Every year, it seems like the anticipation for Christmas gets earlier and earlier. The Halloween candy is quickly replaced by the unending stock of Christmas décor. Our culture longs for Christmas with all its pomp and circumstance, yet we often miss the greater longing which Christmas is meant to invite us to experience.
In the middle of Luke’s retelling of the Christmas story, we meet two minor characters who show the heart of longing which Christmas should plant deep within our souls. Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22-38) have both spent years at the temple praying and hoping for the Messiah to come. Simeon has been promised that his weary eyes will behold the Son of God before he passes into eternity. Anna came daily to the temple to fast and pray that God would send His Rescuer.
The faithfulness of clinging to a promise yet to be realized kept Simeon and Anna going day by day. As time ticked by, it would have been easy for them to think God had forgotten about them, that their prayers were hitting the ceiling of the temple, and that their fasting was in vain. Simeon and Anna were sustained by the truth that God is faithful, and His character is unchanging. They had been longing for “the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 ESV), and finally, Mary and Joseph walk into the temple with the promised Jesus. The answer to their prayers unfolds before their weary eyes. When we come to Christmas, we are left with a longing as well. Jesus has purchased our redemption at the cross and paved the way for us to have new life in Him, yet we long for the day that Jesus will return to bring restoration to all things.
The Christmas season has been termed a season of advent or “waiting.” We gather to celebrate Jesus coming the first time while also looking for the moment when He will come again to “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). Restoration is just over the horizon and our anticipation of celebrating Jesus’ first coming should not overshadow our longing to experience His second. This year’s Christmas, like countless years before, will be disappointing. The anticipation and excitement in our hearts cannot be fulfilled by celebration. It results in an advent longing which should drive us to prayer, fasting, waiting, and longing. Come Lord Jesus, your people are waiting and ready.
Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham
Writer and Speaker