Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Regifting the Presence
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 2:22-38 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The story in Luke has so many incredible characters to explain just how wired together we truly are. The first one and a half chapters of Luke focus on the reality that everyone who will be mentioned later is living in a time when the Holy Spirit has been absent for 400 years. Despite this depressing declaration, every single character (listed by name) is given the revelation that God is moving in this time and place. And even when the narrator is not following the story directly, God is on the move in other areas in the region. First it’s Zechariah in the Temple, then it’s Elizabeth, Mary, and few shepherds. In the second chapter we find out about a man named Simeon and a prophet named Anna who have been aware of the movement of the Spirit at nearly the same time as the other aforementioned characters. While Luke’s testament doesn’t cover the story in the same way, the other authors of the Gospels note that even King Herod was given a special message by God.
God is on the move in a meaningful way.
The same story was told in many different ways across many different locations to a selection of people who interpret the message in a multitude of ways. And not one cell phone in sight to live stream it for the rest of the world to witness! If God can be this present in such a way that someone can live with the belief that they will not die until they had seen the Lord’s Christ, then there is something to be said of the potency of the message. Four hundred years without a single word, and Simeon had the audacity to believe he would bear witness to the Savior before he perished. Bold.
In some ways I wish I was Simeon. How reassuring would it be to know that you would set my eyes on Jesus before you died? But that’s not the story the Spirit blessed me with. But because Simeon was there to testify to His arrival here on earth, we have the opportunity to pass along his eye-witness account to the rest of the world. Maybe we aren’t Simeon in the sense that we aren’t blessed with the same future. But we are all Simeon in the sense that we are blessed with the ability to say what God has shown us to be true in our own lives in our own time. Starting tomorrow, Christ will be on the hearts and minds of everyone celebrating His birth.
The presence is with us still. How will you make it known?
Recalibrate: How might you capitalize on the opportunity God presents you to praise His name when the time comes to testify to His good work in you?
Respond: Pray that God will provide a way and the words to use your life to glorify His name when called upon.
Research: Read Five Things to Do While You Wait on God.
Remember: “Anna walked up to them and burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child” (Luke 2:38, ICB).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Do you have bells in the house this Christmas? Wear them so your child can hear you coming. If you have a pet (and they aren’t traumatized by them) tie the bells to their collar so you can hear them, too. Play the bells with some Christmas songs and sing along with all your heart. It’s Christmas Eve! See if your little one can shake the bells and sing too. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, whether we are ready for tomorrow or not, know there is no better time than right now to burst forth with praise to God for the child, just like Anna did in the temple when she saw Jesus.
The Words to Remember this week tell us that Anna walked up burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child (Luke 2:38, ICB). Anna and Simeon both were waiting on Jesus to arrive. They were ready. I’m sure you are ready for Christmas to arrive. It is Christmas Eve, and in our home we open our presents tonight—YAY! Whatever and whenever you open your presents, know that nothing beats the presence of love and joy. I wish you oodles of both in Jesus’ name.
So Simeon, the man we were talking about yesterday, prayed to see Jesus before he died and the Holy Spirit told him his prayer had been answered. Luke 2:27 tells us that the Spirit led him to the temple that same day to meet Jesus. I imagine that when Jesus was being presented by another priest, that priest didn’t quite know it was Jesus the Messiah being presented. With all the babies that routinely were presented in accordance with the law, this may have seemed like just another baby. So then, imagine everyone’s surprise when fellow priest Simeon announces that in seeing the baby he is seeing salvation. Did people around him believe him or think he was making something up? We can all be in the same place doing the same things but without that close connection with God, we could miss the miracles in front of us.
Simeon was a priest, let’s not forget that. Sometimes we are so busy denigrating the “scribes, Pharisees, vipers” and temple leadership that we forget that you can’t paint the whole scene with one brush. John the Baptist’s father was a priest. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Saul/Paul was the most Pharisee of all of them and proudly waved that flag (Philippians 3). Sure, there were some bozos like Annas and Caiaphas and their ilk, a lot of them, but not every priest who served the temple was corrupt. In fact, the corruption of the temple and leadership probably broke the hearts of Simeon and Anna as they observed it increase through the decades. But they never gave up. Once in a while, we need to honor tough old buzzards who just don’t know how to quit hoping.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.