What have you been expecting? The hope of Jesus or the brokenness of the world? In this message we take a look at the life of Simeon and Anna from the Christmas story and learn how to expect and hold on to hope.
Alright, Christmas boxes, are you serious right now? What a fun way to think about Christmas. I am so glad to be a part of a church family that thinks on mission during Christmas. I’m so excited for what we’re going to do for the at-home experience on the 24th. It’s going to be awesome. So before we get started, let’s take a second and welcome in all of our campuses, whether you are joining us from Gainesville, Lewisville, Denton, The Venue, Flower Mound, online, somewhere in the world, let’s welcome each other together today. And it’s Christmas. There are trees going up all over the place. There are peppermint lattes getting sipped all over the place. There are Amazon boxes coming at the house every day. There are dads all over the country that are looking at the same ball of lights that they so diligently wrapped last year and thinking to themselves, “How could this happen? How is it possible that this ball could be wrapped beyond even the hope of Jesus?”
It’s Christmas. It’s happening. There’s such an expectancy for Christmas this year I don’t know that I’ve ever seen — I don’t know that I’ve seen people put up their trees faster than they went up this year. If you put up your tree before Thanksgiving, do not raise your hand, we know who you are.
And we want you to know, it’s okay.
Because putting up your tree this year is a little bit like an adult snuggie, it doesn’t make a lot of sense but boy is it comfortable.
It’s just nice, give that tree a hug. And 2020 is a year that we can some comfort because it’s crazy. Man, it’s just we continue to be in the cycle of all kinds of craziness. We got people that are telling us things like we have drive-through office Christmas parties as if office Christmas parties were not hard enough and weird enough as it is. That’s 2020.
We could use some comfort. Anybody else needs some comfort this year? It’s okay with the Christmas tree. So there are high expectations this year. And that’s good because Christmas should be a season where expectation grows, an expectation of peace, of thrill, of hope, a time to take a breath to rest, to give to those that we love, to slow down and believe that good things are on the horizon. Christmas is a season of expectation. And I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a more expectant Christmas than 2020. It kind of reminds me of one year that I had a 2020 Christmas. Let me try to explain. So one year, the only thing that I had asked for was the only thing that really mattered in the world that year, a 10-speed Huffy Mountain Bike. Now, I was really clear that this is basically the best bike ever created. And because back in those days, bikes are starting to be built with like the straight handle bars, that was the coolest.
So I wanted that. That was the only bike that I asked for, the only thing I asked for that year. And so I knew that this bike would probably not fit underneath of the Christmas tree. As you know that’s pretty big, so I’m expecting it to be somewhere else in the house hidden from me, waiting for my delightful surprise when it comes out. And so we went through all of the other presents that, we opened them all up. We got the stocking stuffers, we focused in on all the other presents. And then it was time to go downstairs to look at this one giant box that was wrapped downstairs. It didn’t fit under the Christmas tree. Of course, it would be downstairs. So my family all got ready to walk downstairs for the pièce de résistance of the Christmas season.
And as we huddled around all getting ready to open this box, we didn’t know who it was to or who it’s from. Started to rip that thing open. And to my surprise, it was my sister’s Barbie dream house, four-foot tall, which is not the same as a 10-speed Huffy bicycle. So my heart sunk and my expectation was quite unmet in that moment.
And I got so frustrated that I was like seeing red. I was like, that’s the only thing I asked for, are you serious? And I was so frustrated that I just couldn’t even barely notice when my parents grabbed the 10-speed Huffy bicycle, rolled it in from the garage right in front of my face. I can remember driving around the neighborhood and still being angry as I’m riding my new bike.
And isn’t that so like us? Isn’t that so like what happens when our expectations are unmet? Isn’t it so like us to miss in a year like this the very things that Jesus has already given to us? 2020 is like my Christmas was that year, my unmet expectation weighed so heavy it was difficult for me to see the good things my parents had done for me right in front of my eyes. And I think the same thing has happened to us this year.
