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Did you hear about the multiple thefts of Baby Jesus figures from church nativities in Ohio, Florida, and even Arkansas. The controversies surrounding nativities led to thefts in 2007 and this year many of the churches have installed GPS locators into the Baby Jesus’ to track them in the event that they are stolen. I am told that in Arkansas they even chained the Baby Jesus to a cinder block.
In Florida, the perp was caught and arrested and the Baby Jesus was returned to his ceramic family. And they will soon be put away into storage until next year.

Alas, Christmas is over. All the decorations, the lights, the nativities, and the 75% off signs will be put away soon. We will quite soon occupy our attention and our energy with other things – because Christmas is over.

In the gospels, however, the birth of Christ is just the beginning. The proclamation of the birth, the dreams of Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and the rage of Herod are just the start. There’s more to come. The child Jesus is growing and Joseph and Mary have much to do. Luke 2 describes an important event in the life of Jesus and his family. They are following the religious mandates by taking the six-week old Jesus to the temple for dedication and they are also arranging for the religious purification of the mother, Mary ...

Read Luke 2:22-38 ...

Joseph and Mary are going about their business offering up the sacrifice required, or in their case what was allowed for the poor – a lamb would have been offered, but two pigeons were allowed for those who couldn’t afford it. So here they are going about their business, when an old man comes up to them asking to hold their child.

His name is Simeon and he has been waiting to see the Messiah with his own two eyes. He’s seen a lot through those eyes:

He’s waiting for a ray of light to pierce the darkness he’s seen with his eyes. The Holy Spirit promised him that this moment would come. All the years of waiting and praying, the recommitment to believe the Spirit’s promise all pays off in this one simple moment – he has seen with his own eyes the salvation of Israel. He holds salvation in his hands. Now Simeon is at peace. His wait is over.

Simeon has spiritual insight. Chalk it up to the power of the Holy Spirit and years of waiting to see what God has promised. Though he is old, Simeon’s spiritual vision is keen and sharp.

He knows that though he has waited for years to see the Lord’s savior and receives this as a blessing, he knows that some will not be so receptive. And so his blessing for Mary and the child speaks of the grand destiny of the child Jesus – yes, Jesus represents hope and salvation, but that which makes Jesus a hope for many also threatens others.

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon’s blessing has a shadow in it. Some will fall and some will rise. Some will accept the sign and others will speak out against it. Why? Because the inner thoughts and motives of all will be revealed ...

  1. Rejection: Simeon knows that the sign to be opposed and rejected threatens what is already there. Everything is not a-okay until Christ arrives and makes it difficult. No, the pain and disease is under the surface and eating away on humanity and the world. The light of Christ simply uncovers it all and makes it known. When you turn on the light, it creates shadows. Some things reject the light.

  2. Renewal: Change and renewal are not always embraced. The experience can be painful and demand sacrifice and even loss. Resurrection follows a death. This is why we must reflect and count the cost of discipleship. There is an investment – a costly one. When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die. Hope is made possible but only through sacrifice. But some would rather remain in the cold shadows than risk the challenge of renewal. They would rather deny than decide.

  3. Simeon and Anna stand apart from those who reject Christ because they realize that the very old promises of God can be kept in new and unexpected ways. They receive the child rather than reject him. And they are renewed! This Child is the light of the world!

It’s been centuries since old Simeon and Anna saw the Light come into the world. Simeon died in peace. Like all righteous men, he longed to see God’s work done on earth. When he saw Jesus, he had all the hope he needed. But it’s not over, it’s just beginning ...

If you’ve just had enough darkness and are looking to see a ray of light; if you want peace in your heart thus having no fear of death or darkness, then you are Simeon. You are Anna. Don’t get angry or frustrated, get to praying, start praising! Ask God to open you eyes to see and open your ears to hear.

Since the time of Simeon and Anna, Christ has promised that he will return again. Wouldn’t it be great to see that before you die? We could see God’s work of salvation among us.

Can we wait as faithfully as Simeon and Anna to see God working his salvation in this world?
Can we be confident and not grow anxious when shadows are cast and when some reject the light?
Can we have the spiritual vision of God’s Holy Spirit so that we can see that God’s old promises may be kept in unexpected ways?

Keep watch! Keep praying! You will see the Light of the World shine forth ever brighter in your lifetime!

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 December 2008

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