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?

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 9.47.29 AM.png

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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400 years of silence, broken by a cry

IMG_7244400 years. Four hundred years. It’d been 400 years since God had spoken.

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.

Years passed…

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!

Every Ch
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b] 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” Luke 2:21-35.
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.