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Simeon’s Affirmation – Sermon for Candlemass

Article posted on 6 February 2017 Leave a Comment

Malachi

Hebrews

Luke 2. 22-40

 

Introduction

I can think of events that very few people would have predicted. Even going back 30 years to the great storm of 1987 when Michael Fish famously put at rest the thoughts of a lady who suggested a hurricane was heading towards the UK. She was essentially right all along. Few predicted the victory of the Conservatives in the last election, or the Brexit vote, and especially the election of Donald Trump. Sometimes, the generally accepted view is way off beam.

I can personally remember when in 1966 I suggested that England had a good chance of winning the World Cup. I was laughed at, and an arrogant fellow schoolboy bet me £5 it wouldn’t happen. I never did get to collect my winnings!

But in some ways, I suppose, I felt affirmed that my judgement was not as way out or as stupid as others thought. By the way I have never since predicted an England team victory with such boldness!

Simeon

I sometimes wonder whether Simeon was a person who also was not too convinced by the general expectations of those around him. Whilst the general expectation was for a warrior Messiah of noble birth who would free a single nation from tyranny, I think Simeon, a righteous man and therefore seen as having a right relationship with God, was more sceptical. From studying the Scriptures and through prayer, I think Simeon had understood God differently. He was looking for something else, for God to act in a new way.

 

Affirmation & the Person of Christ

Seeing Jesus, and possibly talking to his parents, Simeon ‘saw’ with his heart the whole sweep of God’s salvation. What he was beginning to understand was affirmed by God’s revelation. He was so affirmed, his life felt so fulfilled, there was nothing of any significance that could be added.

‘Now Lord, let your servant depart in peace’

Note it is not a conviction coming from rational human intellect, he has no exposure to the mind of Christ, but he understands God’s revelation in the person of Christ. It is faith in the person of Christ that fulfils his life.

Rational Underpinning

Today, there are many people even among those who weekly attend churches who struggle to produce for themselves a rational underpinning to what they believe. They constantly try to reason it out to ensure their views have a justification for standing out from the crowd. We all find that a rational explanation is always just beyond us.

2CV

It’s like driving a 2CV. There is the lovely joke about what is the difference between ‘deja vue’ and ‘Deux Chevaux’. The answer being, one is the feeling you have been there before, the other is the feeling that you’re never going to get there at all.

Are you struggling and seemingly not getting anywhere?

 

Christian affirmation & Now

To be affirmed as a Christian, to find life’s fulfilment, rests not on what we produce for ourselves, but in the acceptance, through faith, of who God has provided for us, the person of Jesus Christ.

The key word for me in Simeon’s words is the word Now. Not tomorrow, or next month, next year. Now. The right timing for acceptance of Christ into your life is always NOW. It is no use postponing for some time in the future. The chances are it will never happen.

We need to climb out of our 2CV’s and have our faith affirmed now, just as Simeon did.

Depart in peace

Let us look at the rest of the sentence, ‘let your servant depart in peace’

There is an end to any restlessness about his views. An end to any self-doubt which may have troubled him. There is no need to spend the future making amends for the past.

Simeon, and us too, come to faith with no regrets, no embarrassment before God about our faults and weaknesses, no concern about things done or left undone. Simeon saw the salvation of God which would be heralded through the suffering servant, through a radical redefining of power on the cross; a power not based on physical strength and might but based on sacrificial love and forgiveness. What is in the past is forgiven. Ahead lies a life supported by his spirit. We may fail, we will fail, but like the Prodigal Son, we know that through the grace of God, celebrations and the crown of life awaits us.

Hebrews

Our Hebrews reading affirms what Simeon saw. It talks of Christ not coming to help the angels but the descendants of Abraham. In other words, Jesus came not to create a glory in heaven, but to create a glory on earth; a glory not among the angels, but a glory among human beings. Jesus is the divine reaching down to touch the impure in order to raise us to the divine. This is the power of the Incarnation. Emmanuel, God with us.

Through faith, Simeon understood and felt his life fulfilled. That same Jesus, the same faith is available to us, NOW.

 

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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