The After Christmas Spirit
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Another Christmas has passed, now what? What do we do now? Do we just forget about our Savior birth and just wait till next December to praise our Lord Jesus?
In the Scripture today Jesus is 41 days old, and in vs. 22 His parents have taken Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord. While they were there, the Holy Spirit made sure that they crossed paths with a very devoted man named Simeon. Vs. 26-32 tell us that, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by 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 which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.’”
1. So as we look beyond Christmas -- Now what? First, stay close to the Lord in every situation.
This elderly widow named Anna teaches us to stay close to the Lord. Listen again to her life-story in vs. 36-37, “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and had lived with a husband 7 years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about 84 years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.”
Anna may have been over 100, because vs. 37 may mean that she had been a widow for 84 years. And over her long life, Anna teaches us that we should stay as close to the Lord as possible. Stay close to the Lord in every situation -- Even in times of stress and sorrow. Anna knew all about sorrow. She had only been married 7 years when her husband died. Did he get sick and suffer from a lingering illness? Was he killed in a terrible accident? Was he killed by a robber or a Roman soldier?
However he died, it must have broken Anna’s heart. But Anna did not make the tragic mistake so many people make. Anna did not pull away from God. Vs. 37 tells us that she did not depart from the Temple, and this tells us that Anna stayed as close to the Lord as she possibly could. That’s exactly what we should do. Even in times of sorrow.
We must stay close to the Lord in every situation. And the great news for us is that through Jesus Christ we can get closer to the Lord today than Anna had ever dreamed. Even when she was looking right into the face of baby Jesus. We can get closer to the Lord because Jesus has now died on the cross for our sins. We can get closer because Jesus is risen from the dead. We can get closer because the Holy Spirit of Christ is at work in our world right now in a way that He did not work before the cross. We can even have the Lord right here in our hearts… if we will open our heart to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. So get close to the Lord. And stay close to the Lord.
2. As we look beyond Christmas, stay close to the Lord in every situation. -- And serve the Lord every way you can.
Anna served the Lord every way she possibly could. In vs. 37 she “did not depart from the temple but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” There is no way for us to measure the blessings that came from Anna’s service.
-It was spiritual service. -- We see that in her prayers.
-It was sacrificial service. -- We see that in her fasting.
-And it was steady service. -- Anna served the Lord night and day for a long, long time.
Whether she was 84 or over 100, the Lord blessed her with a very long life, and she made the most of her life. Anna served the Lord every way she could, as long as she possibly could. And one lesson for us is that we are never too old to serve the Lord. But a bigger lesson is that we must serve the Lord while we can. Most of us will not live to 84. -- Almost certainly not to 100.
Time is short. We must serve the Lord while we can, trusting God to use our faithful service in ways we cannot see. Anna had no idea that God would add her story to His Word, or that millions of people would be blessed by it down through the centuries.
3. As we look beyond Christmas, serve the Lord every way you can. -- And trust God to surprise you with joy.
God loves to surprise His people with joy. I have no idea what kind of day Anna was having when she walked across the temple court. But I can imagine that she was in some pain -- achy shoulders or knees. Her sight must have been failing. She might have been lonely. Anna might have been carrying some heavy burdens that day. But she had no idea of the wonderful thing she was about to see.
In vs. 38, as Anna was going about her normal day, she ran right into the new-born Savior. Suddenly Anna received a new burst of joy in her life! God made sure that she got there just in time to see Simeon take the baby in his arms and say, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Anna was surprised by joy. And many times, the Lord will do the same thing for us. Maybe it’s the joy of a new baby or grandbaby, or a special time with friends, or a good report from the doctor. God likes to surprise us with His joy, and it can come in the smallest things of life. But the best joy comes as it did that day from our close encounters with the Lord. Those times when He allows us to see His Hand at work. Those times when He gives us a special touch.
