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Jack Graham - Are You Ready for Christmas?

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    Jack Graham - Are You Ready for Christmas?
TOPICS: Wish List, Christmas

Take your Bibles and turn with me to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2. Are You Ready for Christmas? Are you ready for Christmas? Advent, these days leading up to the celebration of Christ at Christmas is a time of preparation and reflection and personal evaluation in our live. I pray that you would expect that longing and waiting, anticipate what God could do in all of our lives in us and through us in the days ahead at this Christmas Season. I hope you have some high expectations.

Now typically there’s some disappointment at Christmas. You don’t get the gift or it doesn’t fit or you’re late and the stress. And guys, just let me give you a head’s up: Christmas is coming whether you’re ready for it or not. Don’t wait if you want a happy wife and a happy life don’t wait till the day before to take care of your Christmas responsibilities. Can I get an Amen for all the women, the wives in the room? All right. Yeah, but expectations and sometimes we can be disappointed. I was talking to a fellow the other day who is a golfer. And we hit a shot off the tee, and he hit his shot. He said, "Well, that’s a son-in-law shot". I said, "I don’t know that I ever heard that one". He said, "A son-in-law shot is when you hit a shot and you expected more but you always have to settle with what happened".

So I don’t know what you may be expecting this Christmas, but I hope you’re expecting more. Now the well-known characters of Christmas in this great story, the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus. The primary people in the story of the birth of Jesus: We see Mary and we commend her for her courageous devotion. And then Joseph for his faithful obedience, and the shepherds for their exuberant witness, and angels for their glorious praise, and wisemen for their generous, sacrificial worship. And then, of course, Jesus born in a manger, the Savior who has come into the world. But there are lesser-known players in this cast of characters; they come to us in the book of Luke, the Gospel of Luke.

And one of those players is a man by the name of Simeon. And the story of Simeon is really in the aftermath of what happened at Bethlehem. In effect, it's a kind of sequel to the story that Jesus is born, and what happened after His birth. He was not at the main event when the angels sang and the shepherds worshiped with wisemen, and the Babe was born and Simeon was not present at that. And Simeon, a seasoned saint of God, declares his faith and trust and expectant hope in God. If all these others express their faith, this man Simeon, he expresses hope and he stands out and in effect, after Christ is born, he stands with us with this expectant hope of the one who is come.

The word Simeon means the one who hears, or you might even say the God hearer; the one who hears. And he shares a story and a song of the four, maybe five songs that we find in Luke chapter 2 relative to the birth of Jesus, he shares one of these songs of Christmas, and it's a beautiful song. Let's pick up the reading in verse 22 of chapter 2 of Luke. "And when the time came for the purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem", that is, Jesus, "to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord') and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.' Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon (the hearing one), and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel".

You know what that means? He was waiting for the Messiah to come. "Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people". The prayers, the prophecies, the one who would come to deliver Israel. The one who would come to be the Savior of His people and of the world. He was waiting, waiting, waiting on the consolation of Israel. "And the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ", what a promise! "And he came in the spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 'Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles (the Light of the world), and for glory of your people Israel.'"

It happened forty days after the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph are bringing the Christ Child to the temple for a ritual ceremony of purification and dedication according to the Law of Moses. And they are bringing King Jesus to this place of worship. And there they meet a man that we meet today by the name of Simeon. And what stands out about this seasoned saint of God is that he is described as a righteous and devout man. That he is worshiping, waiting, Spirit-filled for the arrival of the Messiah. He is living in hope. An older man who's been waiting years and years and years, like Israel had waited for centuries for the coming of the Messiah. And ultimately, he meets Christ. And in that moment, he says, "Now, let Your servant depart in peace. Dismiss your servant in peace".

That is why this song of Simeon, the story of Simeon is called Nunc Dimittis which is Latin for dismiss, now dismiss. And he experiences the presence of God, he embraces Jesus. But stop for me, with me for just a moment with these two words. He was righteous and he was devout. In our study of Romans, we have discovered what true righteousness is. That righteousness is to receive the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Not in our self-righteous, our human effort or ability but rather we are standing in the righteousness of Christ. We are made righteous in the Lord Jesus Christ. Simeon, just as we are saved and looking back to Christ and what Christ has done by coming to earth, dying on the cross, rising again, that's the Gospel. We are saved by looking back to Christ.

