13. Ongoing

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 13: Ongoing

Mt 2:13  When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

(Additional Reading: Mt 2:13-15, 19-23)

And Now? When one form of guidance (dreams here) is made so clear, it presupposes that it isn’t coming from any other source. The point I would make here is that, as we might say today, Mary and Joseph are flying blind. Yes, they have both had angelic guidance over nine months ago, possibly as much as a year ago now, they had received the encouragement from the shepherds and their tale, they had received encouragement in the Temple from Simeon and Anna, and they had received encouragement and resources from the Magi, and now all that is in the past. Now they appear to be living somewhere in Bethlehem and Joseph is possibly earning money as a jobbing carpenter and Mary is settling into the social life of Bethlehem and they no doubt attend the local synagogue. Life just goes on. Perhaps they are wondering if they should return to Nazareth, but beyond that, life just goes on day after day.

What???? And then Joseph has another dream. They are in danger. The arrival of the Magi had alerted Herod that he had competition and as the weeks and months pass and the Magi don’t report back to him, he gets angry and is about to send out an edict for all baby boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem are to be killed (There actually probably weren’t many, it was such a small place). The fact that he says any boy under two indicates that time has passed. It is now time for them to move on. If they stay in Israel Herod may search them out and kill Jesus. They must leave the country. Go south, go to Egypt. That is the message of the dream.

Egypt??? Later, when recording it, Luke will be reminded (Lk 2:15) that in one of those other ‘breadcrumbs’ Hosea had prophesied about the Messiah, “out of Egypt I called my son,” (Hos 11:1) but most had taken that to mean the Exodus, but it will indeed apply to the Messiah. Jeremiah had also prophesied (Jer 31:15) about a time of weeping that would come to this area. They don’t say God made these things happen but in the affairs of men in this fallen world, they would happen. But for Mary and Joseph at this point of time, probably none of this is clear. But he has a dream and that is enough. We’ve commented before that this righteous young man is also a man of faith, just what was needed to protect the baby.

Life has to go on: So they leave and settle in Egypt for a time until Herod dies and Joseph has another dream (Mt 2:19,20) telling him to return to Israel and then another dream (v.22) telling him to settle back in Galilee in Nazareth. The wheel has gone full circle, and the dreams end.  And so here they are back home with a young child and an uncertain future. Yes, they have had lots of guidance, lots of reassurances and it all seems to have worked out, but what lies ahead? The great unknown. They may have ideas but almost certainly nothing as incredible as the times recorded in the rest of the Gospels.

And so: For us, isn’t this just how it is, this life of faith, a life reliant upon the calling and guidance of God? We’ve had the calling, we’ve responded, and then from time to time (when it’s needed) guidance comes from heaven, but until it does, we are left with a life of reassuring faith and trust. Faith comes from hearing the voice of God – whether through His word as we read it, hear it preached or prophesied, or as it comes in prayer or as that still small inner voice – and we respond. Trust is when we hold on in the absence of the voice. That is the life we are called to, a life where we are also called to be ‘faithful’, true to our calling, true to who He has made us to be and is making us to be, true to the inheritance we are yet awaiting in heaven. This is who I am, this is who we are, and we can be grateful to Mary and Joseph for the examples of all this that they have given us, that we have been reflecting upon over this Christmas period. Now we are called to just keep on keeping on, with hearts set on Him, ears open to Him, eyes watchful for His activity, and to take whatever leading He brings us tomorrow. What a life! Hallelujah!

Let’s Pray: “Father, thank you for the wonder of this plan of yours being worked out that we’ve been remembering over these days. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you left heaven and came and lived among us in the ways we have been reading about. Thank you Lord that you do call us, guide us, direct us, provide for us, protect us. Lord, please just continue to draw my heart to follow you ever more closely. Thank you so much. Amen.”

Addendum: Over the Christmas period, at one point, we were challenged to think up one sentence (only)  that sums up Christmas. In the light of that and in the light of this series, here is my offering (and we weren’t told it had to be short!):

“Christmas is the visible outworking of the will of the One God revealed through the Bible, who expresses Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a will that from before the Creation of the world decided that the only way to deal with the Sin of the World that would come with the free-will of mankind, was to send the Son to earth, to reveal the Father’s love and goodness, and then to die in the place of every human who has ever existed, and will ever exist, to take the punishment for their sin to enable them to be reconciled to the Holy God, and thus the arrival of the Son in the form of a baby born to a virgin, supported by a righteous and faithful husband, heralded by angels, shepherds, wise men and prophets, would be the start of the earthly working out of that will in the period we call Advent and the activities that we call the Nativity that together we call Christmas.”

Time to move on.

