but with Joseph. Joseph’s response to Mary’s pregnancy is a pivotal point.  Jesus had to have a human father in order to be a son of David.

When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

The facts: Mary is pregnant; Joseph knows it’s not his; they are engaged but not married; she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. As incredible as the last one is, it is mentioned with the others. Joseph knew the facts, at least as they were told to him. I would have like to have been an ant on the wall during that conversation!

And here comes his character…

And her husband Joseph, being a just and unwilling to put her to share, resolved to divorce her quietly.

It’s a little confusing, but he was considered her husband while they were engaged. I’m not a scholar and not sure what this looked like, but her unexplained pregnancy seems to be akin to adultery.

But Joseph believed her story, that it was not adultery. He wasn’t completely sure what it was and he wasn’t sure what his part would be.

So he turned to social convention. What do you do in a case like this? Obviously, it had never happened before. He wanted to do the right thing, but wasn’t sure what that was?

And after all, God hadn’t talked to him yet. He still loves Mary. He’s just so he knows something needs to happen. But he wants to do justice in the most loving way possible.

There is a tension between justice and love.

Lord, help me to temper my own need for justice with love. Help me to wrestle with what that means in my own life, in my relationships. Amen.

(More on Wednesday…)

Psalm 86:16-17 – You and Me – The Final Requests

Turn to me and be gracious to me;

Give your strength to your servant,

And save the son of your maidservant.

 Show me a sign of your favor,

That those who hate me may see and be put to shame,

Because you, Lord, have helped me

And comforted me.

New and improved by the end of the Psalm, the tone is very different. Gone is the struggle. Nothing is actually different, other than David and his perspective.

He asks for grace, strength, and salvation, but he is no longer flailing. He’s resting in the peace of who God is.

And he asks for a sign of God’s favor. Actually, I think he already has it — it’s the miracle that he now has peace in the midst of his circumstances.

But I do relate to his request. I often want something “little” in the midst of the “big” to remind my feeble faith that God is with me and is working. It might be a parking space at the hospital, words from a kind nurse, or a note in the mail — a little something that gives me a hug from God and reminds me that…

Salvation will come, either in life or in death.

Because…

“You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

Amen.

What “little” is helping you, comforting you, in the midst of your “big?” Share with us and we’ll be praying for you.

Psalm 86:14-15 You and Me – Circumstances

O God, insolent men have risen up against me;

A band of ruthless men seeks my life,

And they do not set you before them

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

Slow to anger and abounding steadfast love and faithfulness

Finally, now that the perspective is where it needs to be, we get to the specifics: insolent men have risen against David and seek his life. David was chased first by Saul, and later chassed by his son and others who wanted his throne, his power.

But David nows sees the bigger picture —it’s not just his life he fears will be taken. He knows God placed him in this position of authority, and a take-over would have spiritual and physical implications for a nation.

And, he sees a bigger picture yet — that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Even if David is over-taken, God will still love, have grace and mercy, and be faithful to his nation.

David sees his circumstances in light of the enormous capacity of his Savior.

Yes, they are still his circumstances. But he lets it rest in the arms of the all-knowing, all-powerful, God.

How does the bigger picture help you in the midst of your circumstances?

 

Psalm 86:11-13 You and Me – Request #2

Teach me your way, O Lord,

That I may walk in your truth;

Unite my heart to fear your name.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God,

With my whole heart,

And will glorify your name forever.

For great is your steadfast love toward me;

You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Thinking back, David’s first request was for grace. It seems that God gave it to him in the midst of the prayer — grace to get a glimpse of God and to put things into perspective.

His second request is not to be delivered; it’s to be taught.

Here he is the king, who began the Psalm saying he was “godly,” humbling himself, asking to be taught. What a contrast!

He desires to know truth — truth about himself, truth about the circumstances, truth about God.

And with it, he knows he needs a united heart to fear god’s name. His heart cannot be divided. If I’m trusting in God and in electing the leader of my country (or despair if they are not elected), then my heart is divided. I can’t trust two things at once.

In contrast to the fear David exhibited in the first few verses, now he “gives thanks….with his whole heart.”

Why? Because he’s feeling God’s steadfast love. It reminds me of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. Right before Paul urges them “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (the “to-do/not to do” list), he prays that they would know God’s love. Before David could know what to do/not to do, he needed to grasp God’s love.

God’s love delivers us from the depths of Sheol. Circumstances initially put us there; trying to solve it ourselves digs even deeper. Love is sweet release. Love is hope.

Just like David, when I grasp the depths of God’s love from me, I can pick up myself again, brush off the dirt of doubt, and step into the light.

How does knowing “truth” help in the midst of confusing circumstances? What truths are helpful to you?

Psalm 86:8-10 You and Me – Focus on You

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

Nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

And worship before you, O Lord,

And shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;

You alone are God.

The focus that has been shifting gradually now becomes laser. It’s not about me; it’s about him.

It’s about who he is and what he does. There is none like him in my life. The other things I put my trust and time into (finances, hobbies, work, etc.) pale alongside him…in fact, they disappear. They are no longer important. So we’re short on our paycheck? What does that compare to the God of the universe who controls all the money in the world?

And there is nothing that can do for me what he does. He has literally saved my life from the depths of depression. He is saving my life from sin. He is providing food, clothing, health, joy — the list could go on forever!

All the nations join me in bowing down before him. There’s no fear in who is going to win the final battle. Yes, there are losses in this world, and real reasons to fear if we’re depending on the government or anything else to keep us safe. But in the end, all will bow and glorify his name!

He is great and he does wondrous things, because he alone is god. Not just my god, but the god of the universe and all nature. Whatever I have set up next to him, needs to go.

Somehow there is peace in knowing that it’s not just me that is powerless. Everything else is powerless compared to the power of god.

Instead of fear, I find peace.

What does that kind of peace look like in your life? What fear has been replaced with peace?