I think the unmet expectations of this year have made it very difficult to see the very good things that God is doing right in front of our face. So here’s my question for you as we round into the Christmas season. How’s your expectancy? More specifically, what are you expecting? Are you expecting the goodness of God more than you expect the brokenness of the world? Are you expecting? Are you anticipating? Are you dwelling on the goodness of God more than you expect, anticipate, dwell on the brokenness of the world? Because Psalm 34:8 says this, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” That’s a Christmas verse. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Notice it doesn’t say, wait and see for the other shoe to drop. Wait and see for the next bad thing to happen. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Can I just tell you, God is good. And His goodness is pouring all over your life even now. There’s so many people, including myself, I feel like I’ve been just waiting to see for the next year to drop. Just waiting for the next broken, bad thing to happen. I watch the news cycle, like if I watch news on TV, I feel like I’m doing like with one — like one eye open, like afraid of whatever’s going to come through. You go to your phone and you just know what’s the next new story that’s going to like break my heart, that’s going to be so disappointing. I talked to somebody this week that said that they’ve been afraid to pick up phone calls because they believe that on the other end of the phone call, somebody is going to either report a sickness or just like they just straight lost their mind, like everything is falling apart. So they’re starting to expect the brokenness of the world each and every day of this season. But taste and see that the Lord is good. That’s a Christmas verse.
The Lord is good. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices during Christmas.
So to understand that, remember that the baby Jesus was born into a world that was used to the other shoe dropping, used to the next bad thing happening. When baby Jesus was born, they had faced all kinds of bad news, man. They were under Roman persecution. They faced years of disappointment. They’re waiting for the next taxes to be levied upon them. And it was in that very first Christmas that hope came down in the form of a baby in a manger and that hope has never left. That hope will never die because it can’t die because Jesus is alive. And the very hope of Christmas is alive. So how is your expectancy? You see, expectancy and a confident expectation of the goodness of God, that’s really the definition of hope. Check this out. Hope is the confident expectation of the goodness of God but despair is the fearful expectation of the brokenness of the world. Hope, a confident expectation that God is good no matter what is going on around me, that’s what hope is.
Despair that I think has taken over a lot of our lives is this fearful expectation, this dread of what’s going to happen, of what the brokenness of the world is going to give to us. And honestly, I believe we’ve had far more expectation in the brokenness of the world than we have in the goodness of God, which you have to catch that it’s not the brokenness of the world that’s our problem, it’s our expectancy of it. We should expect the world to be broken. The world got broke when Adam and Eve broke it. And ever since then sin and disease and broken thinking, and broken relationships have taken over. And so the brokenness of the world should never surprise you. What should surprise you if you start to develop an expectancy for that to be the way that it is. In fact, you should know in your heart, you should have the sense that if your expectancy is growing, if your hope if you will is growing in the brokenness of the world, you have to remember that the world, in this world you will have trouble.
But Jesus is really clear in John 16, he says, “Take heart I have overcome the world.” And so then the brokenness is not the issue, it’s our expectancy, waiting for the next shoe to drop. Take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. The world is broken, it’s really broken, but Jesus has overcome the world and so we should begin to expect that his victory, his winning, his victory over sin and death and everything else that goes with it, that should be our expectation. So how is your expectancy this year? What are you expecting? I think some of you are really excited about Christmas. Some of you are really excited about the New Year. And some of you are like just dragging into it. Are you just dragging your foot along as we get into this season?
Because it’s been a really hard year, man. It’s been a year that — it’s had a lot of mental fight.