6. The Mysteries of God (4)

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 6: The Mysteries of God (4)

Isa 9:6  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

(Additional Reading: Isa 9:6,7, 11:1-9)

More from Isaiah: We have already seen how Isaiah dropped the ‘breadcrumb’ showing where the Messiah, the Son of God, would come to reveal the glory of God, a ‘great light’ in dark Galilee. The only trouble was that in the eyes of the scholars at least, some of these things he said seemed contradictory or even unbelievable. Following that Galilee prophecy the prophecy flows on getting more and more incredible until in v.6 we find references to this coming one who will be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” a ruler over the throne of David, a rule that will go on for ever. If you have never heard those words in the crescendo that builds up in Handel’s Messiah, you have never heard anything! But what did they mean? The coming one will be God the everlasting Father? How can that be? Already Isaiah had prophesied in another mysterious way about a child to be born to a virgin, (7:14), a child to be called Immanuel and that name means ‘God with us’. How can this be?

The David Link: But there is more: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit,” (Isa 11:1) and, ““In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it– one from the house of David –one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.” (Isa 16:5) and, “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” (Isa 55:3) We commented yesterday about Bethlehem being David’s home. This coming one is going to linked with David who was a ruler who brought deliverance and peace to Israel.

The Suffering Servant: So, on one hand we have talk about God coming, a ruler coming with a mighty reign, and then we find Isaiah prophesying a number of ‘servant songs’ about the coming one and in chapter 55 we find, “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at him—  his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.”  (Isa 53:13,14) This is the confusing mix of these ‘breadcrumbs’, these clues, these prophetic words that filtered through the other prophecies of Isaiah, that left no other conclusion than One is coming to instigate a new, unique, everlasting reign, an expression of God with us, and yet somehow there is this black cloud hanging over it all with the mention of suffering and rejection. How could it be?

Advent? Now we have to concede that many of these prophetic references do not see their fulfillment until the Son has come, revealed the Father’s love through his ministry, and then suffered and died for us, been raised from the dead and ascended back to heaven. But here is the point: Advent, we said, is a time of waiting and expectation and this expectation, built by an amazing trail of breadcrumbs (it is said there are over 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament) is what was there in those whose hearts sought after God (see Simeon Lk 2:26) and there, probably in not such a strong way but there nevertheless, in the general Jewish population and taught in the synagogues. All of this is the backdrop to the coming of the babe in Bethlehem, but it is no wonder the expectation was so unclear because it had so many different shades that would not become clear for at least another thirty or so years.

And to prayer: “Lord, again, in anticipation we want to say thank you for the wonder of this time that we remember this month, of your coming to earth. Father, thank you for this amazing kaleidoscope of breadcrumbs, so many different aspects of his coming which must have left a quizzical anticipation in your people, wondering how all these things could be. Thank you that we now have the whole picture and so we can see, Lord Jesus, how you fulfilled them all. Help us please, Lord, to handle the aspects of life and our understanding of you and your desires for us, where we don’t yet see it all clearly. Please give us patience to wait your timing, trusting in your goodness that will be revealed in the way you want it to come. Thank you Lord so much. Amen.”

4. The Mysteries of God (2)

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 4: The Mysteries of God (2)

Gen 22:18  through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

(Additional Readings: Gen 12:1-3,22:12-18)

Recap:  We are tracking just a few of what I have referred to as the ‘breadcrumbs’ of the Old Testament that lead us to Advent and the events that follow. These are simply the clues God gives in that half of the book that reveal the plan on His heart for His Son.

Breadcrumb No.2 A Family Line: There is a breadcrumb, as small as it may be, in a prophecy that Noah gave, in the form of a curse and blessings, after the flood, after the incident of him getting drunk, lying naked and being mocked by his youngest son, Ham (who was father of Canaan), but covered and respected by his other two sons, Shem and Japheth. He curses Ham and brings his blessing on the other two, as he refers to, “the Lord, the God of Shem,”  and Shem is clearly to be the lead family. (see Gen 9:18, 25-27). Following Shem’s family tree (see Gen 11:10-27) we eventually come to a son named Abram, later Abraham. The next big breadcrumb (and remember, that clues in a good mystery novel are rarely obvious) comes in a record of a prophecy in Gen 12:1-3 where God promises Abram, “I will make you into a great nation … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

Reasons for this family line: Abraham is traditionally seen as the father of Israel, the first of the Patriarchs, followed by Isaac and then Jacob who is renamed Israel and whose family grows into a nation we know by that name. Much of the time we take these verses in Gen 12 to refer to the father of faith, who showed that a relationship with God is possible, but I suggest there are three other highly significant reasons for the purpose behind the existence of Israel. First, Israel are to reveal God to the rest of the world. Second, as we look at their history throughout the Old Testament, we see they reveal the sinfulness of mankind, so that even those who purport to have a relationship with God by following the rules (the Law) need something more, need some other form of salvation.

