Christmas Was the Ultimate Spiritual Breakthrough by J. Lee Grady for Charisma News
Have you ever prayed for something for a really long time, with no evidence of an answer? George Mueller, a British man who fed hundreds of orphans in the 1800s, prayed every day for the salvation of five men. The first man was converted after 18 months, and the second surrendered to Jesus after five more years. The third man gave his life to Christ after Mueller had prayed for six more years.
The last two men were still not Christians when Mueller died in 1897, even though he had prayed for them daily for 52 years. But history records that both of them were converted after his death! Mueller’s testimony inspires me to be consistent in prayer, even when I feel tempted to give up on a promise from God.
The Christmas story is also a testimony of answered prayer, although few people look at the birth of Jesus that way. One of my favorite scenes in the nativity story occurs when Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus to the temple for His dedication. There, they meet Simeon and Anna, two elderly followers of the Lord who have been praying for years for the arrival of the promised Messiah.
Luke’s Gospel says of Simeon 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” (Luke 2:26). We don’t know how long this old man had prayed, but it was probably multiple decades. Things didn’t look hopeful at that time, especially with Roman armies occupying Israel.
Imagine his joy when he walked into the temple that day. He realized that God had finally answered his consistent requests. When Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he took Him in his arms and said: “…my eyes have seen Your salvation” (v. 30).
Anna, who was 84, never left the temple because she was praying continually for the arrival of the Messiah. She erupted in joy when she met the baby Jesus and his parents—”and she continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38). Obviously a faithful remnant of Old Testament believers were praying, groaning and travailing for God’s promise to become a reality.
The Christmas story revolves around a joyful birth, but it was also the culmination of a long and painful process. Mary carried the baby Jesus for nine months, but the gestation period for the Messiah took centuries. Ancient prophets, dating back to the time of Moses, had declared that the Messiah was coming. Even in the darkest times of Israel’s history, when the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, prayer warriors believed and claimed these promises: