“Seeing salvation” (Lk 2:21-40)

2019 is just around the corner, and I’m sure you have all heard of New Year’s resolutions – you may have even made some yourself. But have you ever heard of a ‘Bucket List’? A ‘bucket list’ is a list of things that people want to do not in a year, but in a lifetime. A Bucket List is a list of things people want to do before they die and “kick the bucket” – for example climb Mt Everest, do a Parachute jump, cruise the Nile, drive a Ferrari or see the Taj Mahal!

There was actually a recent film called “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, about two elderly ill men who compile their own bucket list. It’s a list that includes: riding a motorcycle on Great Wall of China, hunting lions in Africa, climbing a Pyramid in Egypt and going motor racing at death-defying speeds.

In our Gospel passage today we also meet two elderly people who also have their own Bucket List. But it’s a short list, with only one thing on it. Before they die, Simeon and Anna want to meet their Messiah. Before they die they want to see God’s promised Saviour – and in today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel they get their chance!

As we look at this passage today, I hope we will be reminded why the first coming of Christ is such good news. And as we await Christ’s second coming, I hope we will learn from Simeon and Anna the right ways to wait. So as we look at our passage today, we’ll meet our marvellous Messiah and we’ll discover the way to wait for Christ to come back.

1. Meeting a marvellous Messiah

The events of our passage today took place when Joseph and Mary’s baby was just over a month old. He has been brought to Jerusalem Temple by them, to be formally presented before God. He has already been named Jesus, the name that had been given to them by an angel. A name that means “God saves” – a big clue to who this baby was and what he had been born to do.

As they enter the Temple area, Mary and Joseph met Simeon, a faithful believer, who for his whole life had been waiting for “the consolation of Israel” (v.25). For centuries the people of Israel had been waiting for God to send them a Saviour. For someone who would be their greatest king. For a marvellous Messiah who would pour God’s blessings upon his people and liberate them from all evil. Yet by the time of Simeon God’s promised blessings were still to be fulfilled. Many of his contemporaries must have doubted whether the Christ would ever come.

But faithful believers, like Simeon and Anna, were still confidently waiting for God to come good on his promises. They were still praying for God to console and rescue his people from all that oppressed them. They were still trusting that God would send his long-awaited Messiah.

So it’s no surprise that Simeon and Anna were both so happy when they set eyes on Jesus. Seeing Jesus they saw their salvation. Seeing Jesus brought them the consolation, comfort and hope that they had been waiting for. The birth of Christ meant that their dogged faith and belief had brought its promised benefits. That’s why Simeon took baby Jesus “in his arms and praised God” (v.28). He now knew that he could now die “in peace” and with great hope (v.29).

In his song, Simeon quotes Isaiah 42 and 49, and uses two words that sum up what Jesus had come to bring – namely ‘salvation’ and ‘revelation’. The salvation Jesus brought was forgiveness from sin and hope beyond the grave. And the revelation Jesus brought was a revelation of God. Of God’s character, of God’s commands and of God’s grace. Jesus came to replace idle speculation about God with precise revelation. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” he said. “No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Perhaps the most surprising and wonderful thing about the revelation and salvation that Jesus brings is that they are offered to all people. In verse 31 we are told that Jesus will reveal God in the “sight of all people”, and in verse 32 we learn that Jesus is God’s revelation “to the Gentiles” as well as to Jews. To every nation, not only Israel. Jesus came to be Saviour of the whole world – to offer rescue and redemption to all people everywhere. From Romford to Russia, from Gidea Park to the Great Barrier Reef!

No wonder verse 33 tells us that Mary & Joseph “marvelled” at what Simeon said about Jesus. The first coming of Christ was great news for Simeon and Anna, and for Christian believers in every generation since. Believing God’s promises does pay-off in the end!

2. Waiting for Christ to come back

Many of us are looking forward to the coming year, and all the good things it holds in store. And as Christians we also eagerly await Christ’s second coming, whenever its going to be. But how should we wait? As individuals and as a Church, what is the right way to wait for Christ’s return? What lessons can we learn from Simeon and Anna’s example?

The first lesson is the importance of prayer and a close personal walk with God. As we enter a new year and continue to await Christ’s return, let’s commit ourselves to be faithful in prayer and diligent in reading the Scriptures. Until the Day when we shall see Christ ‘face to face’, the Bible and prayer must remain the foundation of our Christian life as individuals and as a church. The Bible and prayer are the pre-requisites for our growth in faith, hope and love.

Simeon and Anna knew this truth well. In our passage we are told that Simeon was a “devout and righteous man”, a man who studied the Scriptures and was prayerfully open to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. And Anna too spent her time praying and worshipping God. With our busy lives we may not be able to devote all our time to prayer, but Anna’s behaviour challenges us to give it a higher priority in our lives, to make it a part of our daily routine.

Our passage today also tells us that Simeon and Anna did not wait for Christ on their own. Both of them were members of the worshipping community at the Jerusalem Temple. In a similar fashion, the Bible instructs Christian believers to keep meeting together as we await Christ’s return. As we meet together, worship together and hear God’s Word preached together, our common faith and hope will grow. As the New Testament letter to the Hebrews says “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

As well as prayer, Bible reading and mutual encouragement, there is one final way we should await Christ’s return. Verse 27 today says when Simeon saw Christ he immediately praised God in public, in the Temple – allowing others to overhear him. And verse 38 tells us that when Anna met the baby Jesus she spoke about him to everyone around her.

We should do the same today. Whether it’s over coffee with a friend, in the pub with a work colleague, or simply round the dinner table at home, we can and must share our faith, our Christian hope. As we wait for Christ to come again, we are to tell others about him. How great would it be if God used you and me to bring other people to Christ in 2019! How marvellous if our non-Christian family, friends and colleagues this year came to marvel at Jesus like Mary & Joseph did! How wonderful if people we know began to praise Christ in 2019, like Simeon & Anna did 2000 years ago!

God opened the eyes of Simeon and Anna to recognise Jesus as the baby who brought salvation. In two thousand and nineteen, may God use us to open other people’s eyes to Christ.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we praise you for the salvation and revelation that Jesus our marvellous Messiah brings. And as we await his return, keep us strong in faith, united in fellowship and committed to making Christ known. In his name we pray, Amen.

Phil Weston