Crucial for Advent: Third, and most significantly I believe for this season of the year, the existence of Israel meant the existence of what I call a ‘God environment’ into which the Son of God would be born. How we take this for granted!  When Jesus arrived, he came to a God-orientated nation, a nation with history with God – lots of it – a nation with a temple and a priesthood and the Law of Moses, and synagogues in which it was taught on a weekly basis. Imagine Jesus stepping into some other country in the world where all that was absent. Imagine the work he would have to do simply to prepare the ground to be understood for who he was. But instead, he steps into an environment that is expecting a Messiah, a people who have been following the breadcrumbs for centuries, trying to work out what it all meant, a people whose minds were full of it. It was into this that Jesus spoke and acted.

Advent is the season observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus, at what we call Christmas. It all takes place in this prepared environment that is so crucial to all that follows, an environment that started to be created back with Seth, then down the tree to Abram, and then on until Israel became a nation. This is the context these breadcrumbs create for us into which the Son of God will be born as a baby.

And so the prayer: “Father, how incredible this story is, that having the plan to send your Son to redeem us, you started paving the way by creating this family tree that formed a nation into which he could be born. Thank you for the long-term wonder of all this, thank you that you did it to redeem us – me! Lord, please open my eyes that I may understand more fully that even today I am a player in this plan that originated before Creation, was revealed through the coming of your Son, and is still being worked out – even today! Thank you so much, Lord. Amen.”

3. The Mysteries of God (1)

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 3: The Mysteries of God (1)

Gen 3:15   I will put enmity  between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel

Mixing Metaphors:  I’m afraid I’m going to be mixing metaphors in this study, having started out talking about threads of a tapestry, I want to suggest that the next thread is the idea of the trail of breadcrumbs, because it seems to me that that is exactly what we find in the Old Testament. The idea of a trail of breadcrumbs comes from the children’s story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the two children drop breadcrumbs to form a trail to guide them back to their home. In modern website design, designers refer to a breadcrumb trail being a navigation tool to allow users to see where the user’s current location is in the whole website. In detection books, authors carefully drop breadcrumbs along the way, little clues that give the reader speculative thoughts towards who the murderer is.

The Mystery: In some senses the Old Testament is as much a mystery drama as any modern writing. When Paul spoke of the mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4, Col 4:3) or the mystery of the Gospel (Eph 6:19) or this mystery more generally, (e.g. Rom 16:25, Eph 1:9, 3:3,6,9, Col 1:26,27), it was a mystery that had been there for centuries but was now being made known: the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” (Rom 15:25,26)

The truth is that there are numerous prophetic words in the Old Testament about the coming of the Son, but they are dropped into the text like breadcrumbs to lead us ‘home’ and home is the arrival of Jesus. All of these ‘breadcrumbs’ show us that, as we saw in Thread No.1, God had a plan from before the foundation of the world and that plan involved His Son leaving heaven and being born on earth, i.e. Advent is the door into the execution of that plan. Each of these ‘breadcrumbs’ points to that truth in some way or another.

Breadcrumb No.1. Conflict: There in the Garden of Eden, following the Fall, before the couple are banished from the Garden, God addresses Satan and says, “I will put enmity  between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15) or, as the Message paraphrase puts it, “I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.” This is strange talk. Who is the woman? Is it Eve, all women, or Mary, the mother of Jesus? Perhaps it is wise not to be too specific but certainly the protective heart of every woman is to desire the best for her child and to protect it from harm. In this sense every woman would be against Satan’s intents to harm. His offspring would be everyone who surrenders to his leadership (every unbeliever according to 1 Jn 5:19).

But her offspring? Surely not every human who follows, surely it must be one specific one? There is coming one who will war against Satan, crushing his ability over humans, but in the process will himself be harmed? Who else can this be (we say with the insight of hindsight) but Jesus? The Son of God will leave heaven, come to earth, battle with Satan, and triumph over him through the Cross. And there it is in the third chapter of the Bible, this clue for the avid reader of detective fiction, the follower of breadcrumbs, the seeker of the mysteries found throughout the Old Testament.  But before we pray, just one final thought here about this verse. Even in declaring this, how do you think the Father felt? He is saying, ‘My Son will come to the earth to wage warfare against you, Satan, and he will disarm (Col 2:15) you, but in the process, I know he will have to die, to give up that wonderful life he will have on earth that will bless thousands, in order that he might save millions.’   As necessary as it was, how would you feel as a father, facing the fact that that had to happen?

Prayer Time: Thanks & Request: “Father, thank you that you have laid out these ‘breadcrumbs’ throughout the Old Testament to show us the way to Advent and on to the Cross. Lord, please open our eyes to the wonder of this, your heart that just kept overflowing from time to time so that these clues were dropped, all of which pointed to your master plan. Thank you for the plan on your heart from before the foundation of the world to save us, that was fulfilled in these events, for Advent, for the Nativity, Amen.”

