Christmas Lights went up early this year.
Some people were putting them up in March and encouraging others to do the same.
One CNN article said:
“The idea is that twinkling, colorful lights will lift spirits during these dark times. And it doubles as a social distancing activity: people can admire the lights from the safety of their own homes or cars.”
On Monday Caleb & Emily put up the lights. Caleb said, “Dad I just need some Christmas in my life.”
People need something to look forward to. Having something to look forward to gives us hope. Hope gives us a reason to keep going.
I have good news – Christmas season is HERE!
Today is week one of the Advent Season.
The advent season includes the four Sunday before Christmas when the church looks back to Christ’s first arrival in Bethlehem and looks forward to His second and final arrival.
For the next four Sundays we will reflect on 4 different words.
Hope – Peace – Love – Joy
Advent is a word that means Arrival.
At Jesus’ first arrival he was proclaimed as Savior.
To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, He is Christ the Lord.
In His second coming He will be Judge and will gather all those as Paul says who “have longed for His appearing.”
We stand now between the two arrivals – waiting.
The circumstances of our lives are changing daily.
The Advent season is an invitation for us to step back from our daily lives and to see the big picture of God’s great salvation.
God has given us reason to hope but our hope is not dependent on a feeling but hope is in the person of Jesus.
Christmas lights tell us – Christmas is coming. All the stuff of Christmas can create in us a feeling of HOPE.
We need the feelings, but today I want us to think about the reality of HOPE, not just the warm fuzzies of Hope.
Biblical Hope is a confident trust that God will keep his promises.
Today we will consider three dimensions of HOPE by looking at Simeon in Luke 2.
The Act of Hoping
The Reason for Hope
The Object of Hope
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 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.”
Who is this man Simeon?
He was old and close to death because Simeon says, “I can now depart in peace because your servant has seen your salvation.”
Luke does not tell us about his position or occupation.
Simeon viewed Himself as a slave to God.
Like a slave, Simeon thinks of himself as totally responsible to and dependent on God.
The Act of Hoping
What does the act of hoping look like in Simeon’s life?
The scripture says he is waiting.
In the Hebrew language the word “Hope” means “to wait”
The root in Hebrew of wait is “stretched string”
There is tension on the string of a guitar waiting for someone to come along and create music. The potential for music bound up in the guitar “waiting” to be played.
The connotation of waiting in our culture is “boring”
“I’m waiting for my movie to load.” “I’m waiting to finish school.”
But think about the picture of a groom waiting for his bride.
I’ve been to many weddings and I cannot remember a single wedding where the groom was up front checking his watch… sighing… rolling his eyes.
All the guys I’ve seen are waiting with anticipation. Maybe nervous and jittery but smiling. One of those smiles where your face hurts you are smiling so much.
Simeon waits… He prays… He watches, looking forward to God’s promise while living a devoted and righteous life.
Live a righteous life – Simeon treated people rightly.
He led a devoted life. Devout means he is careful to fulfill his religious duties.
Peter instructs the church to live in the same way as we wait for the second advent.
2 Peter 3:11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.
Living Devote and treating people Rightly booooring.
Maybe you need to reframe that thought.
Living devoted to a God who is powerful, who is endless joy, who has perfect knowledge, who is completely just is boring?
On Thursday, I smoked a Turkey for the first time. It tasted good.
The turkey turned out good because I followed the recipe.
This is an analogy… I’m not saying life with God is a recipe – a dash of prayer, a pinch of church and you will have a beautiful life, but what I am saying is the life we have now can be a good life if we continue in our devotion to God following the instructions in his word.
As we looked at Proverbs over the last year one of the themes we saw was that life generally goes better when you go God’s way. The proverbs are not promises that all will go well but general principles for how life works.
As we wait we can “follow the recipe” so to speak.
Will we be thankful in all circumstances or complain?
I understand we are longing for something better and that something better will come, but will complaining speed it’s coming?
Will we live distracted or devoted to God?
Is filling my life with the most possible pleasure my primary goal while I wait?
I’m not saying avoid pleasure so that you will be holy and devote.
Every good thing comes from God. Pleasure is not the enemy.
While we wait, what will we prioritize?
Reason for Simeon’s Hope
What was Simeon’s reason for Hope?
God has made a personal promise to Simeon
The promise was, Simeon you will not die before you see the Messiah.
God’s specific promise to Simeon fits within his larger promise to the nation of Israel.
Simeon is waiting for the consultation of Israel. The consultation of Israel is another term for waiting for the Messiah.
Messiah is a word that means – Anointed One.
A king is “anointed” or designated as the chosen one to lead a nation.
David was anointed as king and ruled as Israel’s most prosperous king.
God made a promise to David.
The promise was that there will be a King who would come from the line of David and would sit on David’s throne forever. That King is the “Anointed One” – the Messiah
King David dies. The kingdom of Israel is divided and eventually the people go into exile.
After Exile some return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the city in preparation for the coming king, the Messiah.
The people wait 400 years between what we call the old testament and the new testament. Slowly the prophetic hope for a Messiah turns into a pessimistic hope.
Maybe God has not kept his promise?
In the fullness of time Jesus comes and he claims to be the Messiah.
Jesus is talking with a woman in John 4. She knows of the Messianic hope and she says
“I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”John 4:25-26
The messiah has been promised but the people and Simeon have been waiting a long time.
