Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy and happiness! When family and friends get together to celebrate, to feast, to exchange gifts, and to encourage one another. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, eagerly anticipated!
Because we have such high hopes for good times, we can easily be disappointed if it doesn’t work out the way we wanted. And it doesn’t take much—a winter storm can cancel our get-together. Or even something as small and insignificant as burned dinner rolls can ruin the occasion. I recall from my teenage days an embarrassing argument over lumps in the mashed potatoes.
But so many face this Christmas season dealing with emotional pain that is far more difficult—over the top For them, approaching the holidays has been filled more with dread than with anticipation.
For those who have suffered crushing loss over the last year—the death of a family member; a gut-wrenching divorce; the foreclosure on a home; a major, life-altering illness; a job loss—for them and many others, Christmas may feel shrouded with disappointment and hopelessness.
And yet, we have the promise of God’s Word to remind us that even in the midst of pain, there is still hope! There is still healing! We have the testimony of many who have survived the worst that life could throw at them to remind us that there is still something to look forward to. There is yet a future.
For the past month as we’ve approached Christmas, we’ve heard about the light coming into the world, about God’s promise to a world in darkness, about the great expectations we can have because God sent his Son.
Even though Jesus has come, the story is not yet finished. The kingdom is in our midst, but it is not complete—not yet. Jesus tells us to pray, “Your kingdom come.” The light is dawning, but many remain in darkness.
So we wait. While we celebrate, we also anticipate. We rejoice that the Lord has come, but we also wait for our final salvation. We wait for the story to be finished.
Luke 2:25-32 (NIV) 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 upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. 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 now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Let’s take a look at Simeon. 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. We don’t know much about Simeon, but there are a few key things we can learn from him:
1. He was righteous and devout. Question: Is it possible in our day and age to be righteous and devout? Think about it: Simeon lived in an ancient time, a much simpler time. He didn’t have to deal with the temptations that we do! There was no radio, no TV, no movie theaters, no Hollywood, no Internet, no computers, no cell phones, no credit cards in Simeon’s day. Life was less complicated. Some might think ancient life was so simple, it was boring—so boring, it was easy to be righteous and devout.
Let me assure you: no matter the time or the circumstances, the human heart has a problem. It’s not easy to be righteous or devout. The Bible says that the heart is “desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9/KJV)—“beyond cure” (NIV). Ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden, the human condition has been flawed.
It is a remarkable thing for someone to follow God when everyone else is going after sinful desires. It takes courage to stand for right when the wrong is so popular. Simeon chose to follow God. So should we. He was committed to God’s ways, living a life dedicated to the Lord. So should we.
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel…
2. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.
Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel—another way of saying he was waiting and hoping for comfort and encouragement.
Many people today want to be comforted and encouraged. The world needs consolation. The world is desperate for hope, longing for answers, needing comfort. So many hearts are hurting—they are struggling, hopeless, full of despair.
We live in a dysfunctional world. Some use alcohol or chemicals or gambling to dull the pain. We have counselors and psychologists and Prozac and all kinds of meds to cope or to take off the edge, to help us gain emotional equilibrium and stability. If one thing doesn’t work, let’s try another.
All those things, however are like trying to put a band-aid on the world’s pain. They are woefully inadequate. With all the stuff that is supposed to make us feel better, we are often left with more problems than we had before.
Human solutions go only so far. We try to fix our problems, but human solutions cannot fix the sin that makes the our hearts dysfunctional in the first place.
We live dysfunctional lives because selfishness and pride build walls between us. Because sin—rebellion against God—undermines our relationships. We go against God’s ways and go our own way. Sin causes us to lose control of our lives.
It’s no wonder the world needs consolation—comfort and encouragement. Sin leads to a lot of pain and suffering. The world’s solutions just don’t cut it. The world’s answers will always fall short.
You can pass gun laws. You can lock up criminals. You can prescribe meds. You can counsel and psychoanalyze. But you cannot fix the human heart. Only God can bring comfort and healing to a broken heart.
