The Advent of Joy
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Luke 2:22–2:38
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem 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, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for 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. 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,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. - Luke 2:22–38
Typically, at some point later in the sermon, I would define what Joy is. I think today, it’s helpful to start out with a clear understanding and then allow our passage to instruct us in the implications of that Joy in the life of the Believer… Simeon & Anna serve as examples of waiting with joy!
As a reminder: Advent means ‘arrival of…’ so today we’re looking back to the arrival of joy in Jesus Christ and we’re looking forward to the eternal arrival of joy in his coming again. That leaves us in a place of waiting today. Perhaps, even a place of longing today and it can be easy to lose heart in our waiting and longing.
We all long for joy that isn’t fleeting -
we’re given that as a gift through Jesus.
Especially when it comes to a subject like joy. Too often we confuse the fleeting feeling of happiness with the deeply-settled-inner-emotion of joy.
I appreciate Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ definition:
Joy is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.1
Perhaps, rather than turning to a dictionary to help us understand the difference in the fleeting-feelings of happiness and the deeply-rooted joy that we long for, let’s turn to scripture instead.
I say let’s look to God’s Word because… In many conversations today, I find myself on what can at times seem as if it is a battleground. Not with the person I’m talking with -rather- a battleground of the definitions of the words we’re using. I mention this, not to demonize individuals, our own language, or make the individuals we carry on conversations with ‘the enemy’ in any way.
I simply want to recognize that gaining in understanding - for maturity in our own knowledge, for understanding one-another, etc. It helps to work from the same definition of the words you’re using to communicate. It often can seem in conversations that I’ll have with different people, perhaps you’ve experienced this, whoever has the most up-to-date definition, carries the direction of the conversation.
Thankfully, God has revealed himself to us through His Word, this stands the test of time, stands as the ultimate revelation -AND DEFINITION- of who he is and stands as the fullest meaning of who we are called to be in him.
God’s Word helps us understand how joy can be found in a man who, as Isaiah states: was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. This is reconciled in Christ as the one who satisfies my mind; He satisfies my emotions; He satisfies our every desire.
He and His great salvation include the whole personality and nothing less, and in Him I am complete.
So, Joy is both deep and profound. Affecting the whole and entire personality.
What we’ll learn through scripture is this: There is only one thing that can give true joy and that is contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, let’s take a look at the New Testament together…
These are just some of the ways that we can maximize our joy!
(I’ll have this list online with my sermon notes for further study in God’s Word)
- Joy’s presence In our own hearts - filling for transformation
- Repentance brings joy (Luke 15:7, 10).
- The hope (absolute assurance) of future glory brings joy (1 Peter 4:13).
- The Lord's Word brings joy (John 15:11).
- Prayer brings joy (John 16:24).
- Week of Prayer & Fasting in Jan
- The fruit of Joy for the benefit -or blessing- of others
- The presence and fellowship of believers brings joy (1 John 1:3-4).
- Community groups matter! I know this is your heart as well - we’ve already seen some groups fill up and just one week in we have already seen half of our normal participation sign up for our next term…
- Converts bring joy (Luke 15:5; Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19-20)
- Hearing that those you have mentored are being discipled and walking in the truth brings joy (3 John 4).
- Giving bring joy (2 Cor. 8:2; Heb. 10:34)
- We saw this throughout this last week as we made everyone aware of End of the Year giving opportunities
- Fellowship with God brings joy - empowering us to "keep short accounts" by confessing our sins, of forgiving others, so that this fellowship (with God & with others) is not adversely affected (1 John 1:3, 4, 1 John 1:9)
There is a chorus from an old spiritual song that is appropriate today:
But joy abides
In the heart that is
stayed on Jesus.
- Helen Howarth Lemmel
Q: What is your heart (“stayed” = settled on) today? What are you looking to, leaning on, investing in, to know joy in its fullest?
As we contemplate that answer, we recall that our passage gives us two individuals as examples for us to learn from:
Simeon - Simeon was dedicated to obeying God’s word. And he was full of faith—he was waiting for God to fulfill his promise to comfort Israel with a Savior. He believed God’s word of promise. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. This older man was controlled by God and empowered to serve.
Anna - If you ever want a picture of true devotion and godliness, look at Anna. She is a prophetess. Anna is also “well along in years.” Not only that, for eighty-four years she lived as a single woman following the death of her husband. Apparently she married young and was widowed young. You’d have to think she’s over a hundred years old if she married around age sixteen.
So, with this understanding of joy in mind, a little background on simeon and anna in mind - what are some takeaways for us today from this passage?
Christian joy is born of the Spirit.
3 times the passage refers to the Spirit’s influence on Simeon.2
- The Holy Spirit was Upon him (25)
- The Holy Spirit Revealed things to him (26) - that he would not die before seeing the Messiah
- The Holy Spirit Led him (he came by the Spirit - 27)
Connect Luke 2 with Acts 2 (lay the foundation for weeks / series ahead) - Luke is making a connection for us between Jesus’ coming and the Holy Spirit’s Indwelling the believer… but -make no mistake- the Holy Spirit is present all along and he bears the timeless nature of the alpha and omega!
Q: Is the Holy Spirit “upon” you?
John 14:17 "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Acts 1:8 “"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” 3
Christian joy is rooted in Christian hope.
Simeon & Anna were Led by the Spirit of God; Taught by the Word of God; Obedient to the Will of God; & Privileged to see the Salvation of God.
Early on in our Advent series this year we looked at the things we might be tempted to put our hopes in; Power, Control, Comfort or Approval - as well as how we are instructed to respond if that’s what we’ve been putting our hopes in.
Just to recap: it’s very simple: Repent.
