The Pas Candlemas – Presentation of Christ
3 February 2019
Psalm 84 pg 817
God of Anna and Simeon, whose law makes known the gift of life, whose love exposes our hardness of heart: by your Spirit, may we receive your faithful word and know your reconciling presence offered for all the world; through Jesus Christ, the Light and Glory of God. Amen.
Today’s readings aren’t unfamiliar to us. Because this is an important festival, in the life of the church, we hear them every year.
Today is the first time Jesus is acknowledged as the Messiah by someone in the Temple hierarchy; today we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
And, we celebrate Simeon who has given the whole of his life to waiting of the moment that he would meet the Messiah, the redemption of Israel.
Today we revel with him as he realizes that this tiny babe in arms “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.”” (Lk 2:34b-35)
But Simeon also rejoices because God’s word is fulfilled! After many, many years, God’s promise and God’s words is fulfilled.
And Simeon proclaims, awe and love in his voice “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.”” (Lk 2:29-32)
And we are able to rejoice with him, in this observation, in this revelation that God does fulfill God’s promises.
So often we get frustrated with what we perceive as the lack of God’s action in and for our lives, and yet, God’s plan continues, including our places in God’s heart and God’s kingdom.
So, today let’s look at Simeon.
Let’s see the growth, and the faith of the man who has waited all of his adult life to bear witness to the fulfilment of God’s promise: that he would live to see the Messiah.
We can see that Simeon is a member of the Levite clan, but I bet he never felt that he fit into the patterns of life that were presented to him. After all, he’s a prophet of God, and ultimately, a prophet’s job is to reveal messages from God to God’s people, from time to time.
And Israel has a great tradition of prophets, both major and minor in their history, in the Old Testament.
There are those who like Elijah and Elisha wandered about the countryside to perform miracles, to offer teaching, and to proclaim messages from God when and where those messages came to them.
Or there were those like Amos, who tells us: “14 … “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.” (Amos 7:14)
They proclaimed messages of hope in times of despair. They proclaimed messages of encouragement in times of doubt. They proclaimed messages of admonishment in times when God saw the people and the leadership go astray.
Prophets carried on a valuable role to connect the people of God. Often their words grated on the lives and the actions of those in power, even to the point of being warned to stop.
We are able to see prophets being threatened as we see with Elijah, who flees to God’s holy mountain, seeking refuge when their lives were threatened.
Yet God responds to Elijah, and says: “15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.” ( 1 Ki19:15-17)
Now, such revelations as we see in God’s conversation with Elijah aren’t comfortable. Nor are they ‘warm and fuzzy’. In fact, they lead to dire actions against those who have turned away from God, in Israel’s history.
But Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, and the rest of the popular crowd of prophets, although great and notable prophets as they are, aren’t the only models we can look at as we examine prophets in Israel.
We can see that Jonah, in his own right, is a most unwilling prophet. We see that Jonah is unwilling to go to Nineveh in the first place, running away and spending three days in the belly of a fish before God puts him on the right road with nowhere else to go, and when the Ninevites repent and return to God, Jonah is downright upset.
“2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jon 4:2)
So, as we can see, God calls prophets of all shapes and sizes, of all stripes and conditions and these are just a few of the prophets of Israel’s history that we’ve looked at, today.
At the same time, today, we see that God has called the Holy Spirit and has blessed not just Simeon, but Anna, as well.
God has blessed them in the role of prophets who see, who recognized the Messiah, the Son of the Most High God, in the ‘babe in arms’ of this poor family just trying to offer sacrifice to restore Mary among the ritually cleansed, to present Jesus to God as the firstborn of their family.
But today we want to look at Simeon. We want to see this man who was promised that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Lk 2:26)
We can guess that this blessing, this promise came to him, probably as he began to take on his role in the operation of the Temple, in the place where all of Israel came to offer sacrifice to God. A life filled with optimism and joy for the future, even though it’s life under Roman occupation.
He’s newly installed in his tasks, in his lifelong vocation as a member of the tribe of Levi whose purpose is to serve in the Temple before God, and he has a bright future ahead of him.
He’s just married the girl of his dreams, and their future looks bright. After all God’s Messiah will come within his lifetime.
And the years pass.
Throughout the years, Simeon and his wife have children, and they see those children grow in the love and assurance that they can provide, helping them to grow in their skills and tasks as members of Levi’s tribe.
And still he waits.
Throughout the years, Simeon continues to serve God, faithfully, but after a while, his hair begins to turn grey, his step becomes a little slower, possibly a little less certain, and still, he waits for the fulfillment of God’s word, God’s promise.
His children grow and take on their own lives, their own vocations. They, in turn, marry and give him grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Throughout the years, his beautiful wife becomes stooped with age and eventually leaves this world before him, but still strong in her faith and her love for Simeon.
And still he waits for the fulfillment of the word of God. Still he prays for God’s promise to be fulfilled, so that his tired old bones are able to rest in peace next to the love of his life, for all eternity.
In being a prophet of the Most High God, Simeon, like the prophets before him, Simeon gives his whole life to the task of listening for the word of God to come to him, and to fulfill God’s promise.
And then, today, today, Simeon finds fulfillment in the word of God, in the family unobtrusively entering the temple courtyards, a man and a woman, he’s holding the cage of pigeons, she’s holding a newborn child.
And yet the Holy Spirit prods, prompts, pushes this tired, frustrated old prophet into their path.
Luke tells us: “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.” (Lk 2:25-28)
And there is much we can learn and imitate in Simeon’s life, in Anna’s life.
Simeon is overjoyed to find the fulfillment of God’s word, that now he can leave this world having fulfilled God’s promise, God’s use of him as a prophet. But at the same time, his lifetime of waiting is a wonderful example for each one of us, still today.
We can just imagine how many years he looked into the eyes of strangers as they came for sacrifice, as they came for Passover, as they came to present their children before God and offer the sacrifice of redemption, as we see Mary and Joseph doing today.
But it’s that he waited, faithfully.
It’s that throughout everything he experienced, the joys, the pain of loss, the disappointment that it took this long for God’s word to be fulfilled, that tells each and everyone of us that no matter what we experience, no matter how long we wait for the fulfillment of God’s word, hope abounds.
Simeon teaches us the art of patience.
He teaches us that God’s promises are fulfilled, but on God’s timeline, not our own.
So, following Simeon’s example, we wait for Christ to come again.
We wait for God’s time to be fulfilled and for the next stage in our lives as the children of God to come about. And for us, for each one of us, it has been many generations since Christ ascended to heaven.
At the same time, not even Christ could tell us when God’s time will come for Christ to return in glory, only that it will come.
And so we are urged to remain in the promises of God, to continue to learn from the teachings of Christ, and the letters of Paul. To learn the history of the Israelite people so that such errors don’t occur again, until the time comes and God’s promises to us, to all who believe, are fulfilled.
In all of this, we learn patience from Simeon who waited a lifetime for Christ to come, and when he does, he’s a babe in arms, carried by his parents as they come to fulfill the letter of the law with their sacrifices, today.
And in this Simeon helps us to see our tomorrow, as well.