This man Simeon was a righteous man, saved man, if you will, because he was looking forward and believing in the One who would come. So he was righteous. And the only way to be righteous is to receive Christ, the Righteous One into your life. We are justified by faith. That is, we are made righteous in Christ alone. But that second word, the word devout, it's not a word we hear much today, describing someone. How long has it been since someone described you or someone else as a devout man or woman? Devout, devoted. Who among us aspires and makes it our holy ambition to be devout? To be godly and dedicated through and through to the Lord? To be separated unto God and separated from the world. To be devout is to be led by the Spirit, to be filled by the Spirit. And this man is led and filled by the Spirit.

And I was just wondering as I was reading these words, if someone were writing our spiritual biography in just a sentence or two, would they describe us as righteous and devout? My prayer for all of us is that this would be our desire. Devoutness, patience in hope, righteous in our relationship with Jesus Christ and devout in knowing Him. And do you know why he was devout? Do you know what motivated this man to be devoted to the Lord? He was looking forward to the consolation of Israel, the coming of the Messiah. And God by His Spirit had shared a secret with Simeon and that is "You’re not going to die until you see the Messiah. You, yourself will live until the Messiah comes". He was waiting, anticipating, expecting the arrival of Jesus. That was the first Advent.

The fact is that we live between two Advents, don’t we? The first Advent, the coming of Jesus to the world and the second Advent when Christ comes again. And what will motivate us to godly living, Christ-like living, devoutness, devoted to God is the very fact that Christ is coming again. First John 3:3 says that: "And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure". Because we know and we live with this eager expectation in this Advent-anticipation of Jesus coming and coming soon, then the dynamically dramatically affects the way we live our lives. God spoke to him and the "hearing one" listened. He said, "You’re going to live till you see Me". And he lived on this promise. He was old. By now he is officially old.

In fact, the people in the temple had seen him there regularly for years and years. And no doubt some of them thought he was just an eccentric, crazy old man that had lost a step or two, maybe a marble or two, because he was telling everyone that he was going to live to the day that Christ the Messiah would come. God spoke to him and he believed that promise. He heard it. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," says Jesus. How did God speak to him? We're told it was by his Spirit that God shared this secret. Was it in a dream? Was it in a desire in his heart? Was it the still small voice? Was it the Scripture itself that spoke to him? He, no doubt, was a man of the Spirit, a man of the world, but he listened and God gave him something very special and that was hope and a promise.

At this Christmas season I'm asking God to speak to me, and I'm praying God will speak to you. That you will listen to the voice of the Spirit, that you will open the Scriptures and ask God to speak to you; that you will be present in worship; be around the people of God, the things of God; that you would be devout! And because he was devout, he was different. He was different than everybody else. While some, no doubt, thought his best days are behind him, his best day was yet to come. The best day of his life because he's about to meet Jesus. And that's why he could say Nunc Dimittis. "Now let your servant depart in peace".

Now it's time to go. Mission accomplished. He's ready for eternity to receive the promise. His best day was yet to come because he believed and received the promise of God. And it is the promise of Christ that He gives to us that one day we will see Him! One day we will meet Him! I don't know if I'm going to live to see the Second Coming or the rapture of God's people, but I'm living as though it could happen today! And we live with this hope. It is an eternal hope but it's also an everyday hope! Eternal and every day! And hope, according to Romans 8 does not disappoint. Romans 15:13, a great Christmas Scripture which would say "May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace and believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope". And this hope is our hope in Christ.

Now Simeon saw Jesus and embraced Him and welcomed Him at His first coming. The first Advent. But the fact is there are two arrivals; there are two advents. And the Second Advent is just as sure as the first arrival of Jesus because the Christ of Christmas is coming again! The Second Coming is just around the corner so you might say that this is the second act. And this time when Christ comes, He will come sovereignly and suddenly. While on the first occasion He came quietly on a silent night, mostly in obscurity. When Jesus comes again, He will come suddenly, visibly, and victoriously for all the world to see. And the Scripture says, "Every eye shall see Him. And those also even those who pierced Him".

