It is written of Anna, the prophetess, "She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." (Luke 2:37, ESV)
As was Simeon, Anna too was great in years. Scripture says she was eighty-four years of age. Here is what she lived for: "She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." She lived to be in the presence of God. She lived to serve God with fasting and with prayer. She lived to speak prophetically as God gave her things to say.
Older adults are often pushed to the side during the holiday season. They often cannot hear as well as they once did, so they are excluded from conversations and special moments that can fill the heart with joy. As you are with family this Christmas, make a little extra effort to include those excluded by hearing difficulties.
A lack of mobility often restrains older adults. The legs and feet that once took them wherever they wanted to go now cannot move as steadily or as fast as they once did. Again, their lack of mobility keeps them from participating in relational things. Remember to include them.
Simeon and Anna were two older people who had much wisdom to share. Their time before God in the secret place filled them with insights that will go unnoticed unless someone purposely draws wisdom from these wells of life. This Christmas, do not overlook these aged ones whom God has kindly set in our midst.
"And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12, ESV)
Swaddling clothes comes from a Greek word that refers to long strips of cloth used to wrap wounds, infants, and newborn lambs in the winter. I am sure Mary, being a great mom-to-be, brought swaddling clothes on her trip to Bethlehem. I am also quite sure the shepherds of that day also had swaddling in the caves where they kept their sheep and lambs at night.
Mary would have wrapped baby Jesus up in swaddling clothes to keep him warm and to comfort Him. She would have wrapped the Lamb of God in swaddling! The wrapping of Jesus in swaddling in the Bethlehem cave is a prophetic shadow pointing to the purpose of His coming: the Lamb of God born to take away the sin of the world! John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God. (Jn 1:29). First Peter 1:19 also calls Jesus "a lamb without spot or blemish." Revelation 5:12 states, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And John later writes of Jesus in Revelation 13:8, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
It was truly a sign for the shepherds to find the Lamb of God wrapped in swaddling. This little Lamb would take away the sin of the world.
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18, ESV)
Have you ever wondered how Joseph was chosen to be the earthly father of Jesus? Did God throw a bunch of names into a box and pick one? Not hardly. I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus! You do not pick just any man to be the earthly father of Jesus. You pick the best—a man who has been tested and who can raise Jesus in righteousness.
God chose Joseph because he was of the house and lineage of David. But there were others in the family line of David too. What set Joseph apart from the others we learn from him in stories of Jesus' birth. Joseph was a man of integrity and mercy. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he wanted to divorce her quietly. That speaks of the mercy that Joseph walked in. He wanted to do it quietly, which speaks of his desire to tenderly care for the human heart.
Joseph walked in integrity after the angel told him to take Mary as his wife. He abstained from all sexual relations until after the birth of Christ. Thus, he was a man of purity. Joseph was a man chosen by God because God could trust him to raise His Son. How far can God trust you?
Gabriel was sent "to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1:27, ESV)
Why a virgin? Why did God choose to bear the Christ child through a virgin? Because Isaiah 7:14 states, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14, ESV). This literally means that Mary was a young woman who had never had sexual relations with any man before. For her to get pregnant without the participation of a man would be a miracle and the fulfillment of scripture! This virgin birth would be a sign to those who believe that God was sending the Messiah into the world.
The angel Gabriel tells Mary two times, "You are highly favored!" It simply means she was chosen and had the favor of God upon her. Hearing these words really perplexed Mary, for she knew she was a virgin. She did not doubt God. She simply wondered how God was going to do this.
The angel responds, "Behold!" What I am about to say is amazing! It will leave you and many others speechless. "And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God." (Luke 1:35, ESV) Mary's response is one of simple faith: "Let it be unto me according to your word."
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14, ESV)
The real miracle of Christmas is the birth of Christ—the Word becoming flesh. Who is he who became flesh? According to John 1:1, In the beginning, the Word was. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. That Jesus would lay aside His glory to be born a man is the miracle of miracles! He identified with us in every way except for sin. I stand amazed!
God became flesh so He could die. Not just die, but die for us! He was God, so He could not die. But He became flesh, so He could die. So He could die for you and me. This was the plan of God before the beginning began! I am humbled! God the Word became flesh, a man, and He will always be a man!
"This Man dwelt among us!" John said. Why? Why would God do this? The answer is simple: So He could be near us. I can never get away from John 14:9. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father..." God became a man to become so close that we might see His heart.
What is Christmas? It is God becoming a man so that He might die for us so that we might be close to Him. That is the true heart of Christmas.
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7, ESV)
Jesus was Mary's firstborn. Being the firstborn and male came with many special privileges. Just as Israel is called God's firstborn, it means that she has a special place and privilege among the nations of the earth.
The Son of God, brought into this world by Mary as her firstborn, came with special privileges among all the men on earth. Spiritually, Jesus is the 'firstborn among many brothers and sisters' in the body of Christ. (Romans 8:29). Colossians 1:15 speaks of Jesus as the firstborn over all creation. In Psalm 89:27–29, God says of David, "And I will appoint Him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth...."
In the book of Hebrews, Christ is "heir of all things" and God's "firstborn into the world." Just as the firstborn son is head over his earthly family after his father, Jesus Christ is head of the body of Christ—the church—after God the Father. Just as the firstborn son receives the most significant inheritance from his father, Jesus Christ receives the world as His inheritance. God says to His Son, "Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession."
Jesus was much more than Mary's firstborn! He is the heir of all things!
"for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord..." (Luke 1:15, NLT)
Four times, the angel speaking to Zechariah uses the phrase, "he will”:
Zechariah has waited a long time for a child, and when this 'son of the promise' shows up, he is loaded with prophetic promises. Look at how the promises escalated before him. Your son will be great before the Lord. What a place to have your children live. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Not only will he live before the Lord, but he will also be filled with the Lord's presence. And here is what he will do: He will turn people to the Lord, and he himself will actually go before the Lord, preparing the people for Him.
How many 'he will(s)' has the Lord spoken over your life? They may not be as big as John the Baptists, but believe me, they count mightily in the Kingdom of God. I do not believe that anyone is born an accident. Every person born into this world comes with a God-given purpose. If we will live for God and be filled with His Spirit, we too will turn many to Christ, or at least prepare their hearts to receive Him.
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." (Luke 2:25, ESV)
Now, there was a man. And the Holy Spirit was upon him! That man could have been anybody. May it be said about you and about your life that the Holy Spirit was upon you. The word 'upon' means God was over Simeon, as one in spiritual authority. It would be much like a boss or foreman in the marketplace. Simeon voluntarily placed himself under God's care, authority, and direction.
Oh, that the body of Christ would choose to live this way! God is not looking for golden vessels or polished vessels. He is looking for humble, submitted, and yielded vessels. Simeon was that kind of man. He was righteous, devout, and waiting for the Messiah! This means that because he was seeking righteousness, he was declared righteous by God. He was devout, which means he lived in the fear of the Lord. And he lived expecting the arrival of the Messiah!
Simeon had been told that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord's Christ. What a fantastic way to live: seeking God's righteousness in the fear of the Lord and waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. All the while doing this, the Holy Spirit is upon you, directing you and speaking to you. This life is not for the super saints. It is for whosoever would believe.
"and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1:15, ESV)
This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in the book of Luke. Luke uses the phrase, 'filled with the Holy Spirit', many times in his books--the Gospel of Luke and Acts. The Holy Spirit is critical in all that God does in the earth. He is there at the beginning of Genesis, and He is there at the end of Revelation. He is there with Jesus, and He is there with the early church. And He is here with us today! We need the Holy Spirit!
God marked John to be a forerunner filled with the Holy Spirit. That filling set John apart from all other men. The Holy Spirit empowered John to usher in a whole new dispensation of God. John is the only man filled with the Spirit from birth. When pregnant, Mary went to visit Elizabeth. As she greeted her, John lept in Elizabeth's womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit! When Zechariah is about to name John, he is filled with the Holy Spirit! I am telling you, look for the Holy Spirit in the Christmas story! The Holy Spirit is always involved when God does something BIG in the earth. When God does something big in your life, you can count on the Holy Spirit being there! God, fill us fresh with Your Holy Spirit this Christmas season!
"But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." (Luke 1:13, ESV)
You must admit that to be in a room all by yourself, minding your own business, and suddenly someone else is with you, that must be somewhat troubling. But look at how caring this angel is: "Do not be afraid." So many things that God calls people to do are frightening. They are scary because they are bigger than us. Someone once told me that if it is impossible to do, it must be God. God is the God who makes the impossible possible! Doing the impossible is how we make Him look great!
Zechariah and Elizabeth are both old and barren. Yet God sends an angel to tell them they are about to be pregnant and that their son shall be called John. Amid Zechariah's fear, listen to all the comfort the angel gives: "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth," (Luke 1:14, ESV).
What seems impossible and scary to Zechariah is surrounded by and wrapped up in joy and gladness for him and Elizabeth, and not only them but all who know them! This announcement by the angel sets the stage for a move of God about to take place in the earth. What is God speaking to you?
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