Simeon’s moment…and ours

Luke 2:25-40

What was Simeon going about doing that day before he was moved by the Holy Spirit to walk over to the temple courts? Had he been amidst throwing pottery on a wheel to sell in the market tomorrow? Had he just returned home from a walk on a sunny Jerusalem day? Had he and his wife been locked in a conflict? Maybe the same mountain they’d circled numerous times in their long marriage? Even righteous men aren’t perfect husbands. Even devout men need a Messiah.

Simeon and all of his fellow Jews were awaiting the consolation of Israel. Oh, the day when all would be made right. God perhaps coming as a messiah king with flowing robes, trampling the Romans as He did, finally freeing His people?

Whatever he was doing that day, Simeon stops. He hears from God in a way that moves his feet. Does he remember the promise–oh, the promise!–that day, however long ago when it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t die before he’d seen the Christ, the Coming One. Does he know this prompting today is tied to that promise, or has he over the years learned that simple obedience to what God says is, truly, the best way to live?

He sees a man and woman–both young and yet with eyes that seem to hold secrets–holding a baby and a pair of birds for the sacrifice for after delivery of a boy.

What did Simeon’s brain register in the nanoseconds between when his eyes land on Jesus and the confirmation that courses through his body like electricity.

That’s a…I was expecting…not…so little…a…baby?

A baby. 

In seconds, Simeon closes the distance between him and this Promise. Did he even sprint, even though culturally shameful for older men to run? How could he not? How could he do anything but take 7-week-old* Jesus in his arms and praise God?

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel.”

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 8.53.14 AMSimeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni

*7 weeks or, more accurately 41 days, because of Leviticus 12:8 that states how many days before circumcision occurs and then how many days after that for a mother’s purification before the baby would be brought to the temple for dedication. Picture this little guy, below, our Joshua about that age. Now, just picture a Middle Eastern Joshua. This is the age you receive real smiles from them, engaging eye contact.

Oh, Simeon! How did his weight feel in your arms? Holding the One so long awaited? The One who made the heavens and the earth?

And I can imagine how you looked on Jesus. But I’d love to know this: how did Jesus look at you?

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And Jesus and Mary stood there mouths agape, I picture, marveling. Not understanding…yet…understanding. Did all the world stand still for them? Even if their ears were ringing, almost like the first sign of a faint about to fall on them, still they heard Simeon speaking over their son.

This stranger with their son in his arms blesses the young parents, confirming that the angels speaking to them, the star, the shepherds, all of it…it wasn’t a dream.

Then Simeon turns his gaze to Mary.

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Before Mary can even begin to digest those words of prophesy, an old widow named Anna bursts into their holy gathering. Her presence was likely more striking because of her joy and solid hope in God than the wrinkles of her 84 years. Her husband had truly become the Lord all these years, after only having been married 7 years, even as she lived at the temple.

And so it’s the old woman who is the first evangelist. She thanks God and then begins proclaiming the good news of this young baby “to all who were looking forward the redemption of Jerusalem.” Can you picture it?

Excited and confused voices, mixed with the sounds of animals to be sacrificed–lambs and birds–ricocheting off the stone walls and floating up into the heavens.

I can picture Anna and Simeon waving people over with a youthful zeal not matching their age. Come see! Come see! 

Does a crowd gather? Who can make out what this all means?

At the center is an old man, an old woman, a young man, a young woman, their sacrifice, and the Sacrifice to come–a grinning and cooing 7-week-old.

Immanuel.

 

 

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The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection

I’m on a journey of emotional eating and have been for years. There are times I’ve walked over to join someone else walking the path, or motioned over for them to join me.

But most the time, I’ve chosen to journey alone. Often, tired from lugging huge suitcases around. I keep hoping to “arrive” (whatever that looks like) sans all baggage and throw a huge party with banners and confetti and then! invite friends and announce, “Look where I am! Ta-da!”

That seems so very silly–even ludicrous to actually say out loud–but that’s what my flesh thinks would be good.

I’m so thankful that Jesus is stronger than my flesh. As the song “Thy Mercy my God” remembers, “Dissolved by the mercy, I fall to the ground and weep to the praise of the Mercy I’ve found.” (More on that in another post.)

It’s God’s incredible mercy that dissolves me in the most wondrous way, at times. Like recently. He is stirring in me a desire to stop living solo and ask friends to sojourn with me.

I’ve had seasons of wanting to read the latest book or try the latest “fix” but something’s shifted in my soul in the last handful of years. I have a keen awareness that if I could’ve changed things on my own by now, I would have.

(Oh, that Mercy doesn’t allow self-sufficiency to fix ourselves! I think I finally see this as a gift!)

Rather, what I’m hungry for is a bigger view of Him (thanks for putting that to words in my kitchen, Meredith).

My gut (no pun intended) says that’s the core of real, lasting change and freedom. As I consider His character, His attributes and what He’s done for me…oh! How that affects my heart. He becomes more the Greater Affection.

And herein lies a huge piece of the puzzle for me: The Expulsive Power of a New (I’d say Greater) Affection.

Thank you, Thomas Chalmers, for your sermon with that name. You were born 200 years ago, but I think we’d be contemporary sojourners if you lived today.

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Tim Keller writes:

Thomas Chalmers, the well-known Scottish preacher, in his famous sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” says it all: Seldom do any of our habits or flaws disappear by a process of extinction through reasoning or “by the mere force of mental determination.” Reason and willpower are not enough.

“But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed…The only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”

A young man, for example, may “cease to idolize pleasure, but it is only because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendancy” and is enabling him to discipline himself for prosperous business. “Even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart” if it’s drawn into another world of ideology and politics, “and he is now lorded over by the love of power.”

But “there is not one of these [identity] transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered, but… its desire for having some one object” of absolute love “is unconquerable.”

It is only when admitted “into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Jesus Christ [that] the spirit of adoption is poured out upon us. It is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominate affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way that deliverance is possible.”

So it isn’t enough to hold out a “mirror of its imperfections” to your soul. It’s not enough to lecture your conscience. Rather, you must “try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of him who is greater than the world.”

Until you’re melted by the amazing sight, knowledge, and sense of Jesus taking the fire for you, you can’t have that transformation of identity. You can’t just decide, “I think I’m going to change my identity.” It can’t be done. It has to be an experience of love.

What do you think?