Life is Very Different When You Have Christ
1st Sunday after Christmas
Life is Very Different When You Have Christ
Text: Luke 2:25-40
The Christmas picture. A staple of the season. We have a whole basket full of Christmas pictures and Christmas cards. Tech savvy folks see Christmas pictures all over—Facebook, Instagram, Email. Everyone wants to share their holiday cheer.
Here’s a picture of a family of four in matching Christmas sweaters and jeans. There’s a picture of the retired couple with all their children and grandchildren. Here’s a picture of the young kids surrounded by a mountain of presents. There’s a picture of the family in front of the Christmas tree. Every picture is the same, right? A couple, a family smiling in some staged pose with the message, “Happy Holidays,” or “Merry Christmas.”
But the Christmas picture is deceiving. It’s staged and posed in more ways than one. The message might say, “Happy Holidays,” or “Merry Christmas,” but the people in the picture are anything but happy or merry.
What the picture does not tell you is how fake or empty those smiles really are. The smiling couple holding their dog Scooter was the first time that couple smiled in weeks. They’ve actually been arguing non-stop and their marriage is in a bad place.
That family of five wearing matching Christmas outfits? That was the first time they were on the same page since last Christmas. The kids don’t listen. They run around like holy terrors. They’re not doing well in school either. The parents are about to pull their last few hairs out and they feel like complete failures.
That huge family picture with grandparents, children, and grandchildren? Well half of them feel empty inside because the picture is missing uncle Charlie who recently died from cancer. The other half of them don’t even want to be in the picture because they can’t stand the family. Aunt Carol is hiding her alcoholism and Grandpa Wayne is smiling through the tears he’s choking back as he wonders how the family he started could have fallen so far apart.
Christmas is such a visual time of the year, isn’t it? We see these Christmas pictures of other families and we wish our lives could be like theirs. We see Christmas movies and we wish we could have a little “Christmas magic” for once in our lives. We see pictures of friends with their children surrounded by a living room full of new toys and we wish we could afford to spoil our children with that much stuff.
We see lights and Christmas trees and warm cookies and holiday parties and we wish our lives could be more “merry.” Why do I have to work so much? Why don’t I have more money? I wish I could spend that much money on junk. I wish I could get my kids more stuff. I wish I had more vacation time. I wish my family got along like that. Why can’t I have that much holiday cheer? Why isn’t my Christmas merry?
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we think like this?
Well even at Christmastime we have plenty of evidence that we have hearts that are tainted by sin. My sinful heart continuously wants me to think that I will find happiness with things in this world. If only I have more stuff . . . If only I had more money . . . If only I had a family like someone else . . . if only I had a more “cheerful” Christmas . . . then I would really be happy.
But that’s what is deceiving about that huge family wearing matching Christmas sweaters. Neither their sweaters nor their huge family makes them happy! Those kids buried in new Christmas presents? They won’t care the next day, they won’t be happy and neither will the parents. That single person working her tail off to make more money around the holidays? That money doesn’t make her happy either.
This is a symptom and side effect of sin. The symptom is that sinful hearts think they can be happy with worldly stuff. The side effect is that we will keep running in circles and never find real happiness. And the eventual consequence of this sickness is that the pursuit of worldly happiness will only lead us to death, just like everything else in this imperfect world. There’s a reason our holidays aren’t always so happy and our Christmas isn’t always so merry. Sin.
But that’s why you’re here today. You know something that other people in this world don’t know. You know that there’s an answer. You know that there’s something that can fill that empty hole in your heart and that can turn your Christmas drear into Christmas cheer. You know the answer to our problems, the solution for our sin, and the only way to find happiness at Christmas. Jesus.
And so we dragged ourselves out of our beds this morning. We shook off too many Christmas cookies and late Christmas nights. We packed up in our cars and came here today. We know that we get carried away at times and lose the reason for the season at times. We know that our “happy” Christmas pictures hide our unhappy hearts. We know that every day, even at Christmas, we battle against sin and Satan. But yet we came here this morning because we at least know this one secret that the world doesn’t understand: Life Is Very Different When You Have Christ.
Today we have two case studies before us in Luke chapter two. Here in the gospel today we see two of God’s people, two believers, who lived very different lives than the rest of the world because of God’s promised Messiah. First, we meet a man named Simeon.
We might imagine what a normal, elderly man in Jerusalem might have lived like. His body would be worn from years of hard work in the fields or in some kind of skilled trade. His hands perhaps arthritic, his back somewhat haunched over. They didn’t have Doctor Scholl’s orthotics or physical therapists or chiropractors. They didn’t have bifocals or bottles of Bayer aspirin. Simeon would likely have had many things to complain about.
But Simeon didn’t sit around in in his Lay-Z-Boy reading the Jerusalem Journal funny pages while grumbling about the pains of life and the problems of the world like some crotchety old man. Simeon lived a very different kind of life than others in the world. Look at verse 25: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Simeon was righteous, meaning that he had faith in the Lord and he lived that faith. He was a devout believer, meaning that he was dedicated in his humble and pious life of faith. He anxiously waited for “the consolation of Israel,” that promised Messiah who would bring peace and hope to God’s people. He was so connected to the Lord and his Word that he was blessed by the Holy Spirit. One particular blessing was a promise God made through the Spirit to Simeon: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
Simeon lived a very different life because he had faith in the promised Christ, the Messiah. He was dedicated to the Lord and to his Word. Instead of worrying about daily life and worldly problems his greatest concern was waiting for the Savior to come.
