This headline fairly jumped off the page in an advertisement from my denomination’s publisher. It came unwanted and unbidden on a sunny day in August. You can probably already guess what they were selling: Christmas resources.
Yes, it is time to order Advent materials. No, I don’t feel the anticipation beginning.
You see, I live on the Outer Banks. I anticipate SEPTEMBER. September is a magical month where the weather is gorgeous, the beaches are less crowded, the air is cooler, the restaurants are still in full swing, and you can actually navigate the by-pass without getting stopped at all NINE stoplights between Colington and Kitty Hawk, which is only a four-mile trek. (Seriously, the by-pass traffic is a THING. I once wrote a song called “The By-Pass Blues,” and made my entire congregation sing it.)
Perhaps that should read, “Ahhhhh, (hopefully hurricane-free) September!” When we get through the early fall unscathed by tropical depressions that turn into storms that turn into hurricane-force winds that turn into Cat 5s, we have had a good fall indeed.
Now that’s something to anticipate! (And BTW, stay away, Dorian!!)
Simeon was one of the best anticipators in the Bible. I offer this with an apology: it was not my intention to bring you a Christmas scripture in the late summer, but here it is. Apparently I should work for Cokesbury.
Luke 2 (NIV)
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, saying:
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.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Wow, so much to unpack here, but let’s stay focused on Simeon the Anticipator. He was waiting for the Lord’s Messiah, and was empowered in his waiting by the Holy Spirit. He had been assured by God that the Messiah would actually come in his lifetime and he believed that so much, he went to the temple that day led by the Holy Spirit, anticipating that he would see Jesus.
Let that soak in.
What are you anticipating today? Are you waiting with full assurance that you will encounter Jesus? Are you making your way toward his saving grace with confidence that you will be delivered?
Anticipation tells us that whatever we do, wherever we are, whatever sin we have committed, whatever burden of grief we bear, no matter WHAT, Jesus is ready. He is ready to heal, to direct, to rebuke, to fight for you….Jesus is ready.
Simeon teaches us to anticipate with hope. We are invited to stand firm on the promises of God in our lives and EXPECT to be delivered. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Jesus:
Romans 8 (NLT)
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” God always delivers on his promises. Simeon saw Jesus, and we can too. Anticipate that, my friends!
Photo by Michelle Robertson