Jesus said in John 14:3, "I will come again". Jesus is coming soon. The angels announced His first birth, when He was born, His first arrival when he was born. The clouds and the skies filled with the glory of angels singing and praising God. And it was an angel who said in Acts chapter 1 and verse 11: "Ye men of Galilee, why do you stand, gazing up into the heavens? This Jesus, this same Jesus which was ascended, caught up together before you in the air, this same Jesus will so come in the same way that you've seen Him go away". He will come again!

My friend Max Lucado is a wordsmith and he writes often of Christmas, including a renowned book called No Wonder They Call Him Savior. But here’s what he said recently about this Jesus and this Christmas season. I quote Max: "Tis the season to be looking not for a jolly man in a red suit, but for a grand King on a white horse. At His command the sea will give up the dead and the devil will give up his quest. Kings and queens will give up their crowns and broken hearts will give up their despair. And God’s children will lift up their worship". And he said, "Wise is the saint who searches like Simeon, who seeks and searches like this man, righteous and devout".

And therefore, several things in closing. I want to mention to you just how should we live in anticipation of that day. If Simeon lived to the day he embraced Christ, how then shall we live? We are to live looking for Him. Looking for Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Not staring at the sky like a crazy person, but living with the anticipation in view of His coming, through the lens of the Scripture and the signs of the times that are being written in these last days. That we live with this confident hope every day; an eternal hope in Christ, that we are looking for Him, that we would live with this attitude of Simeon ourselves which says: "Perhaps today". And then we are to be longing for Him to come.

As Christmas approaches most of us have a check list of some kind, a to-do list. And we have plans and parties and gifts and trips and all these plans. We're getting ready for Christmas. We're preparing for the moment. So in anticipation of the second arrival, the Second Advent, are you preparing? Are you getting ready for the Rapture? You say, "How should I do that"? I quoted earlier from 1 John chapter 2, but let me read it again. 1 John chapter 2, the entire verse. It says: Chapter 3 rather, verses 2 and 3: "Beloved, we are now God's children and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself".

Devoutness. 1 John 2:28 says: "And now, little children, abide in Him (remain in Him, stay connected to Him) so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming". So if there's anything in my life, in your life that is misbehavior towards God, bad behavior in life towards others, if there are places that I shouldn't be going and things that I shouldn't be doing, if there are attitudes or actions that I'm taking that do not honor God. Not only those things that I'm doing, but those things that I'm not doing that dishonor God. Am I being faithful in worship? Am I being faithful in my tithes and my offerings to my church and work of Christ? Am I devout in this? Or no? Am I devout in my witness? What about church?

Hebrews chapter 10, verse 25 says that we "should not forsake the assembling, the gathering of ourselves together as is the manner of some. And so much the more as you see (what?) the Day". You know, one reason, I'll give you one good reason to be in church and in the gathering of God's people. Because the Day is coming soon and I don't want to let the Lord catch me hanging out doing something else when I'm supposed to be in church. Now I know some people if Christ were to come right this moment you'd want to crawl under that pew because you're not ready and you would be ashamed as John talked about. But we are to long and love His appearance. Ecstatic! Simeon was ecstatic in his praise for God. The Second Coming is not something we dread or want to avoid. We look forward to His arrival, don't we, with rapturous joy.

Jesus said in the last sentences of The Book, God's Word, in the book of Revelation 22:20, He says, "Surely, I'm coming soon". And John the Revelator responded as we ought to respond. "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus"! Come on, Jesus! We're ready! And serving Christ and giving your life means that all your like this old man, this veteran believer who lived and lived and lived everyday with hope to the moment he met Jesus and he was ecstatic with joy when he laid his eyes on the Lord. We're to live like that. You know, Christmas will get here soon enough, this Christmas, and it will come and go like every other Christmas every other year. And if it's just a holiday to you, it will be over soon and you will get over it. But if Christmas is Christ, if it's all about Jesus in you, you will be ready, not only for Christmas but everyday afterwards.

Being ready for the Rapture, being ready for the return of Christ couldn't be more important. He's coming to all who, like Simeon, welcome Him and wait for Him and look for Him. That’s what you need to do today. Is to listen to the Spirit of God who’s calling your name and is giving a promise and if you will look to Him and lean on Him and long for Him and live for Him, that one day and one day soon He’s coming for you. The best day of your life if you’re a Christian is the day you see Jesus face to face. It was the best day of Simeon’s life for sure. And it’s the best day of every believer’s life when we put our faith and trust in Him.
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