It’s had a lot of grit that we’ve had to go to get through it. It’s had a lot of disappointments that have built in it. And some of you out there, you’ve been facing this season where the loss of job, the loss of a loved one, the loss of dreams that you once had, it’s really starting to weigh on you. When you think about the weary world, when you hear that phrase in a Christmas song, you’re like, yeah, that’s me. If that’s you, I’ve got a specific word I want to give to you as we get going here. It comes out of Proverbs 23, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Somebody here today needs to hear that. Surely there is a future for you, and your hope will not be cut off. There is a future in Jesus’ name, and your hope will not be cut off. If that’s you, if you had a year where you just started to expect the brokenness of the world, take heat, there’s a future for you in Jesus. Christmas reminds you, you don’t have to despair.
The Christmas story is a story of hope and it’s as relevant right now as it was 2,000 years ago. It’s relevant right in this moment in 2020. You see, the Christmas story reminds us to expect always the goodness of God. But how? Well, to really think about Christmas, you got to think about it in the context of the people who experienced that first Christmas. To understand the story you got to understand where the followers of God were at that time. You see, they basically just had 400 years of COVID. They had 400 years of silence directly before baby Jesus was born. And those 400 years of silence were a year in which no new prophecy, no new information was coming from God directly to them. And during that silent period, they had to play the waiting game. And I think there’s some of you who probably played the waiting game this year but in different ways. Maybe you’ve waited for school to come back. Maybe you waited for that relational breakthrough. Maybe you’ve waited for your health to turn to the better.
If so, then you can empathize with how the Jewish people felt that first Christmas. They waited a long time despair had ruled but hope was rising. And hope was going to rise in the form of baby Jesus. And so if you’re familiar with the Christmas story, just remember the context in which it comes to us. And maybe you’re familiar with a lot of the characters of the Christmas story. You think, yeah, I’ve heard those characters. I’m familiar with those guys. I can’t really empathize with them because they’re a lot different than me. Like I’m not Mary, I’m not like peacefully pondering things in my heart and just chillin’ waiting for baby Jesus. I’m not like Joseph, I’m not loyal and faithful. I’m not like an angel, like fear not, like that’s not me. I can’t really relate with that. Well, maybe you can’t relate with those guys, the most common characters in the story. But maybe you can relate with Simeon and Anna. You ever heard of them? See, Simeon and Anna are two of the most underrated Christmas characters. You see, they are two people who waited with expectancy for baby Jesus to be born.
Check this out. This is the story of Simeon. It says, “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and he was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and he praised God.” And there is the Bible’s Lion King moment, ah zabenya, like he raised up Jesus and he blessed him and he blessed Mary and Joseph. And so he eagerly waited and he expected to see the goodness of God and then he did. What I want you to catch here is that Simeon lived with expectancy.
He expected to see the goodness of God and then he did. I want to encourage you, live with expectancy of the goodness of God. Expect to see. Every day from now all the way through Christmas, what if you just woke up in the morning and just said, “God I expect to see your goodness today. I have only an expectation of the goodness of God as I wake up this morning.” What if you did that every day from now all the way through Christmas? It’s amazing how that would change things because what you have to catch is what you expect you will see. You see, our lives are far more prophetic than we realize. Christmas is far more prophetic than we realize. That is, Christmas is actually a calling forth of the things that we don’t see possible coming forth, coming to be. Your life is far more prophetic. That is when you start to speak it out you’ll begin to see it. So as you expect you will see.
In fact lived like Romans 4:17, look at this, “The God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” So Simeon lived his life with an expect-to-see, an expectancy of how God was going to move. And I think we can do the very same thing. You got to catch this. Simeon was really old, man. His people have been beat down for 400 years. He was towards the end of his life. Some of you are like, man, I aged 400 years this year. I know, I did too. I used to have hair.
That’s not true. I was born bald. Okay, are you here with me? Simeon waited a long time but he didn’t lose his expectancy. He expected to see the goodness of God and then he did. Can I ask you, what is the not in your life right now? What are the things that are not that you can call forth in Jesus’ name?