Consolation—the act of consoling someone; to comfort, to support, to encourage. Even the noun “con-sole” refers to furniture or bracket that “holds something up.” God came to “hold us up,” to support us, to lift us.
For days the lead story on the nightly news has been funerals of small children. The whole country has mourned following the mindless slaughter of innocent children in Connecticut. We feel the raw pain of inconsolable grief.
As the pain of this tragedy is laid bare, however, we’ve also seen and heard about many acts and words of consolation for the families and the town. For people who hurt and grieve.
The unthinkable violence in Connecticut is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of tragedies and disappointments buried within hearts of people all across the land—often in people who look pretty good on the surface, who hide their troubles beneath a nicely dressed exterior and a plastic smile.
Our society is hurting in so many ways. A young wife needs consolation because her husband walked out on her. A young man needs consolation because his boss had to let him go—but he can’t find another job. Homeless on the street. Sick in the hospital. Prisoners in the jail. Bank foreclosed on a mortgage. Depression and despair have become epidemic, though we live in a nation blessed with material wealth beyond anything the world could ever imagine.
You can multiply all those stories by hundreds and thousands. The tears and the agony add up higher and higher. As one person told me this last week, “I hate my life.” It wasn’t life he hated; it was the disappointment and the stress that had taken over his life.
Another said, “I’ve been struggling…actually come to the point of not being able to trust God. I always used to say, ‘God will work it out’ or ‘God will take care of it’…[but] I came to the point that I just didn’t believe that any more.” There’s more than enough despair and hopelessness in this world.
So here is Simeon—waiting for consolation. Support. Comfort. Simeon was finally rewarded when he saw God’s plan of salvation—as Joseph and Mary brought their small baby into the temple. Finally, through Jesus, Simeon found consolation. And so can you! Through Jesus you can find consolation.
26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.
3. He was moved by the Spirit.
Simeon was given consolation—because of the work of the Holy Spirit.
The two are connected. Consolation is paráklēsis (παράκλησις) = a calling to one’s aid, i.e. encouragement, comfort [NASB Strongs]. Jesus referred to the Spirit as the “Comforter”—paráklētos (παράκλητος) = an intercessor, one who consoles. Both come from parakaléō (παρακαλέω) from(para) and (kaleo); to call near, to call alongside.
Imagine someone cheering and encouraging from the sidelines. A coach urging his players on. The Holy Spirit is all that—and much more! He encourages us by running alongside, by being with us. Even more, when we’re overcome by grief or discouragement, he lifts us up so we can lean on him.
God wants to come near to us to help us, to lift us, to support and encourage us. He wants to come alongside us in our struggles. So he did two things: (1) He sent Jesus. Immanuel. “God with us.” (2) He sent his Holy Spirit. The Comforter. The Helper who gives us strength, support, consolation in our mess.
27 …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 now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
4. He saw God’s salvation.
If our message about the coming of God’s salvation into this world is to be legitimate, then it must stand the test of reality. The Christian message is not merely wishful thinking—closing our eyes to the brutal realities of life and somehow wishing it all away. No! This is a real event, solidly anchored in history. This is not a fable!
The story of God coming down to this broken, sinful world is not about “happily-ever-after” in some kind of Pollyanna, saccharine-sweet fairy tale.
No! God actually did come down to this world. He came in the form of a human baby: supernatural became natural; spiritual became flesh and blood. He came to live among us, to feel what we feel (hunger, thirst, weary bones, muscles aching from hard work).
God walked the road we walk. He experienced loss and disappointment. And he suffers with us. Why? So he could be the One who saves us from the curse of sin and from ourselves.
So here is Simeon—one who read the OT prophets and knew what to expect. He was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” It’s an unusual phrase—not found elsewhere in the Bible. But it captures precisely what God wanted to do for people: comfort, heal, restore, forgive.
Simeon was waiting for the “consolation of Israel.” But you don’t have to wait! You can experience God’s comfort and peace even now—even in the midst of a messed up, hurting world, you can have God’s peace that passes all understanding. Even in the midst of your own hurt and pain.
With chaos and trouble and despair all around, your heart can be an island of hope and trust and confidence. Because God brings consolation!