Silence. Painful silence. Heart-breaking silence when the ears and hearts of Israel were begging for Him to speak, for hope amidst crushing Roman rule.
I flip the page after Malachi, the prophet’s letter, marking the last of the Old Testament, and with ease — and no baited breath — begin reading the first chapter of Matthew. Like history moved as fast.
But that wasn’t how it happened. It’d be as if we hadn’t heard God speak since 1614.
A little context: Four years before, in 1610, Jamestown, Virginia was established as the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Interesting to read what else was happening in 1614. Are you as amazed as I am?
It’s this 400 years of waiting that has most struck me this Christmas season.
God’s used The Big Picture Story Bible, in large part, for this fresh look at Jesus’ birth. (Thanks to Jennifer Grant, for the head’s up on this great kids’ Bible.)
Even though God’s people were far from home, God still spoke to them. God sent more prophets. They spoke all His words and wrote them down in God’s holy book.
The prophet Ezekiel wrote that one day God would raise up the temple and give His people new hearts.
Isaiah reminded them that God’s forever king would come from the family of David.
The prophet Jeremiah was hopeful too. He said that Israel would return home again in seventy years.
Seventy years passed, and the prophet Daniel prayed to God. He asked God to remember His promise, and God heard Daniel’s prayer.
Finally God’s people went home to Jerusalem. They returned to the land. But they had a lot of work to do. Jerusalem and the temple were ruined.
They worked very hard. And when the foundation was finished…the people celebrated!
All the people shouted loud praises to God. They were happy. With trumpets and cymbals they sang to God: ‘For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever…’
But many of the older men cried. Can you guess why? They cried because they remembered Solomon’s beautiful temple and knew that Israel could never completely rebuild God’s place.
They cried because they still longed for God’s forever king to come.
without a single word from God.
And the years turned into many years. And the many years turned into hundreds of years, and the great promises of God seemed to fade away.
Israel became less important in the world. Other nations became great–strong nations, powerful nations whose kings ruled over God’s people.
One such king was Caesar Augustus.
This Roman ruler thought he was very important.
One day he wondered to himself, ‘How will everyone know that I am the great Caesar, the Roman ruler, the king of the world? I know! I will count all the people under my rule. Surely that will show the world how great I am.’
So Caesar, the Roman ruler, the king of the whole Roman world, began counting all his people to show everyone how great he was.
What Caesar did not know what that God, the world’s true ruler, the King of the universe, was getting ready to show everyone how great He was.
God was going to end His many years of silence.
God was going to keep His promise of a forever king.
And do you know how God was going to do this? Not like Caesar. Not proudly, by counting all his people. But humbly, by becoming one of His people.
In the power of His Spirit, God would bring His forever king into the world as a baby!
This glorious moment in time — the prophet Simeon holding and beholding Jesus — has been a centerpiece on my desk this Christmas season. I first saw it in a book of Ron DiCianni’s work when I lived in Wheaton, Illinois in 1997.
I bought the book solely for this picture and it’s made every of my up-teen moves around the country and globe. This year I decided to stop waiting for the money to frame it as it deserves and not miss out on another Advent when Simeon would have my heart rejoice along with his.
So, I tore out the page — tearing it poorly, sadly — and bought a cheap frame that doesn’t quite fit it.
But for the first time, it’s on display and there are days that I sit at my desk, where I have it, and I simply just stare.
It’s mesmerizing to see faith becoming sight.
Simeon had waited. All of the family and friends he’d known or had heard about — apart from the Patriarchs and men of old — held up empty hands when asked when they’d last heard from God.
Yet Simeon waited with hope. How? Why? Because “it’d been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the [Savior]” (Luke 2:26). Oh, what a gift.
He hoped for the day when God would speak again. And at Jesus’ first cry, God spoke.
Oh, this undoes me!
No wonder he weeps! I wouldn’t be surprised if he vacillates between sobs and boyish glee as he talks to God….oh my! A new, fresh thought right now: He’s talking with God! It’s a dialogue as Jesus coos! Not a painful, one-way conversation that Simeon and so countless others have had, as they prayed and begged God to come to their rescue and save them.
“Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2:28-32).
The Rescuer had come! And not like anyone had thought.
Merry Christmas from the land of tomorrow, where December 25th is here in two hours.