Advent Attitudes: Expectation
Be an optimist: expect God to keep His promises.
(Please read Luke 2:21-40 in your Bible. I used the NIV (1984) for my research.)
The Reader’s Digest published an article last year explaining why September Is the Most Popular Birth Month in America, and These Are Three Fascinating Explanations. It was written by Brandon Specktor.
“According to real birth data compiled from 20 years of American births, mid-September is the most birthday-packed time of the year, with September 9th being the most popular day to be born in America, followed closely by September 19th. The week and a half between September 9th and September 20th contains nine of the top ten birthdays in America, with the top three being 9/9, 9/19, and 9/12.
“The least common days to be born are, incidentally, all holidays: 12/25 rounds out the bottom, right after 1/1, 12/24, and 7/4. Strangely, in the 20 years analyzed above, there were even fewer births on each of these holidays than there were on February 29th, which only only appeared on calendars six times between ’94 and ’14.
“Why is September such a popular time to come into the world?
1. Winter is for lovers. Turn the great clock back 40 weeks from September 19 and you’ll find yourself in the December holiday season. This makes sense: Many American students and laborers take time off around Christmas. [I suspect mistletoe is a factor here, too!]
2. Our bodies crave winter cuddles.
3. Every day is a popular birthday. The actual differences in birth numbers between common and less common birthdays are often within just a few thousand babies. For example, September 19th, has an average birth rate of 12,229 babies. Meanwhile, Christmas day has a birth rate of just 6,574 babies.”
What have we learned? Christmas is great time for beginning new things. God the Father began a new thing with the birth of Jesus, who is God the Son. Advent is a good time to conceive of a new, more godly way to live. Forget about Santa’s “nice list,” it’s a great time of year to get on the “nice lists” of family, friends, and neighbors.
Our second Advent Attitude is that of expectation. From the children building with excitement about presents to the maturing believers having a sense of anticipation growing of worship and family traditions, This season is all about our expectations of what’s coming and our preparations to enjoy it.
1. Simeon’s expectations were met by Jesus (25-35).
He’d been expecting the CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL. What’s not obvious in English translations is the “Consolation” is a person, not a thing. It was a title used to refer to the Messiah, the person God would choose to free His people. (See Isaiah 25:9; 40:1-2; 66:1-11.)
In having this expectation Simeon was not unusual. We read an example of this speculation at work in Luke 3:15: THE PEOPLE WERE WAITING EXPECTANTLY AND WERE WONDERING IN THEIR HEARTS IF JOHN MIGHT POSSIBLY BE THE CHRIST. Of course, John the Baptist was
not the Christ, he was the herald, announcing the coming of the Messiah. He positively identified Jesus as the Christ. This verse indicates that there was a popular belief that the Messiah was coming. Lots of people were, like Simeon and Anna, expectantly looking for Him.
Simeon was especially qualified to recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises. Luke notes three qualifications:
He was RIGHTEOUS. He was a good citizen and a good man.
He was DEVOUT. This term refers to someone who fears God and is careful to keep God’s law (see Deuteronomy 2:4 and Isaiah 57:11).
The HOLY SPIRIT WAS UPON HIM. His appearance at the temple at just the right moment and his recognition of a little peasant baby both came about by the Holy Spirit’s influence.
Before we note the particulars of what Simeon said about Jesus, let’s note what a leap of faith this must have been for Simeon. His eyes saw a baby. The Spirit said the baby was the Redeemer. He followed the Spirit into the temple and into the revelation of the child’s true identity. Simeon made four public comments and four private ones to Mary. Publically, he said:
“You have kept your promise.” This was something Simeon took very personally.
“Now I can die happy.” I think this comment either sounds like an older man or someone who is making an exaggerated statement because he’s so happy.
“I have seen YOUR SALVATION.” Popular expectation sought a political/military savior, but God planned for salvation from sin.
“PREPARED IN THE SIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE.” (See Revelation 7:9.)
“A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES.” Popular expectations for the Messiah probably didn’t concern themselves with the Gentiles, so this is another extraordinary mark; a sign of the Spirit’s leading.
“GLORY FOR YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL.” God will keep His promises to His people Israel.