What is the cannot? I cannot see how this is going to work out. Maybe right now you say, man, I cannot get through to my kid, I cannot make any traction at work. I cannot stop looking at dot, dot, dot. What is that thing? What’s the not in your life that God wants to encourage you to call forth? Because what you expect you will begin to see. Can I challenge you? Begin to speak hope into that specific area. God, you are my provider. I cannot see how the finances make sense. In fact, they don’t make any sense. But God, in Jesus’ name, I call forth that you own the cattle on a thousand hills and my God will meet all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. I expect to see the goodness of God in my finances. God, I cannot see how my body is going to be healed. I’m facing this prognosis, it’s really scary, but God I’m calling forth a God of miracles in my life. I expect to see the goodness of God in my healing because by your stripes I can be healed.
God, I cannot see how you’re going to be able to breakthrough in my marriage. I don’t really see how it’s going to work itself out because it’s been like this for a long time. We’ve been going down this road. I cannot see how we’re going to be able to redeem what’s been lost in my marriage. But God, I also know that You are the God that gives life to dead things including my marriage right now. And so I’m calling it forth in Jesus’ name with a confident expectation of the goodness of God that you will place yourself into my marriage. And so even though I cannot see it right now, I can believe that God is good and His goodness will pour all over my marriage even in this moment. What is the cannot in your life right now? Call it forth in Jesus’ name.
What is the thing that you can’t see happening right? Call it forth and believe, live with the expectancy of Simeon. So he is the first character, Simeon. I want to be like that guy. I want to live with that expectancy.
The second one is Anna. She’s very similar. There was also a prophet, Anna. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting praying. 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. There’s so much to love about Anna. We need some more Annas in our world.
Anna cultivated a heart of hope in a world of despair. She called forth and waited and worshipped and looked forward to what God was going to do. What I want to point out here is it says that she worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. What this means is she never left the presence of God. She never left the presence of God because she knows that wherever the presence of God resides is where hope resides. And so Anna refused to leave the presence of God.
And she really believed — I mean she’d gone a long time, right? She was very old. She lived with her husband seven years, then she was eight-four years old. She really believed that God wasn’t holding out on her, He was holding something for her. So that is she cultivated a heart of hope, believing and looking forward to what God was going to do. And one of the only ways you can do that in life is if you hang in the presence of God because the presence of God is where hope resides. It also says that she never left the temple. She was there all the time. What I think is so special about that is that God never leaves the temple either. I want you to think about this. The Scripture say if you’re in Jesus that you are the temple of the living God. So Anna never left the temple. And God never leaves the temple. So God never leaves you. So in seasons like this, you can hold on to phrases like, I will never leave you or forsake you.
The very presence of God is always with you. The question is, are you aware of it? Are you aware of that presence? Are you aware that God is with you? God never leaves you. So that means you are literally the place where hope resides. The question is, are you aware of it? Where the presence of God resides, that’s where hope resides. And so Anna never left the temple. God never leaves you. And that’s why Christmas is a reminder or Immanuel, God with us. And it’s not just God with us, it’s actually God in us. And so you have the very essence of hope inside of you cultivating this expectancy of the goodness of God. In fact, Psalm 23, you’re probably familiar with this passage. It just says, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Can I tell you, God’s goodness is tailgating you this season. It is the kind of tailgate that you want. His goodness is behind you, is beside you, it’s in front of you, it’s around you, it’s within you. The goodness of God is for you. It’s following close behind. It’s following so close that you can taste and see that the Lord is good. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. You already do. If you’re in Jesus, you get to dwell in his presence where the Lord resides forever. And so you can cultivate this expectancy that the goodness of God is all around you, it’s within you and you dwell where God dwells. Because of that, the essence of hope, the expectancy of the goodness of God is yours this Christmas season. May we cultivate this heart of hope, this expectancy like Simeon, like Anna. What I want to do is just real quick, show you how to do that, giving you three quick handles on how to cultivate that expectancy to expect to see the goodness of God.
