The theme I am using for this third message of Advent is this: All I want for Christmas Is...... The call of the message is for each of us to finish that statement.
I have read to you a very fascinating story; it opens with an extremely old man and closes with a very old woman. Both of them revealed what they wanted for Christmas, and what they wanted revealed the truth of each of them as to character and heart. And that is likely the most important thing you will hear this morning.
What Luke writes about them reveals two very godly people. In every respect they were two Jewish saints, two amazing saints of the Old Covenant representing the very best of that long Old Testament order. That is significant because that entire old order was now giving way to – finding its complete consummation and fulfilment – in the new order, the new covenant in the Messiah.
In both the opening and closing verses of this story we find a key word defining Simeonand Anna. We are told they were ‘looking.’ This is a strong word and goes far beyond casual curiosity. It speaks of expectation – strong expectation, life defining expectation, single-minded expectation, single-focus expectation; the heart desire that pushes all other desire to the fringe of consciousness. Everything else they could live without but this could not be lived without.
All I want for Christmas begins with the issue of how much I want it.What is the depth of my longing, the purity of my focus, the conviction of my expectation and the discipline of my passion? In this story we meet two people– two old people – who instead of thinking retirement are filled with a sense of mission, a sense of burning expectation.
In these same two verses (25 & 38)we discover what these two people wanted for Christmas. We are told that Simeon was ‘looking for the consolation of Israel’and Anna spoke of the child to all who werelooking for the redemption of Jerusalem. It is safe to assume that in speaking to those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem she was looking for the same thing. In other words she spoke to those who shared the same burning expectation that lived in her soul. Question:With whom do you share and what do you share? The answer to that goes a long way towards completing our theme: ‘All I want for Christmas is….’
There are three vital words in this story regarding the Christmas expectations of an old man and an old woman; verses 25, 30 & 38: consolation, salvation & redemption. We likely have time to deal with only two.
Notice first it was the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem. In other words their Christmas expectations were not self-centred but others-centred. They saw the bigger picture, the larger story and it was this expanded consciousness that shaped and formed their Christmas expectations. There was no ‘me, me, me’ in their Christmas desire.
Here then, is how Simeon and Anna would have completed the statement of our Adventtheme: ‘All I want for Christmas is consolation; all I want for Christmas is redemption.’ To find out what they wanted look at these two words.
Consolation: while this word (in the original language) has many shades of meaning the core idea here is someone called alongside another for the purpose of imparting comfort, encouragement, strength and hope. It must be noted that in this “coming alongside of” there is reception and joining. It is one thing for you to come alongside me but another thing for me to receive you. If I choose not to receive you I cut myself off from the consolation that is in you.
Consolation refers to present reality but it primarily relates to past experience. To gain perspective on this, consider the words of Isaiah: “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa.40: 1 -2) The background is one of warfare, iniquity and severe discipline.
There is a sense in which Simeon – this very old man – represents a people corporately; they are war-weary, sin-sick (tired of the weight of their own iniquity), and tired of labouring under the disciplinesof God. To such a people what does consolation mean; what exactly is it they are hungering for? Consolation means the war is over. Consolation means the iniquity is pardoned: Micah 7:19... He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Consolation means the season of discipline has come to an end: Micah 7:18...He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. There is peace, there is no longer crippling guilt, and there is that rich sense of blessing and favour.
Redemption:This too is a great word and deserves a fuller treatment than we have time to address. It does not mean the same as the word ‘consolation.’ At core it means to be bought back by paying a price. The word ‘bought’ brings us to another word that sounds the same – ‘brought.’ Let us rejoice in this truth: what is ‘bought back’ is also ‘brought back.’ To be redeemed is to be released from a controlling power against which you have no power apart from that act of redemption. Through redemption we are brought back from a controlling enemy and brought back to the one who redeemed us by paying a price.
Listen to the voice of Simeon as he sings: ‘All I want for Christmas is the consolation of Israel.’ Listen to Anna’s voice as she sings: ‘All I want for Christmas is the redemption of Jerusalem.’ Bring the two desires – the two Christmas expectations together and what do we have? Simply this: the consolation Simeon hungers for can never be realised apart from the redemption Anna hungers for. Christmas consolation is the consequence of Christmas redemption. Isa.52:9... Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; the Lord has consoled His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
Here then, is the final consideration of this year’s Advent Series. We now know what both Simeon and Anna wanted for Christmas; what their Christmas expectations were. All that remains now is the issue of where they would look to find those Christmas expectations. Were their expectations to be found in political policy, religious structure and social programs? Perhaps they could be found in ongoing education. Perhaps the key to their expectations was to be found in economics – money, materialism. Or maybe, they just needed to look inside themselves.
We all know the answer. Consolation was in a person. Redemption was in a person. In fact to state it properly: consolation was a person – redemption wasa person. That Person was that eight day old, just circumcised and now named baby, Simeon held in his hands; the holy Son of God and Son of man.
This means that both redemption and consolation are experienced only in a living relationship with that Person who is redemption and consolation – Jesus Christ the Lord, the Christ of Christmas.
All I want for Christmas is....... Before we finish that perhaps we should reflect upon and old man and an old woman’s Christmas expectation from that first Christmas.