The past few weeks we have been celebrating the season of Advent, a season in the church calendar where the people of God joyfully remember that God has come in the flesh, that Jesus continues to make himself known, and that he will come again in power and great glory. The word Advent simply means the beginning of things or the start of something, and in the Christian tradition we celebrate this season to remind ourselves of the truth that the birth of Jesus Christ in the city of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago inaugurated the dawn of a brand new Kingdom. In this new Kingdom of God; life wins out over death, humility trumps power, generosity becomes a way of living and light comes into every dark place.
During Advent this year we have been reflecting on the regular lives of those who lived during the days when God first put on flesh and was birthed to a teenage girl and her soon to be husband. During this season we have sought to live in the tensions of a Kingdom that has begun but is not yet fully arrived.
We looked at the lives of Elizabeth and Zechariah, an old couple that is well beyond child-bearing years, a couple who find out they will soon give birth to a son. Zechariah is doubtful and Elizabeth hopeful and we considered whether or not we will believe the good news that seems nearly impossible.
At our Collegelife service this last Sunday we took a deeper look at Mary and Joseph, the soon to be parents of an infant named Jesus, a child who begins his life in poverty but whom the angels prophesy will one day reign on the throne of his ancestor David. Who will in fact reign over Israel forever and whose Kingdom will never end! (Luke 1:32-33) For Mary and Joseph to be part of this coming Kingdom, Joseph will have to risk his reputation and Mary will have to receive a very high calling. And we invited you to consider whether or not you are willing to take the risk.
And this morning we look at another “couple”, Simeon and Anna. This couple is not a married couple but, is instead joined by a mission to identify the coming Messiah; the leader that God would send to save them. And we being with the question this morning, “Are we listening for the cues that God is offering to us?”
As we consider the question I invite you to read their story in Luke 2:25-38.
The people of God have been waiting for rescue. For generations they have lived under the strong hand of their oppressors and have been longing for a leader who would liberate them. Simeon and Anna have devoted their lives listening for cues, and searching for clues that might reveal to them the coming king.
Simeon was one of those who waiting, but not just for rescue for himself, Simeon was eagerly awaiting rescue for all of Israel. And one day as he was eagerly waiting, the Spirit of God led him to the Temple. Following the cues of the Spirit Simeon finds himself at the temple the very same day that Mary and Joseph come to present Jesus to the Lord. And after years of training his eyes to look for God, Simeon easily spots the Savior and takes Jesus in his arms and praises God saying, “I have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all people.”
I find it interesting that at the moment Simeon embraces Jesus that he proclaims that rescue will now extend beyond his own cultural group to all people, “He is a light to reveal God to the nations.” Aren’t you curious about what it would look like for each of us to embrace Jesus in such an intimate way that we too recognize that he came to rescue the whole world from their oppressors.
Anna is the second half of our couple. She has not had an easy life. Married as a teenager, as was the custom in her culture, she is married only seven years before her husband dies leaving her to fend for herself in a world that is not friendly to widows. Seeking refuge in the presence of God, whom she has heard cares for widows and orphans, Anna lives the remainder of her life in the Temple (Deut 10:18). After years of worshipping God day and night through fasting and prayer, Anna is also uniquely cued into the work of God. So much so that when she sees Jesus, she can’t help herself but to praise God for the one who has come to rescue. And her praise isn’t just vertical, she doesn’t just thank God, she proclaims this good news to everyone who has been waiting.
As we light the third advent candle, my prayer is that we too may we be confident that we can find refuge in the God who has always had a heart for the lost and the least. And like Anna may we find ourselves praising God and proclaiming the good news to everyone.
Lord Jesus we come to you today as our Savior and our Messiah, the One who came to rescue us from all that oppresses us. Help us to train our eyes and ears and hearts so that we might not miss out on the cues that you provide for us today. And we pray that as we follow your direction for our lives that we too, like Anna and Simeon, would find ourselves in the presence of the One who saves and like Anna proclaim good news to all the people. In Jesus name, Amen.