Why would Simeon think that God would keep his promise?
Simeon is devoted and careful to keep his religious duties. His religious duties help him to remember the faithfulness of God.
He knows the story of the Old Testament.
God promised deliverance from Egypt and it came.
God promised to provide in the desert and they had water and food.
God promised a land to live in and the walls of Jericho fell.
Simeon has reason to Hope because he remembers that God is faithful and God keeps his promise.
You and I have reason to Hope.
We have reason to hope because God kept his promise to Israel and he is faithful and still keeps his promise.
2 Peter 3:8-10 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Listen to some of these promises. I pray they are an encouragement to you.
I will never leave you.
I will never forsake you.
I will send the Holy Spirit – He will be a comforter and guide.
I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against.
Do not let your heart be troubled. If I go, I will come again.
Simeon had reason to hope. We have reasons to hope.
Object of Simeon’s Hope
The Object of Simeon’s Hope was Jesus.
Scripture says “He took the baby (Jesus) in his arms.”
Simeon picked up an actual person. The hope for salvation is Jesus.
The celebration of Jesus’ first arrival is not a fairy tale story.
Christmas is a remembrance that God became man. Jesus took on flesh. He entered into space and time and experienced human existence. Joy, pain, laughter, food, sleep, prayer, walking, playing… all of it.
When Simeon picks up the child Jesus he does not say this baby is a sentimental reminder of God’s love and our hope for a better world.
V 30 my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Simeon is alluding to several passages from Isaiah when he praises Jesus.
Isaiah 49:6 I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Isaiah 52:10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
He bared his arm. God showed his strength. Salvation is only something that God can accomplish for us.
Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone.
Although Jesus is the Messiah promised to come to the nation of Israel He is the Hope for all the nations.
Jesus is a light in the darkness.
Darkness is the absence of light.
We know intuitively that the world is not as it should be. Something is broken.
I remember sitting with my dad when he was sick and thinking. This is not RIGHT! Death, pain, sorrow, separation – this is not the world that we were meant to live in.
God what is the plan? God do something!?!
He has done something. He has kept his promise. He has given his son.
Simeon then makes a prophecy – Jesus is going to cause a rising and falling in Israel.
Those who take pride in their own spiritual heritage and achievements, there will be no place for them. They will fall.
Those who throw themselves on God’s mercy, they will rise.
Then a personal message to Mary.
“A sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon is speaking of Jesus going to the cross.
I can scarcely imagine the anguish that Mary felt at the cross.
She probably asked as we do, “God what is the plan?” “How could this happen?”
Simeon gave Mary a glimpse of her future anguish but Jesus gave his disciples a fuller picture of the plan.
“The Son of Man (Jesus) must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Jesus went to a literal cross and died.
On that cross he paid the penalty for our sin.
When we trust in Christ’s work on our behalf rather than our efforts God forgives us and accepts us on the merit of Christ’s work on the cross.
God implants the Holy Spirit into us and we live no longer under the shadow of death.
The resurrection gives us a confident hope that Christ will come again.
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
We have a present hope, a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection.
We have a future hope that because Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
Jesus is the object of our Hope. Jesus is the Object of My hope
I have hope even when I feel sorrow.
I have experienced more sorrow in the past 4 months then I have in my whole adult life combined.
Suffering and sorrow is disorienting.
Satan’s hope is that in suffering we will abandon God or at least relegate God to a sentimental idea, nice at Christmas time, Easter and Thanksgiving but not real.
I don’t like feeling sad. Feeling sad does not mean I have no hope. It means I feel sad. It means I love and miss my dad.
I can act on hope not by putting on a happy face.
The sorrow is real but I know I do not mourn as one who has no hope.
Jesus came in the flesh. This world is not all there is but it is a good world that God has made and I will live with hope with confident trust in God while I live.
I remember being in this room in June and being on the phone with my dad.
He said… “Rodney, I’m at peace with this.”
He still wanted to get better. He fought with cancer. He still did his physical therapy and speech therapy. He still did all he knew to do to stay alive.
My dad’s life on earth ended as will all our lives.
He died as he lived, with hope.
Now his hope is realized because Jesus was the object of his hope.
If you have looked to Jesus for salvation then you have HOPE.
Coronavirus, mask orders, and gathering limits cannot stop your hope.
Today you may not have feelings of hope but I want to remind you that you have HOPE.
God has not abandoned us.
Last challenge… Will you share the Hope of Jesus with others?
Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that you have.
Many people do not live with Hope.
They are either distracted or in despair.
We have HOPE.
On Thanksgiving I was talking with mom and she said.
“I cry everyday but I have to carry on.”
With God’s help, She is carrying on
One of the ways she is carrying on is by sharing the hope of Christ with others.
Mom has just started attending a support group for people dealing with grief.
There was a woman that she met there who does not know Christ. This woman is grieving as one who has no hope.
Mom talked to her and got her phone number.
Mom said to me – “Rodney she doesn’t have any hope.
Mom is suffering, but she is a great example to me of someone who lives with hope. In her pain she is looking for opportunities to point others to Christ.
God is not slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness. He is patient not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
In that same CNN article a man who put up his lights early said, “Times are dark and there’s light to be spread,” “Now more than ever is a time to be looking outside yourself.”
He is right.
Look outside yourself for Hope. Jesus is our hope.
Look outside of yourself to share the hope of Jesus with those who have no hope.