Here they are. Worship, pray, hold on to hope. Really simple. Worship, just turning your attention and your affection. It’s being reminded that the presence of God is with you, is in you, is surrounding you, and worshiping Him for who He is. Well, the really practical ways you could do that is to turn on Spotify or go on to YouTube and just track with Valley Creek Worship. You can turn that thing on repeat. I know we even got some Christmas songs in there. And let worship begin to fill up your house and your home and your mind, and you can worship God and let that presence be activated inside of you. You can pray. You can pray to God but not like in formalized weird language, like just pour out your heart to God like Anna. So Anna prayed, she just poured out her heart to her God. And you could do the very same thing. And when you pray, know that God hears you as if Jesus himself were praying the prayer.
Why is that? Well, because if you have Jesus and he’s in you, then God hears your prayers as if Jesus himself were crying out about that thing. So just begin to start that conversation. Pray continuously throughout this Christmas season. And finally, just hold on to hope. The way I want you to think about this one is holding on hope. Every time you see a picture of Mary holding baby Jesus, think to yourself, that’s holding on to hope.
Mary herself, she was holding on to the living hope that first Christmas season. And you can also. Because hope is not ethereal, it’s not out there somewhere, it’s here, it’s accessible, it’s for you. Hope, the confident expectation of the goodness of God. You can hold on to hope each and every moment of every day. Worship, pray and hold on to hope. See, that very first Christmas night, expectancy was high.
Four hundred years, man, that’s a long time. The birth of a baby would ensure that hope would never die. And the goodness of God could always be experienced in tangible form. The same is true today. So what are you expecting? Are you expecting the goodness of God more than you’re expecting the brokenness of the world? This Christmas, may we truly hold on to, grab hold of hope in our hearts, a thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices. The world has never been more weary in my lifetime than right now. So we even declare that a thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, maybe that’s you. Maybe you’re just weary. Maybe you came in here and you just like barely made it through the door. You came online, you barely made it online to watch the service.
Can I just speak that over you a thrill of hope? An expectancy of the goodness of God and you in your weary world you can begin to rejoice. Thank you Jesus for a hope that never dies. I encourage you, worship, pray and hold on to hope. Let hope rise, expect the goodness of God, and show distain for the brokenness of the world. Come on, Jesus has overcome it all. So maybe even just bow your head and close your eyes with me right now. And just as we begin to pray right now, as we begin to have this part of the conversation, I just — let me just ask you, how is your hope? How is your expect to see? If we’re honest, man, there’s just a lot that our eyes have been focused on that are not the goodness of God, that are not the overcoming savior that is Jesus.
I just — I even pray right now, as you’re listening to this, if that’s you, if you’re like, man, if I’m honest, man, I just didn’t — I’m looking at all the wrong things. And my despair is taking over. All right. Then hold on to hope. Let hope rise in your heart and in your mind in this place, in this season. Thank you Jesus that we can hold on to you. We hold on to who you are and what you’ve done and your goodness in our life. We feel your goodness pouring all over us, surrounding us, reaching way down deep into our brokenness and our broken hearts, reviving us. Hope, even as I pray that it’s reviving your soul right now.
It’s filling you with the goodness of God in the midst of this broken world. We expect to see your goodness this Christmas. We expect to see your goodness, Jesus, next year. We expect to see your goodness each and every day of our life. We call it forward, confidently knowing that you’re with us. You’re for us. You’re not against us. And because you’re not against us, that if you’re for us, then nothing and no one can come against us. There is no brokenness in the world that we have to fear. There is no hopelessness that we experience. We hold on to hope in the midst of a world that’s in despair, a thrill of hope. Our weary world rejoices in Jesus’ name. So may you hold on to hope all this Christmas season. You know that God isn’t just good, He’s good to you.
He’s not just good to them out there, He’s good to you, to your family, to your children, to your friends. We speak a confident expectation of the goodness of God into your life today. We love you Jesus. Thank you for your goodness and all the hope that is rising inside of us this Christmas season, in Jesus’ name. Amen.