Believers, God wants to surprise you with His joy. And this is so important, because Nehemiah tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. And joy is one of the most, Godly characteristics we can have in our hearts. The fruit of the Spirit is love…Then joy!
Joy is a good and proper and Godly thing. And what do you think I will do if I have this Godly joy? I will do the same thing Anna did in vs. 38: “She gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Anna shared her joy with everyone she possibly could. And that’s what the Lord wants us to do.
You see, many around us today are living in fear because of this pandemic. As they should be. This is a scary situation our world is in. It is even scarier to handle, if one does not have the Lord in their hearts. That is when we can tell them about the peace that we have in Jesus.
You may not feel very joyful today, but don’t give up on the joy of the Lord! Ask the Lord to restore His joy to you… And He will. That is of course…if you are living in sin, then joy will be really hard to find. Because sin is blocking your joy… your relationship with Christ.
4. As we look beyond Christmas, trust God to surprise you with joy. -- And strengthen your life with spiritual growth.
The Lord Himself is our model for spiritual growth, as we see in vs. 40, “The Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
God never wants us to get stuck in a spiritual rut. As long as we are in this world, the Lord wants us to be growing spiritually. God wants us to grow strong in His wisdom and grace. In Ephesians 4:13&15, Paul tells us that we should grow…
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
Peter also reminds every believer the same thing…
2 Peter 3:18
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
Pastor/Author Selwyn Hughes (some of you may remember him for your devotional, Everyday with Jesus) helps us see God’s high standards with these questions:
-Am I trying to grasp things from God’s hands or are my hands relaxed and empty so that I might receive?
-Do I shrink from painful experiences or do I welcome them in the knowledge that they will make me a more sensitive person?
-Am I so sure of God and His resources that I am free from a spirit of “demandingness” and over-concern?
-Is my goal to be happy, or is it to be holy?
-Am I more taken up with getting pleasure out of God than I am with giving pleasure to God?
-Do I have a deep compassion and concern for the plight of others?
-Is my heart clean and pure?
-Have I experienced an inner cleansing that has reached to the deepest depths?
-Am I a reconciler -- one who seeks to reconcile others to God and, where necessary, to each other?
Pastor Hughes asked these questions and then added: “Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see all of these beautiful attitudes at work in your life. Remember, we grow in grace.”
Spiritual growth does not just happen once you are saved, even if you attend services regularly. Churches are filled with people who’ve attended for their entire lives, yet they are still spiritual babies. Spiritual growth is not automatic with the passing of time. The writer of Hebrews sadly noted, ‘though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again’ (Hebrews 5:12). Millions of Christians have grown older without ever growing up.
The truth is that spiritual growth is intentional. It requires a commitment to grow. A person must want to grow, decide to grow and make an effort to grow. Discipleship begins with a decision.
Make the commitment today. Don’t let your spiritual life get stuck in a rut. Don’t let your past mistakes or failures keep you in the past. God DOES NOT, want you there. There is no growing by staying in the past. God wants all Christians to grow spiritually. But how are we going to do it? There is a whole lot to say about this, but today let me just focus on two requirements for spiritual growth…
1-Of course, we must feed ourselves on the Word of God. Peter was speaking to believers when he said: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). One problem many Christians have today is that they are starving themselves from the Word of God. And I am not just talking about coming to church on Sundays. I am talking about taking in some of God’s Word every day. Baptist Pastor, Jerry Vines said, “An unread Bible is like food uneaten, a love letter never read, a buried sword, a road map unstudied, gold never mined.”
2-We must feed ourselves on the Word of God in order to grow, but also realize that you cannot grow alone. The truth is that Christians need relationships in order to grow. We don’t grow in isolation from others. We develop in the context of fellowship. Belonging to Christs’ body.
Christmas has passed once again. But that’s not the end for us. Make it a glorious beginning.
-Stay close to the Lord in every situation. Serve the Lord every way you can.
Pastor Richard Santos
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