As a child, my anticipation for Christmas grew from Thanksgiving until December 25. I focused on gifts, parties, family gatherings, food and fun—but rarely on Jesus. I knew Christmas was about the Christ-child, but somehow, He always fell behind the tinsel and trinkets.
What are you anticipating this Christmas? Around the time of the Lord’s birth, people were not anticipating Christmas at all, but a few were looking for the Messiah (Christ) to be born.
Who anticipated the coming of Christ?
Bible scholars may have anticipated the coming of Christ. Around 600 BC, the prophet Daniel, wrote out an event sequence revealing the time for the coming of Messiah: “From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks…Then after sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off, but not for himself” (Daniel 9:25, 26). Everyone knew the degree by Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem was in 445 BC (Nehemiah 2). In calculating the time, Daniel referred to weeks of years, not weeks of days, so 69 times 7 would be 483 years. When you take 483 years and subtract 445 BC (year of the decree) it equals AD 38—the year the Messiah was cut off on the cross. Daniel said the Messiah would be cut off, “not for Himself,” but for all of us.
The Magi, or Wise Men from the East knew about when the King of the Jews would be born. They came to King Herod and asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). The wise men had probably learned the time frame, and the appearance of the star, from the legacy of Daniel in Persia; so, they journeyed to Jerusalem, to worship the newborn Messiah.
Others who anticipated His coming were the priest, Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel revealed they would have a son, John the Baptist, and a few months later, Jesus would be born. The angel said: “he [John] will go as a forerunner before Him [Christ] in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).
There was another unlikely couple in Jerusalem who anticipated Christ’s arrival. Simeon and Anna were senior citizens who ministered daily in the temple. Luke 2:21-38 reveals Simeon was a “righteous and devout” man, who was “looking for the consolation of Israel” (verse 25)—anticipating the promised comfort of Messiah. God picked Simeon to see, hold and bless Jesus, for “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (verse 26). The other senior saint was Anna, an 84-year-old prophetess, a widow from the tribe of Asher who “never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers” (verse 37).
What are you looking for when you consider the birth of Christ? What did Christmas bring to the world that could be found nowhere else? In Jesus, Simeon and Anna saw three things we need:
1. In Jesus They Saw God’s Comforter…”looking for the consolation of Israel” v. 25.
Simeon was waiting for the “consolation” or the comfort that would only be brought to Israel through the long-awaited Messiah. Most Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah promised He would bring peace, victory and comfort to His people.
However, Jesus came to bring more than temporary comfort, He came to bring everlasting peace. He brings comfort like no other, as Hebrews 4:15-16 reads: “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Because Jesus came, He can comfort us in all our sorrows.
2. In Jesus They Saw God’s Messiah…”before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” v. 26
Simeon’s special visit by the Holy Spirit revealed he would see the Christ—the long awaited Messiah, before he died. The word “Christ” is Greek and means anointed, while the word “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for anointed.
For hundreds of years God had promised the “Anointed One” of God would come to bring salvation, peace, comfort and freedom to this sin-saturated world. Through God’s plan, Jesus was rejected and died a sacrifice for all sin, to provide eternal life for all people who will believe in Him. When Jesus came, the Messiah came – and we celebrate His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and soon return. Jesus is “the Lord’s Christ.”
3. In Jesus They Saw God’s Salvation… “my eyes have seen your salvation” v. 30
When Simeon looked at baby Jesus, he saw God’s Savior – but he used a word larger than Savior – He saw in that little baby the salvation for all mankind. It’s true Jesus is the Savior – but He is our Salvation as well.
Before His birth, the angel said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). We celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas because “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Jesus is both Savior and Salvation. Neither savior nor salvation is found in any other place or in any other person. “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow…and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
On that night, in the dirty stable where Jesus was born, the comfort, salvation and light of the world came forth to offer the only solution to man’s sin and failure. Most missed the meaning of His coming then, but we can clearly see the purpose of His coming now. Accept His gift of salvation and daily live in His hope of life. Let’s truly celebrate His coming this Christmas!