Those Who Dream...will not keep silent
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with that is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." 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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. Luke 2:22-40 (NIV) Read the whole chapter.
So in business when it comes to satisfying customers, they often say that for every disappointed customer experience, an individual is likely to tell nine to fifteen other people about that bad experience. When people have a good experience, they're not nearly as inclined to share. They do share but not as often. What's more, the weight of those negative experiences when they're unresolved, it often takes 12 positive customer service interactions to overcome that one negative. That being said, it seems like we like bad news better than good news. That we like sharing bad news. We like being the one to be able to go and tell people about the bad news. As the old saying in journalism goes, 'if it believes it leads'. That tragedy, despair, violence, brokenness, hurt, car crashes, and the like are the things that often open up the evening news or appear on the front pages. Yet there is still good news to be shared.
On Christmas Eve, we heard that pronunciation made by the angels, "For I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all of the people." Well, the shepherds went to find and not only found but shared all of this good news with anybody that would listen to them. Now Mary and Joseph had traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. By the crow's flight, it's about 65 miles. But their journey would have been on winding roads through that hill country and would have probably been a long trip. But now, they find themselves making their way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Well thankfully, that's a much shorter trip. It's only about 5 miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. We're told that when the time came, they went to Jerusalem to follow the tradition and the law that prescribed from the purification.
When they're there, this older man names Simeon comes and greets them. Now imagine there was probably not quite the same level of stranger danger that we have in this world today. I can't imagine how a mother would react if an older man, that she has no idea who he is came up and snatched her baby out of her arms. The police would be involved, somebody would probably be on the ground being wrestled into submission. But yet, this man a faithful devout man, we're told comes and takes Jesus in his arms and says, 'God I see now that you are keeping all of those promises that you have made.'
Now Simeon had a certain set of expectations. Simeon was looking for what the Scriptures tell us the consolation of Israel, of God somehow making things right. He was looking for the Messiah. And by the Holy Spirit, we're told that he had been convicted that he would not pass away, he would not see death until this had taken place. Now I don't know that Simeon was sitting around waiting to see this happen so he could then kick the bucket. Yet there was something about this moment that stirred in him to make this pronouncement, 'God you have set your servant free. I've seen everything I need to in this life, whenever that time comes I can die peacefully knowing that you God have been good to your promises.' Now imagine how taken back Mary and Joseph must have been. Never mind that they'd both had angels speak to them. Never mind that this band of shepherds had just shown up right after Jesus had been born and said, 'Guess what, an angel talked to us too.' And yet the surprises just keep coming. And Simeon says, 'This child is going to change the world.' Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, 'This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel.'
It's interesting that he says things the way that he does. Normally we talk about the rise and fall of empires. The rise and fall of businesses. That usually there's this rise before the fall. But Simeon says, 'This child is destined for the falling and then the rising. I think it's no accident that he phrases things this way because we see that through Jesus, it's often when people are humbled that they are then raised back up. In fact, we see this in Jesus' own life that through his crucifixion and death he falls down. And yet he's raised up to new life. Falling leading to rising. Already as an infant, Jesus is turning upside down the standards, the expectations, the way that people assume that they understand how the world works, that those who fall will rise again.
You may know or may remember the artist Bob Carlisle. He's very well known for the song, "Butterfly Kisses". But he had another song that I really liked that was called, "We Fall Down and Get Up." It's a little bit of a ballad that tells a story of a monastery set out in the countryside. Each day this man from the village would go by and look at these tall imposing walls of the monastery and wonder what life was like. Because he worked hard, life wasn't easy. He thought, 'Man they must just have it so good in there.' One day as he was passing by from his work, he happened to see a monk out there. He asked him, 'Tell me what life's like for you. Tell me how good it is.' The monk's response was, 'We fall down and we get up. We fall down. We get up.' It's the story of life for many people. For that worker, his idea was that you know this life and it just keeps beating me down and beating me down. Yet he had a new understanding, a new perspective after his conversation with that monk. We fall down but by the grace of God, we are lifted up again. We might fall down again but that strength, that support, that encouragement is there.
Simeon, I think by no coincidence was well in his years. We talk about wisdom coming with age. Young people often think they have the world all figured out. That their seniors often don't know anything. Their parents are just fools. But as we all grow, live, and experience life we do gain some perspective. We do gain some wisdom. Simeon had lived long. He had sene much. But he also was able to recognize what God was doing in and through this child Jesus. It was through Jesus that Simeon having witnessed probably countless young boys being brought to the Temple for dedication by their parents. In those moments, upon seeing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, he jumps up and takes Jesus from Mary's arms and praises God. Almost like that scene from Lion King when young Simba is being lifted up, I imagine Simeon carrying Jesus around saying, 'Master, you are now setting me free because of what you have done for the world.' Through this child, Simeon wasn't alone. The prophet Anna is there as well. The Scripture really goes to lengths to make their point about the age of this woman. She'd lived with her husband for 7 years after her marriage and then as a widow to the age of 84. She was of great age. She too upon seeing this child shared in Simeon's response or saying, 'God you are doing a mighty and a wonderful thing.' She praised God and spoke about this child to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel.
So what about us? Christmas has come. Most likely the presents have been unwrapped, the garbage can stuffed with the paper, the refrigerator packed with the leftovers, if it hasn't started already we're planning where the decorations are going to get stored, and how we'll begin undoing our houses from this holiday we've celebrated. But this holiday that we've celebrated is about this child and what he means to you, to me, to all this world. For Simeon and Anna, this good news was too good to keep to themselves. And while we might like spreading bad news, better we live in a world right now that desperately needs to hear the good news. So we need to learn from Simeon. About the goodness of this God who keeps his promises. We need to learn from the example of Anna that we are never too old to rejoice and to celebrate at the good news that God is bringing to all of us.
We've gone through this season of Advent talking about what it means to dream, to dream our dream, to dream God's dream, but more than that to share it. I don't think anybody could have silenced Simeon that day. I don't think anybody could have walked up to Anna and said, 'Oh shh, you're making too much of a ruckus.' I didn't put it in our schedule to sing this morning but that Christmas carol, "Go Tell It On The Mountain", is exactly the response that we see in Simeon and Anna. And it's the response that each of us are called to be a part of.
Friends, there is good news. While we may lament all of the negative and downsides of 2020, there is still good news. There is still good news of a God who loves us that he once again and continues to send his son for the redemption and salvation of the world. Maybe in this year, we've discovered a little bit about the simple joys of life, of new ways to connect, of things that we can live without, maybe we've discovered the value of writing a note or making a phone call and not taking each day for granted. May we be a part of proclaiming, sharing, and telling others about this good news that we have had shared with us. That God loves this world. That God's rescue plan for us was to send his son that we might have life. May we go and tell and not be silent about this very good news.