Monday, December 10

Waiting, Hoping, Remembering

Have you ever waited so long for something, you almost forgot what it was you were waiting for? Or maybe you didn't forget what it was, but your anticipation and excitement had grown cold?

Can you imagine the person or thing you've longed for finally coming...and you didn't recognize it?

In "Something by Tolstoi", Tennessee Williams tells the story of Jacob Brodzky, a shy Russian Jew who inherits a bookstore and marries his childhood sweetheart Lila. He loves his life, but she wants more adventure and leaves Jacob for a life in the theater. Jacob is devastated but as she goes, he hands her the key to the front door of his bookstore telling her, "You had better keep this because you will want it someday...You will come back sometime and I will be waiting."

After Lila left, Jacob immersed himself in his books. But finally, fifteen years later, Lila returns. But upon seeing her, Jacob does not recognize her as anything more than an ordinary customer. She is taken aback that Jacob does not recognize her and she tells him, "I want a book, but I've forgotten the name of it." She explains it's the story of childhood sweethearts who live in an apartment above a bookstore but the wife leaves to pursue a career and enjoys success but never gives up the key her husband gave her when they were last together. She tells him, "You remember it; you must remember it - the story of Lila and Jacob?"

Finishing her story, Lila is sure he will come to his senses and remember, but his face showed no recognition. She slowly realizes he had lost touch with his heart's desire...he no longer knew why he was waiting and grieving...all he remembered was the waiting and the grieving itself.

Read: Luke 2:25-35
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

Many Jews knew God's promises that one day the Messiah would come. They knew Messiah would come and comfort his exiled people. But after the prophet Malachi, God had been silent. There had been no prophets and no indication that God remembered his people and would keep his promises. Like Jacob, many had forgotten what they were waiting for and had stopped looking forward to it. And even as the child grew into a man, most missed who he was! Can you imagine? The people had waited centuries for Messiah to come and when he did...they didn't recognize him!

Not Simeon. He knew God would keep his promises and would send his Messiah to come and restore the people's joy. He looked forward with eager anticipation to it. In fact, God had revealed to him through the Holy Spirit that he would not die until the promised Messiah came. Perhaps each day Simeon walked to the temple early in the morning - expectantly - and perhaps each day he returned home without seeing what he longed for.

But on this day, when Joseph and Mary enter the temple, he knew their baby was the one. With boldness he walked up to them, took their son in his arms, and praised God! And when he had seen Jesus, he knew he had beheld what his heart longed for. He saw Jesus and he was satisfied.

Simeon tells us four crucial things about Jesus:
1. Jesus is the Messiah.
Messiah means "anointed one". The Old Testament is filled with more than three hundred prophecies about the Messiah...and Jesus fulfills them all. He is the "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6); the child to be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14); born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2); the shoot and root of Jesse (Isa 11:1, 9); and the suffering servant (Isa 53). 

Simeon rejoiced because God had promised he would see the Messiah. When he saw Jesus, the Prince of peace, the peace of God flooded his heart (Luke 2:29).

2. Jesus is God's salvation.
Simeon does not call Jesus God's "savior", he calls him God's "salvation". Jesus in his perfect life, his undeserved death, and his powerful resurrection is salvation. Salvation is found in him alone. In him alone there is redemption, forgiveness, life, hope...salvation. 

When Simeon saw Jesus, he saw God's salvation in the flesh. He saw the One who would bring life to all who believe and follow him.

3. Jesus is the light.
God's people were supposed to be a light and blessing to all peoples. They were to have a special relationship with God that would cause all the nations to want to know God too. But the people did not obey God. The did not honor him as they should. They did not become the blessing they were intended to become and eventually were sent into exile.

But Simeon knew God's promises that Messiah would come and would redeem and deliver God's people and restore the promises. But more than that, he knew that Messiah would not do these things only for the Jews, he would bring hope and deliverance for all people. As God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isa 49:6). 

4. Jesus is a sign.
Simeon says that Jesus will cause the rising and falling of many and will "be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed." He recognizes that not everyone will recognize or believe in God's Messiah. How they respond to Jesus will reveal what is in their hearts. Some will believe. But many will turn away and actively oppose or passively dismiss who he is and the life he came to bring.

Light a candle in a dark room. Reflect on how Jesus is the light who came into a dark world. Consider Simeon's longing...waiting...and joy. 

Ask yourself (and maybe your family or friends):
Where is my heart today? What do I long for?

Jesus is coming again...if he returned today, would I be ready? Would I recognize him?

This Christmas you may be seeing Jesus for the first time or once again. Either way, how will you respond to Jesus this year? How can you keep your heart anticipating filled with hope in the coming year?

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