Advent Nativity - Week 4: Anna & Simeon

Advent Nativity - Week 4: Anna & Simeon
This olive wood nativity set was hand carved in Bethlehem. Roger and Mary Bailey purchased it on their first trip to the Holy Land in 1999.
I invite you and your family to join us on our journey to the manger as we prepare our hearts for Christmas. The “Advent Nativity” series reads through the entire Christmas story from the Bible as we add a few pieces to the nativity scene each week. This week we’re not putting up anything new, but we're focusing on the baby Jesus.
Editor's Note: The next blog (the wise men) will post early for those following along with Sunday classes that don't meet Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Look for it at 6 AM CST on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. There will be no additional blog posting Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. Merry Christmas!

Week 4: Anna & Simeon

The past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about how God’s people had waited a long time for the Messiah. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would have a baby. This baby would be Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. Then an angel appeared to Joseph, her fiancee, in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because Jesus was a very special baby. (Read more here.) Then they had to walk 100 miles over several days to get to Bethlehem for a special census. Pregnant Mary may have ridden a donkey, but it was still a long trip. When the got to Bethlehem, there were so many people that all the inns, the hotels, were full. One innkeeper was nice to them and said they could stay in the barn so they would at least have a place to sleep. That is where Mary had baby Jesus. His first bed was a feed trough full of hay. (Read more here.) That same night, a bunch of shepherds was watching over their sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared announcing "good news that will cause great joy for all people" (Luke 2:9). This angel told them that the long-awaited Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. That was Jesus! The shepherds went and found the baby lying in a feed trough and wrapped in soft cloths, just like the angel said. After they left the stable, the shepherds told everyone what had happened. When they returned to their jobs watching sheep, they were still praising God. (Read more here.) The next part of the story happened when Jesus was eight days old.

Luke 2:22-40 (NIV)

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
This was a special day when Mary and Joseph celebrated the birth of Jesus by giving God a special offering of thanks. When they finished, they expected to simply go home. Instead, they ran into some very special people. The first was a man named Simeon. Say that name with me. Simeon.
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.
Did you catch that? Simeon had been waiting for the promised Messiah. On this day, God told him he needed to go to the temple. Simeon went, but he wasn't sure exactly why. Something amazing happened when Simeon saw Mary and Joseph bringing baby Jesus.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

I would have marveled too! Simeon said some amazing things about Jesus.

34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

This is what Simeon meant. Jesus would grow up and live a perfect life. He never sinned or disobeyed God, not even once. Then he was killed to take our punishment for sin. It would hurt Mary to see her son died. This is what Simeon meant when he said, "And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Jesus really died, but three days later, He came back to life again. This made the way for us to be forgiven of all our sins. God forgives everyone who believes in Jesus and tells God they're sorry for the wrong choices they've made and don't want to do them anymore. We become God's children and He comes to live with them forever. That's exciting news about Jesus, but that's not all Mary and Joseph heard that day in the temple. After Simeon left, someone else stopped Jesus' parents at the temple.
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Redemption is a big word that means to save. Jesus was born to save people from their sins. Anyone who turns away from their sin and believes in Jesus will be saved. This includes you, me, people living in Jerusalem, and people all over the world.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
We're going to leave the story there for today. We'll talk about the wise men another day. Let's pray. God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Jesus to save us from our sins. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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