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Lombard CRC

Simeon's Song of Salvation

Male emperor penguins teach us how to wait.

Throughout the Antarctica winter

the males stand huddled together

incubating the egg from the mother

while the mother’s fatten up

in the ocean waters miles away.

Between 32 and 68 days

the fathers to be endure

the dark and cold

of the most bitter of winter climates

with no food or water,

protecting the egg and then the hatchling.

Let’s watch a little clip about them

if you think you are cold today . . .

 

[show video]

See? Our winters aren’t so bad!

It is a compelling picture of waiting.

Sacrifice. Endurance. Expectation.

Sure.

But all for purposes of life.

 

Simeon has been waiting too:

‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’

is how he is described by Luke.

His neighbors and friends

need relief and comfort

and only God can bring that.

So he waits,

he waits for the coming Messiah.

For with the Messiah comes salvation:

all the hope, peace, joy and love

for which we are made,

what God intended for creation,

what every relationship,

every neighborhood,

every country and nation needs.

 

But now,

with the coming of Jesus as God incarnate

(that means, God being made human)

Simeon no longer has to wait.

Salvation has come.

 

Simeon sings:

My eyes have seen your . . .

his praise directed to the Heavenly Father.

My eyes have seen your salvation,

the gift of salvation God the Father has given.

What has Simeon seen?

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 . . .

 

When Simeon sees the baby Jesus

he sees God’s salvation

for you and me,

The Messiah for Jew and Gentile,

the vilest of sinners.

This is what Simeon was waiting for.

 

The message to you and me

is that salvation has come.

The Father gave his Son.

The Son, Jesus, gave his life.

The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith

to receive Christ’s sacrifice and

complete forgiveness

and with that a life justified,

made right and purposeful

with God in creation:

we belong,

body and soul

in life and in death

to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

By grace alone,

by receiving this Christmas gift,

his life for ours.

 

That’s the point of Christmas.

Have you given attention

to the grace of salvation yet this season?

Have you stopped to thank the Lord

that you are forgiven and are now

one of his?

Have you in your heart of hearts

received Jesus into your heart and life

confessing your sin

pledging your repentance

accepting that the Creator God and

Heavenly Father has fully accepted you

despite your being unacceptable with

Christ and his cross?

 

Perhaps you still struggle

to make peace with the Prince of Peace.

Or perhaps you would say yes

to everything I’ve already stated

but still live in the regrets of the past

the anxious thoughts of the present

and the doubts and fears of all the years.

Salvation: you know it, you know about it,

you don’t have the assurance of it.

You find yourself waiting, too.

 

And for us all,

we are living in an advent time,

a waiting time,

an in between time

between Christ’s first coming

as the child in Bethlehem,

born for us to die for us,

and Christ’s second coming,

to judge the living and the dead.

We are waiting for Christ to come again.

 

So let me ask you,

what are you waiting for?

The spiritual journey of faith

which we are all invited into

begins with waiting.

But that doesn’t mean just sitting around

watching the clock

and feeling stuck or useless.

Our waiting is a gift from the Holy Spirit

to give us room for exercising

hope, peace, joy and love.

The emperor penguin

is waiting for a new birth.

The male is sacrificing itself,

being vulnerable

for the hopeful and faithful purposes of life.

And so our waiting is opportunity

to practice faithfulness to God

in the habits of heart and mind.

And to turn our souls

to the hope of new things God is making

beyond what we could ever accomplish.

 

There is joy and peace in such waiting.

Imagine, at a time which for many is rushed,

or less than desired

what with the cold and darkness,

here is a season to live differently.

So here’s your question:

what are you waiting for?

Imagine our Heavenly Father asks you that,

how would you answer?

Is that answer a product of

faithful and hopeful waiting,

or does your answer come out of

bitterness, frustration or fear?

 

The story of Simeon’s song

teaches us how to wait well.

So that we use our times of waiting

to respond to the gracious gift

of the coming of Jesus

in ways that open us up to

and live in the assurance

of the Lord’s salvation.

 

We learn how to live a life

of waiting in the assurance of salvation,

we learn how to answer

the Lord’s question to us,

what are you waiting for?

from Simeon’s understanding of his identity,

and from his devotion,

and from his outlook

especially in comparison to what

Christ’s coming will bring to so many others.

 

There’s a Canadian saying for days like this

(that I think originated in England):

there is no such thing as bad weather,

only the wrong clothes.

Simeon’s song gives us the

habits of the heart and rules for the soul

that are the right spiritual clothing

for active, purposeful, life-giving

waiting in grace

no matter how wintry we feel.

 

Did you catch what Simeon sang about himself?

‘. . . your servant . . . ’

he understood this to be his identity

the meaning and purpose of his life

lived in thankfulness to God:

he lived the life of God’s servant.

That’s who he was:

his identity wasn’t in his health or wealth

or his age or what people said about him

or happiness or happenstance.

Who he was didn’t depend on

whether he was well-liked or judged.

He got his identity from the One

who made him,

he was a servant of God.

 

Do you think of yourself this way?

Today I am God’s servant.

Tomorrow, whatever I have scheduled

my life’s purpose is to serve the Lord Jesus.

At school, I’m just not learning subjects,

I am serving God with kindness toward others

and faithfulness to God’s commands.

I may have some unpleasant tasks

that require telling the truth

or doing what’s right

tho it costs me,

or letting go of what I want

in order to give preference to someone else,

but I am to serve the Lord, not myself.

This is a good way to wait in salvation.

 

We also learned something about

Simeon’s devotion,

and in that learn about waiting on

the Spirit to help us answer well

the question:

what are you waiting for?

