Hello and welcome to a new series I'm starting on my blog! Well, I don't know if it will be a whole series yet. You'll have to tell me how you like it! :)
After listening to yesterday's sermon, I felt like my phone was SO full of notes and I just didn't want to stop talking about them! In an effort to better record the sermon notes (and hopefully remember them better), the thought struck me that I might post my notes here on my blog.
I'm by no means an expert, and this isn't meant to necessarily be a "Bible study." I'm simply sharing what I've learned and/or what I found interesting. If you enjoy it or if it perhaps touches you in the same way it has touched me, then that's just an added bonus! For me at least, it will give me a digital archive so that I can find things easier and keep track of my notes... (Otherwise they'll just got lost in a drawer, never to be seen from again...) My goal is to record my reactions to the sermon on Sunday (as I would normally record my sermon notes), meditate on the sermon and let it sink in, and then upload them here during the week. I will do my best to stay consistent if this is something you enjoy!
“There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,
Now, Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace, as you promised. For my eyes have seen your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples — a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.
His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary: 'Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed — and a sword will pierce your own soul — that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'”
- Luke 2:25-35 CSB
It's that time of year. The Christmas decorations in our house are being slowly packed away into the attic spaces and garage shelves, as we transition to a brief period of normalcy until the next holiday season begins. The Christmas advertisements on the T.V. are coming to a halt, and the Christmas radio stations are fading into static the closer we get to January. Christmas stock in Walmart, Target, Hobby Lobby, and stores all over the place is being marked down as the sales associates try to clear space for chocolate hearts and Valentine's Day cards, then St. Patrick's Day, then Easter, Fourth of July, and so it goes...
So often at this time of year we start reflecting on the past. What did we complete in the past year? What did we accomplish? Was there anything we wanted to do, that we didn't do? For a lot of us, 2020 definitely didn't meet our expectations, and surprised us in more ways than one. Were they good surprises, bad surprises, a little bit of both? How did we grow from them?
This attitude and mindset can often carry over even within the church, as sermons may direct their attention from Christmas festivities to New Year's Eve and the idea of making resolutions. What did our spiritual lives look like in 2020? How did we grow closer to God?
All December, churches may spend the month looking at the gospels. Within my church, we went through each of the gospel's account of Christmas one by one. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. At the end of series like this, it can be tempting to just move onto the next thing. Christmas is over, the gifts are unwrapped, right? The problem with our modern perspective is that we can go from the miracle of Jesus' birth to the miracle Jesus' resurrection in just a few pages. How often do we forget that decades passed in between these two miraculous events, and how important each story in the Gospels is at they come together to create a narrative that tells us who Jesus is? So much happened in between Christmas and Easter within Jesus' life, so we can't just celebrate in December, move on, and get back to regular life (even if that is what our work schedules demand...)
This time of year, rather than asking ourselves, "What happened in 2020?" we should be asking ourselves, "What's next?"
What was next for Mary and Joseph? What happened to the shepherds, the wisemen, the witnesses to these miracles? And as modern readers of these events, we must also ask, what is next for us as Christians who also hold the power of the Gospels in our hearts? Who are also, through the Bible, witnesses to the good news of salvation through Christ?
As we read through Luke to discover some of what was next, we come to the story of a man called Simeon. Simeon is another one of those elusive Biblical figures whose background remains unknown. We don't know what he was like, if he had a family, what his occupation was... What we think we know, we can actually only assume. Simeon is just another side character in the Gospels, like a walk-on part in a theatre production. He plays his part, says his lines, and when his lines are finished, he exits stage left and fades into the background. The key to Simeon's story is that, although he is only on stage for a moment of Jesus' life, it is such a profound moment and there is so much that we can draw from it.
We may also come to realize that our stories and Simeon's stories might not be so different. How many moments in our lives pass by unrecognized, but become pivotal moments in the lives of others? We may only have a moment of contact with someone; we might not even have that! We may just be an image passing by that remains for no known reason in someone else's memory, never leaving their minds. How are we using our moments? Especially in these COVID-19 times, when we only see our friends, neighbors, loved ones, for fleeting seconds that happen only in a distance... How will we use those moments? How will we display the good news of Jesus Christ?
I wonder how long Simeon had been waiting, praying, and hoping that one day his eyes would behold the Savior in the flesh. Was it years? Decades even? Waiting on the temple steps for the Messiah, was he mocked? Ridiculed? Did others scoff at him, while his faith remained steadfast? All until the day finally came, the mere moment that would change his life, but also change Mary and Joseph's lives, affirming to them again the truth of who Jesus was and what they had been told by angels. It's a powerful moment that we still remember as we read Scripture.
Imagine what it must have been like for Simeon, after so long, to be holding the hope of the world in your arms. When we hold a child in our arms, we wonder, hope, and pray for their futures. But as Simeon held the infant Jesus, he didn't just wonder, but he knew who Jesus was and what He would become, and he marveled at that knowledge and praised God for what he had seen.
In many ways, we are like Simeon. If you know Jesus, if you love him and believe that He died for your sins, then you too hold the hope of the world in your heart. What will you do with that? What will you do next?
Simeon broke into song and proclaimed the good news of who Jesus was, not just the hope for his people, but for the hope of the whole world, the physical manifestation of God's promises being fulfilled. God had promised that salvation would come, and salvation did. Salvation has.
In our brief moments when we have the opportunity to minister—even in the ordinary moments, when we are simply going through the motions of our daily lives—do we break into song about who Jesus is? Do we proclaim the goodness of God and the wonderful gift that is salvation? Our challenge is more than Simeon's. We now know Salvation, our task now isn't just to proclaim that it is here, but to share it with the world.
Like Simeon, people may ignore us. We may be ridiculed. We may be persecuted for our beliefs. But as Jesus will be the fall of many, He will also be the RISE of many. We don't know the people that we pass by, the people who are just flashes in our memories. We don't know what they are looking for or where they are at in their spiritual lives or what they need, but we are able to show them who Jesus is. We are able to share salvation with them. We have the chance to live the Gospel and tell the story that we have spent so much time this December meditating on as we've prepared our hearts for Christmas. We hold the hope of the world in our hearts. So what's next?
Now we go. Now we share. We keep telling that story. Sometimes, a story just needs to be told, and you never know what fleeting moment in your life may be the pinnacle turning point in the life of somebody else.
My Personal Reflection:
As a writer (and lover of Biblical novels), you can imagine how my heart soared at the idea of Simeon's life, who he was, and what his story is. But I also very deeply connected the message or the takeaway of the sermon—that we must continue to tell the greatest story in the world. The story of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for us, and the gift of salvation that is now so readily available. That is why I do what I do. That is why I share so many amazing Christian fiction recommendations. That is why I write stories of my own. To continue to share that original story, and to point others back to the Bible. What will I do next in 2021? Keep writing, living for those moments, and keep telling God's story. The story of Christmas.
Because that story doesn't just end on December 25th. We are still living in that story today.
Thank you for reading, everyone! Merry Christmas (if you haven't heard me say it already), and (so that I don't forget to say it later), happy new year!