Friday, January 5, 2018

My Eyes Have Seen Salvation (Luke 2:25-35) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

Today, Sunday, December 31st, marks Day 7 in the Christmas season.  This day pictures Seven Swans a Swimming, in the song - The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Of course few people are relaxing at a park, in a tranquil setting, watching the swans gracefully swimming by.

This week is a time people start the big clean up from the Christmas festivities.  Family members and relatives are getting on planes or in their cars to return home.  Still others are making final preparations for the New Year. Today, December 31, is still the Christmas season and we continue to reflect upon and celebrate the birth of a baby, named Jesus, the Savior of the world.

An author writes: “A baby is God's opinion that life should go on.  A baby represents life.   Never will a time come when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn baby. The finest watch, the fastest supersonic aircraft don't compare with a newborn baby.  A baby is very modern. Yet it is also the oldest of the ancients.

Our story from the Gospel of Luke is about an 8-day old baby named Jesus. He was brought to the temple by Mary and Joseph.  Simeon sees this baby.  Now is there anything more awe-inspiring, more breathtaking, more wonderful than seeing or holding a baby?  There is something extraordinary about a baby. It’s hard to put into words.  It’s a holy moment, a sacred moment.  The birth of a baby is a miracle of God.  A baby represents unrealized potential, new possibilities, new beginnings, promise.

A young couple brought their new baby to visit their elderly neighbor.  He was 89 years old and he and the couple had become very close.  After a brief conversation, the neighbor asked if he might hold the baby.  The mother carefully laid the baby in his frail arms.  He held the baby quietly, gazing intently into the baby’s face, and whispered: “I have been looking at the end of life for so long; I just wanted to look for a few moments at its beginning.

Simeon, a devout Jew, had been going to the temple, day after day, to await the coming Messiah.   Joseph and Mary come to the temple for the three customary Jewish ceremonies: the ceremony of circumcision, which required that Jewish boys be circumcised on the 8th day as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel, a ceremony of dedication to God of the first-born and a ceremony of purification or of giving offerings to God.  Being poor, the couple offer a pair of turtledoves or pigeons, the minimum requirement of Jewish Law.

Simeon was an elderly man who did not live in the past, re-living memories, but rather he concentrated on the future.  He lived daily with a sense of anticipation and expectation about tomorrow.  He was praying for and watching for and waiting for the coming Messiah.

Simeon knew upon seeing the baby Jesus, that God had fulfilled His promise to him.  Taking the baby in his arms Simeon praises God: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

Simeon predicts the hardship of Jesus’ future ministry - “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel.”  “His ministry will encounter opposition.”  “And a sword will pierce your own soul,” meaning that Mary, Jesus’ mother, would know the grief of seeing her son’s death.

Simeon saw this baby as the fulfillment of God's faithful promise of a coming Messiah.  Simeon saw the future wrapped up in this little baby.  Simeon knew God’s plan was unfolding; Jesus was the precursor of a new beginning for the world.  This baby was a symbol of the new age to come.    Simeon saw in Jesus the hope of the future not only for the Jews, but for all humanity.   You know, that’s an awful lot to see in one little baby.

This story brings an important message: look to the future with hope, dare to hope, never give up hope. Hope is a priceless jewel.  Maintaining hope in life is indispensable.  Hopelessness is one of life’s greatest enemies.

The story says: Put your hope in God, who has made himself known to us in Jesus.  The message here is: Don’t fixate on what the world owes you, but rather on what you and I owe to God.  This should be our perspective until the day we die.  Simeon knew God had chosen him to initiate Jesus into the Jewish faith and community.  He obeyed God and performed these Jewish ceremonies with excellence.

The message in this story is: Don’t get bogged down in the small things, don’t be shortsighted, don’t get caught up in trivial matters, but open your mind and eyes to see a larger purpose, a bigger picture in the events of your life, seek after and trust in what God is doing in life.  Simeon lives for one thing, to please God and to advance God’s glory.  That’s not a bad purpose.  His passion was to greet the coming Messiah.  He felt God calling him for that purpose.  He lived to see the grace, the power and mercy of God in the flesh and to fulfill his religious duties.

That’s not a bad purpose in life, living to see what God is doing, living to see God at work in life, living to see God at work in your personal life.  Seeing the Messiah was a defining moment in Simeon’s life, and so it is in our lives.

Simeon's story leads us to ask ourselves: “What am I waiting for?”  “What am I looking for in life?”  “What purpose is God calling me to fulfill?  Will you wait on the Lord?  Yes, when we look into the face of Jesus, we see our hope for this year and for every year.

Rev. Billy Graham, who is my opinion is the greatest Evangelist of all time, is 99 years old.  He wrote a book called Nearing Home.  He too is waiting for something; he is waiting to go to his heavenly home.  He says, "Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life.  I was taught throughout my Christian life how to die.  No one taught me how to grow old."  Does that resonate with anyone?

Like Simeon at Christmas, our eyes have seen God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.  May your and my prayer be: “Lord, may I see you in my life, and seeing you, show me how I can share in your saving work in the world. Lord like Simeon, I will not lose hope, no matter what happens, for I know you are with me wherever I go.  Amen!

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