Simeon’s life of faith was about to change even more. The Spirit led Simeon to go to the temple one day. It happened to be the 40th day after Jesus birth, the day for Mary’s purification sacrifice and Jesus’ dedication to the Lord.
Imagine that moment, when Simeon who had been waiting so long for the Messiah finally saw that baby Jesus. Here’s what happened: “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”
These are the words we often sing in church called the Nunc Dimittis in Latin, which means Now You Dismiss. Look how different Simeon’s life was with Jesus. He already was a devout man of faith. But now that he saw the fulfillment of God’s promise, the Savior, he was filled with peace. He was ready to leave this world of sadness because he had seen the salvation which God prepared for all people, for Jew and Gentile alike.
A likely old man that was worn and torn through the years, Simeon was filled with peace even to the point of being ready for death at any moment because Simeon knew his Savior and he knew what his Savior would do. Look at his words to Mary and Joseph in verses 34-35, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon knew that this child would divide the people. Many would either rise in faith to follow Jesus or fall away in unbelief and sin. As the Light of the world Jesus would reveal and expose many hearts. Simeon also knew that Mary would feel pierced to her very soul because Simeon knew that the Savior would be pierced and die for the sins of all people.
Simeon was not your average Jew. He was a very different man. He was a man of faith. He was a man dedicated to the Lord. He was a man filled with peace. Why? Because Simeon knew the Christ and believed in him.
Next, we meet a woman named Anna. We envision Anna having many of the same old-age problems that Simeon likely had. They didn’t have those comforts of modern medicine and science that the elderly have today. But Anna had an additional burden. She married young, perhaps in her teens, but only enjoyed married life for seven years because her husband died. Now as an 84-year-old woman she would have been carrying that sadness for some 60 years or so.
But Anna wasn’t angry with God. She didn’t complain. She didn’t turn to a life of substances or a life of adultery to fill the void her husband left. Anna filled the void with something else, the same thing Simeon did—the promised Messiah.
Look how different Anna’s life was in verse 37: “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Anna led a very different life than most 84-year-old widows because she also dedicated herself to the Lord. She loved the Lord so much she never even wanted to leave the temple.
And her life changed even more once she saw the fulfillment of all her hopes. Here’s what happened when she met Jesus in verse 38: “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna was not your average Jew. She was a very different woman. She was a woman of faith. She was a woman dedicated to worship and prayer. She was a woman who couldn’t stop sharing her faith and telling others about the Messiah and his redemption. Why? Because Anna knew the Christ and believed in him.
With stories like this today of great people of faith such as Simeon and Anna, we might have the inclination to become even more disappointed and unhappy. How could we ever live such lives of faith like Simeon and Anna?
But were their lives really that different? They faced all the wages of sin that you and I do. They had long and tough lives in this world, too. They had pains and problems that come with age. They had heartbreak and sadness—Anna lived as a widow for some 60 years! They both were also very likely staring death in the face because of their old age. That sounds a lot like the kinds of problems we have!
And yet, their solution is the same as ours too. We can fill the empty holes in our hearts from sadness and sin with the same thing they did, our Savior Jesus Christ. We have the exact same information they did. We know who the consolation of Israel is. We know about God’s promise of a Savior. We also know that little child who was 40 days old and presented in the temple is the fulfillment of God’s promises. We also know that he is God’s salvation prepared for all people, and we know that Jesus is a light for us, the Gentiles.
We know what Simeon foretold came true. We know that Jesus grew up to be pierced for our transgressions and died for our sins. We know that he reveals and exposes the sins of our hearts and yet brings us forgiveness through his life and death. We also know what Anna couldn’t stop talking about, that Jesus brought us redemption. He bought us back from death and hell with his holy, precious blood.
Actually, when you think about it, we are exactly the same as Simeon and Anna. We have problems, pains, heartbreak, and sadness in this life because of sin, just like they did. But we also know the Lord’s Christ, the promised Messiah—Jesus our Savior. We know that our sins are forgiven. We know that heaven awaits us. We know, like Simeon, that at any moment the Lord could dismiss his servant from this life and we could die with peace because we know we would be with our Savior forever.
You see, when you have Jesus Christ, your life is very different. You will still have pains and problems. You will still have sadness. You will still face death. You will still battle sin. But here’s the difference: When you have Jesus, you also have peace in your heart from his love and forgiveness, and you have hope of a better life to come.
And it’s amazing how different that peace and hope will make your life. Suddenly you will find yourself like Simeon, dedicated and devout and always looking for ways to stay connected to the Lord and his Word. Suddenly you will find yourself like Anna, never wanting to leave God’s house, always looking for opportunities to worship, always dedicated to a life of prayer. When you have the peace and hope of Jesus Christ, suddenly your Christmas picture of your family is actually depicting a family that does have happy holidays and a very merry Christmas.
The world might look at you and think you are very different for acting like that and for doing all those things. And they would be absolutely right. We are different. We have peace! We have hope! Like Simeon and Anna, we have Jesus Christ, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Posted on December 28, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Anna, Christ, Happy, Hope, Jesus, Joseph, Luke, Luke 2, Mary, Merry, Nunc Dimmitis, Peace, Presentation, Simeon, Unhappy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.