Jesus, this baby that Simeon and Anna are celebrating is the same God who would reveal that he alone is “... the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Remember, we were created to be near him in his presence. Through Christ we’re invited to draw near into his Holy presence and not shrink back because of our sin.
In Simeon & Anna’s giving time to all of these things -the leading of the Holy Spirit, the instruction of the Word of God, their obedience to the will of God- that revealed where their hope was rooted… the question for us today:
Where is our hope rooted? What do our lives -or what we give time to- say about where our hope is rooted?
Simeon & Anna took prophecy & the promises of God seriously… Do we?
Christian joy aches, longs and rightly desires.
It is a joy directly connected with our Eternal future - not our past or even our present circumstances. That’s where our hope is the foundation… it’s not shaken by our circumstances: good or bad.
If we were to expand beyond looking to the New Testament, looking to the overall Narrative of scripture, we would see that there are many times when the people of God are experiencing pain, loss, oppression, etc.
This is often why we would see that when there was salvation a song of Joy was one of their first responses.
Christian Joy is not unrealistic, doesn’t require a hyper -or hypo- personality.
God’s word gives us tools to interpret the happenings in the world around us. Even the things we may be experiencing today…
It’s right for us to ache when there is loss or pain. That’s biblical, this is how we were created.
It’s right for us to long for justice, harmony with our fellow man. That’s biblical, that’s how we’re created
It’s right for us to have desires for ourselves, family, friends or loved ones
It is also right for none of these things, when they don’t go according to plan, to steal our joy… that’s also biblical.
All of these things can be true because they’re not based on our expectations, aches, longings or desires.
It’s true because it's not based on the moment that we’re living in now.
It’s true because our joy finds it’s foundation -it is based in- the transcendent nature of God.
The transcendent nature of the savior who is born to us, in the city of David, the town of Bethlehem.
I came across a helpful illustration for us as it relates to the longings, aches and desires that we do experience in this fallen world and how that directs our joy rightly:
ILLUS - The Playroom of the Soul
SOMEBODY has come up with a great concept—putting playrooms in doctors’ offices. Many parents bring their kids to the doctor because they are sick and they need the doctor to see them. The playrooms are designed to distract the children from the pain of their problem until their problem gets fixed. In a way - the playroom gives them joy in a bad situation.
God has given us joy as a playroom for our soul, but it’s more than just a distraction. This ‘playroom for our soul’ so-to-speak, reminds us of the joy of our salvation that Christ accomplished once and for all for us.
Our greatest need has been met, our greatest obstacle overcome, our greatest broken-relationship reconciled, our deepest sickness… healed.
This joy becomes a place of healing for the hurting, rejoicing for the afflicted and surety in the midst of unsettling moments in life.
Q: What does the playground of your soul look like?
Remember that the declaration over Christ’s birth is that it is: ‘Good news of Great Joy!’
After his death and resurrection, Jesus commissioned his followers to go out and announce the good news that he was the risen King of the world. 4
Because he knew that…
We all long for joy that isn’t fleeting -
we’re given that as a gift through Jesus.
Simeon and Anna would have been familiar with the stories of old - just as many of us are today. Accounts such as those captured in the book of Exodus for us when Israel returns from exile.
Then God Builds on the pattern of The Exodus of the people of God throughout scripture. Rescuing and redeeming…
Jeremiah tells us about a new Exodus that the prophets foretold of - complete with New Covenants that would change everything!
Sure, Israel would experience a brief period of Independence in the second through fourth centuries BC - even though in many ways other governments were still in charge, in a place of power militarily and economically .
See, the thing that was still going on in Israel's heart, was the slavery that they had to sin.
This New Covenant that the prophets foretold of would be one where God promised to remove their sin once and for all.
So when we arrive at the New Testament we realize the second -or new- Exodus is not yet complete.
Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple as a baby and there was a prophetess named Anna. Waiting for God to redeem his people - To keep his promise and finish the second Exodus.
Luke 2:38 tells us “that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the Redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna knew that Jesus would finish the Redemption promised in the second Exodus.
This reminds us today that when God works to redeem his people - he brings them out of their slavery to their sin, so that they can serve him.
Jesus presents us with joy before the Holy God who is now our Father, we can participate in this joy - a fruit of the work of the spirit - by joyfully serving him with our whole heart, mind, soul & strength.
Jesus is not born to wealth or power -although- Jesus is God himself in the flesh.
To face the good news of the gospel is to face our Holy God, who cannot allow for sin in his presence.
Hebrews 4:12 reminds us - to face God is to have our thoughts and hearts opened and revealed.
-and- Luke 2:34 tells us this will result in a fall for any who are proud or opposed to Jesus.
But for those like Simeon & Anna who see Jesus and respond to him with hope, there is great news!
This account is not here simply as transitional filler in scripture: it invites us to see Jesus rightly and receive him at the level of our heart as Savior and Lord.
Holding back nothing because God sees and knows all things, even what we ‘settle’ -or lean on- in our hearts to find Joy.5
Helen Howarth Lemmel (author of our chorus earlier on the heart that is stayed on Jesus - she also wrote the song “Turn Your Eyes” - which may not seem like a ‘Christmas Song’ - that’s because it is an Advent song…)
Our JOY is found, in this advent season, not just in Christ’s coming to earth for our salvation. Our JOY is also found in the truth that he is coming again!
Jesus is our savior who himself was satisfied in providing the satisfaction for our sins - as we’re told in Heb 12
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.- Hebrews 12:1–2
1. Life in Christ Studies in 1 John by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
2. Anyabwile, Thabiti. Exalting Jesus in Luke (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary)
4. Adapted from https://d1bsmz3sdihplr.cloudfront.net/media/Script%20References/adv03-sn-1-1.pdf
5. Adapted from The Gospel Transformation Bible