Simeon’s private predictions to Mary were not good news. He said Jesus was
“DESTINED TO CAUSE THE FALLING AND RISING OF MANY IN ISRAEL.” In his first letter Peter picked up on this and referred to Jesus as a STONE that caused men to STUMBLE and FALL (1 Peter 2:8).
“A SIGN THAT WILL BE SPOKEN AGAINST” predicted not only the verbal abuse Jesus suffered but includes the rejection of His teaching and His crucifixion as well.
All this because He would reveal THE THOUGHTS OF MANY HEARTS.” It is human nature and sin nature to resent exposure of one’s faults and sins. But it was not so much that Jesus knew their hearts and exposed them as much as by their own choice to reject Him that they revealed the sad, sinful condition of their own hearts.
“A SWORD WILL PIERCE YOUR OWN SOUL TOO.” This warning must’ve been something she pondered, just as she had the shepherds’ words, but she probably did not “treasure” it as she did in verse nineteen. The word SWORD refers to a large and brutal weapon. The word carried a more emotional impact. The warning came to pass in Jesus’ arrest and death by crucifixion.
2. Anna’s expectations were met by Jesus (36-39).
Anna had expected THE REDEMPTION OF JERUSALEM. This was a pious way of referring to every Jew’s hope that their nation might be set free (redeemed) from servitude to Rome. The city of Jerusalem and the temple within the city were the focal points of the entire nation and were used to refer to the entire nation.
Anna was especially qualified to recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises. Luke noted three qualifiers.
She was a PROPHETESS. This title does not necessarily mean that Anna was given revelations of the future. It more likely meant that she was a teacher, probably of women, there in the Court of Women.
She was a resident of the temple courts, spending her days FASTING & PRAYING. It would have been unusual for anyone but a priest to have quarters on the temple grounds, so this indicates Anna held unique status as a PROPHETESS.
She was VERY OLD. Luke’s language is a little ambiguous, but it’s most likely she was 84 years old when she encountered baby Jesus. In a time when the average life expectancy was mid-40s, 84 is a very ripe old age indeed.
Anna became a witness. We see her exercising her witness in two ways. SHE GAVE THANKS TO GOD, just as the shepherds had done earlier in this chapter.
SHE…SPOKE ABOUT THE CHILD to everyone who looked forward to God saving His people and especially Jerusalem. Anna may’ve been part of a group known as “Quiet in the Land,” people who were looking forward to the coming of God’s Messiah.
Be an optimist: expect God to keep His promises.
In Luke’s account, Simeon and Anna appear AFTER Jesus’ birth. Even so, they are two great biblical examples of people who have the attitude of expectation. For YEARS they kept up their expectations of the coming of the Messiah, just as God had promised. Can you imagine their great joy and deep satisfaction when God revealed the Messiah to them? Maybe their first reaction was surprise. A baby? “Well, OK,” they may have thought, “everybody’s got to start somewhere.”
Notice that Luke implies that both Simeon and Anna were senior citizens. It’s likely each of them had lived a significant portion of their lives with the attitude of expectation. And then, God revealed His plan was not a man but a baby. Wow! Mind blown!
Here’s the thing: it seems very likely to me there was a moment after the excitement wore off a bit that they realized they might not live long enough to see this baby grow to manhood and accomplish God’s plan. After all their years of waiting, God kept His promise, but they would not see the results. In fact, as history tells us, it would be another THIRTY YEARS before Jesus began His ministry. It’s likely both Simeon and Anna were long gone.
At first, this thought is frustrating. All those years of waiting rewarded with only a glimpse of the one for whom they’d been waiting. But you don’t get any sense of disappointment or frustration from Luke’s account, do you? No, Simeon and Anna both demonstrate profound delight, a joy that burst forth in worship and witness.
They are an example to us of how the Advent Attitude of Expectation is supposed to work: when God answers our prayers, He often does so in ways we had never anticipated. When He acts, can be sideways or backwards of what we expected.
Rather than be like a kid who opened a present to find a socks instead of a baseball glove, we can follow Anna & Simeon’s path and be delighted with what God did. By faith we can trust and assume His gift is far above what we had asked for or thought about, much better for us anyway.
So I’m asking you, in these days of Advent, ramp up your expectation of what God is going to do, but then don’t be disappointed when it’s something different that what you expected. Faith says it will be better.
One Perfect Life, John MacArthur
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, Darrell L. Bock
Thru the Bible, J. Vernon McGee