Simeon is described as:

‘. . . righteous and devout . . .’

That means he was living a life

trusting and obeying

the commands to love God

and love his neighbor.

Luke stresses this when it comes to Joseph,

Mary and the family of Jesus.

In this first passage after the

story of the first Christmas Day,

five times Luke will mention

obedience and observance

and following the commands for worship.

 

Do we understand that such faithfulness

is still required of us?

That this is what we are saved for?

To follow Jesus and obey his law of love?

 

Our help comes from the Holy Spirit,

who gives counsel and comfort

along with the leading and power of God’s Word.

Simeon sings,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised . . .”

Holding the Christ-child in his arms

Simeon witnesses to us that the True God

makes promises and keeps them.

The Lord promised to come

to bring salvation, carry our sorrows;

pierced for our transgressions so

that by his wounds we are healed.

This same Lord has promised to come again,

to take you to be with him.

So I can in hope and joy

take up my cross

and value sacrificing for others

because God is keeping promises

of heaven and eternal life:

that’s where all this is heading.

 

One more thing about all the attention

to the Jewish faith and obedience to God’s law

surrounding Joseph, Mary, Jesus and Simeon here:

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish faith.

Simeon, Mary and Joseph, and then Anna,

all point to Jesus as the long awaited Messiah,

the fulfillment of promised salvation.

They are faithful Jews

and when they see Jesus they get it:

the Messiah is here.

But not only for Jews, for all religions too.

Jesus is a light to the Gentiles.

I think we have something here.

You know the argument, some argue that

it’s presumptive and arrogant

for Jesus and his followers to say

he is the only way

because all religions get you to God.

Instead of fighting that use it –

what if you asked the one who objects this way,

‘I’d like you to prove to me that your belief

or your faith or your religion

doesn’t point to Jesus

in a way that requires your response in life and heart.

For Luke tells us here that

Christmas points to Christ and prepares the heart

of Jew or Gentile,

anyone for an encounter with

and response to the living Lord.

Another’s religion may get them on the road,

but that road is all about meeting Jesus:

that’s where the fulfillment comes.

That might be a witness we can use.

Because in the end the True God can’t be about

religion but a person,

a relationships, a presence with us,

faith in the Faithful One.

 

Simeon ends his song and in blessing

reveals his outlook,

the waiting that Mary and Joseph will now exercise,

telling us how we too will wait:

“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.”

 

He tells us that living out our salvation

won’t always be easy.

There will be struggle

and opposition –

Jesus and his followers will be spoken against,

you will have experiences that can be described

not only as rising, but also as falling.

But all necessary to get to the root of our condition,

to reveal our hearts,

to divide the wheat from the chaff.

 

And if we can understand rightly,

and I think we can,

that Mary is spoken to

not only as the mother of Jesus,

but as a representative of the Christian church,

then we too will share in the suffering

that always accompanies salvation

as sure as joy is the result.

 

The presence of the Spirit works to bless us

in our waiting.

Every time you have to wait for something,

that’s a Holy Spirit moment you can use

to remember and respond to your salvation.

Our lesser waitings point

to a deep, great waiting within us.

Every time we are forced to stand in line,

get stuck behind someone in the left turn lane

who daydreams through the arrow,

or have our wants and wishes postponed,

this is a time to remember

that what we are really waiting for

goes much deeper to our life with God

waiting for the Lord’s presence

and the fulfillment of all time

in Christ’s second coming.

 

We can only begin to get there,

make those spiritual connections,

really learn holy waiting

when we know the difference between

being bored and being still.

Being bored seems to be our natural default.

Everyone knows how to choose to be bored.

You never taught your kids this:

none of you ever instructed your kids,

now, when you’re done what you’re doing

and you don’t know what to do next,

that’s when you come find

mommy or daddy and tell us

you’re bored and we’ll entertain you.

You never told them that,

but that’s what your kids automatically do.

Our hardwiring is broken

and when it comes to waiting

we default to boredom.

 

Being still is different, it’s harder,

it takes practice.

How many of us have ever said

I’m bored in church?

How many have said,

in church I learned to be still.

How can I learn that?

Use your waiting times.

Carry a Bible verse or phrase

that you can keep in mind and heart

for waiting times.

Examine your Sundays.

You know,

when we load up our Sundays

with ballgames and shopping

and eating out and movies and travel,

all the things we used to warn against

as breaking the 4th commandment –

that might be the place to start,

how do I keep the 4th commandment,

have I ever thought about how I break it? –

when our times are so loaded

we can’t be still for a worship service on Sunday,

and our minds are always thinking

about the next thing,

it’s hard to be still.

Try it: try for the next 30 seconds

to not say anything,

I’m not talking about saying things out loud,

I’m talking about all those thoughts

and conversations going on in your head,

for 30 seconds be still in your mind,

no thoughts, no words, just a quiet mind.

 

If we can’t be still for 30 seconds

is it any wonder that we’re anxious,

we can’t sleep at night,

we’re worried,

have gut issues,

are restless and without peace and joy?

 

So the Spirit arranges our lives

until we learn to wait,

to wait on the Lord:

I’m not the master of my life,

I’m his servant;

I’m called to obedience

as my waiting for the fulfillment

of Christ’s coming again,

so the Lord may find faithfulness when he returns.

 

And as the Spirit divides

the wheat from the chaff in my life

I will be patient in such suffering,

for he is keeping his promise

to make me holy.

 

So let us be amazed at this song

for God is keeping the promise

of Christmas in our lives, too.

That in the end we may not fall,

but rise with him at his second coming.

 

 

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