1. The Throne Room of God

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 1: The Throne Room of God

1 Pet 1:20  He was chosen before the creation of the world

Need of a backdrop: One of our problems, I believe, is that as Christmas comes around each year, we tend to focus on just the main events and key players involved in Israel just two thousand years ago, and that’s it. Unfortunately that fails to see the biblical backdrop that puts incredible meaning to what took place. Last year I noted that the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols held every year in King’s College Cambridge, had as their opening reading Genesis 3:8-19. I understand that the purpose was to start pondering on the reason for Advent going right back to the Fall, but I would like us to go back beyond that because unless we do we may fall into the error of believing that Advent was God’s backup plan after things had gone wrong and nothing could be further from the truth.

The Plan before Time: Our verse above, “He was chosen before the creation of the world,” is one of seven references in the New Testament to the fact that everything about Jesus was formulated by the Godhead before the Creation of the world, i.e. Jesus was loved by the Father ‘back then’ (Jn 17:24), Jesus was chosen to bring our salvation ‘back then’ (1 Pet 1:20), we were chosen because He saw ‘back then’ we would be responders today (Eph 1:4), our names were written in a book of life ‘back then’ (Rev 17:8), Jesus’ death on the cross was decreed ‘back then’ (Rev 13:8), it was agreed that this is how God’s grace would be conveyed to us ‘back then’ (2 Tim 1:9), and the end result for us would be eternal life, decreed ‘back then’ (Tit 1:2).

Do you catch the wonder of this, that the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – planned Advent even before they created the world and everything we know, there in the throne room of God? It was not a mistake; it was not a second fall-back plan; it was an integral part of God’s overall plan for this world – which had a beginning and has a planned end. In the past I have tried to envisage a conversation between the three members of the Godhead as they considered the possibilities of what would happen if they created a world of human beings with free will. As God knows everything and is all-wise, it is probable that such a conversation never happened, it was just a split second (outside time!!!) awareness that this HAD to happen, this was the only way for it to happen. The more you think into it, the more you realize this is true, it had to happen this way. I hope we can see that in what follows.

Prayer Time – Thanks: Time to pray, prayers of thanks: “Lord God, you who are sovereign Lord of all things, Creator of heaven earth, the all-knowing one, the all-wise one, thank you that you knew exactly what you were doing when you designed the world and us, and gave us free will, thank you that you understood the consequences and knew what had to be done, and when. Amen.”

Prayer Time – Requests:  Wise men know their limitations. “Lord Jesus, you have shown us that you are for us and that you understand our limitations. Lord, please deliver us from simply reading words, please impact our hearts with the wonder of the reality we have just been considering. Lord, please help us see and remember the ‘big picture’ this Christmas, that it isn’t just about a few limited events spread over a year, but this is in reality part of your big plan that began back before time and will only ‘finish’ after time and in eternity. Amen.”

1. Introduction

The Impossibilities of God in a Broken World, the story of Christmas, Meditations:

1. Introduction

Jn 6:38    I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

Genesis of an idea: Every year Advent arrives and I think, “Well, I have written about Christmas several times before, there’s not a lot left to say. What shall I write about instead?” (A rather short-sighted approach for you can, I believe, look afresh at the same Scripture time and time again and see something new). Anyway, the same thing happened at the beginning of December this year, but then I was sitting in the worship of a Sunday morning service and had a strong sense of a different view of the events in respect of what we now call ‘Christmas’.  I don’t know what caused it but I suddenly found myself thinking about all these things that go to make up the Christmas story and saw them as simply impossible – in human terms – and yet things that happened because God was stepping down onto this broken world.

A Micro Thought: A little while back I started writing what I called ‘Micro thoughts’, short writings on my Facebook pages that were short, sharp and to the point, making a single point each time, written every three or four days, and when we came to December I focused them as ‘Advent Micro Thoughts’.  Here is the first one I wrote then: “Why, before all else (1 Pet 1:20), should the Godhead have planned for one of them to leave the wonder, the beauty, the glory, the peace and the harmony of heaven to come to the war-torn earth where human beings abused and enslaved one another, fought one another, argued with one another, allowed their minds to be distorted and twisted and warped in self-centred godlessness? Why would he come down (Jn 6:38) into all this in total vulnerability, almost hidden from view, utterly reliant on a teenage mother and questioning father? Why? Love.”

Silent Night? There is a Christmas carol that starts, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright,” and it conveys this beautiful picture of what was taking place two thousand years ago, as if everything was wonderfully peaceful, but the truth is very far from that. It is a beautiful romantic picture conjured up by that carol and the first verse goes on to speak of the crib scene: “Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.” It’s a beautiful carol and I have lost count of how many times I have sung it over the years, but really and truly, when you start thinking of the circumstances that make up the Christmas story, peace is the last thing than comes to mind! We’ll see that as we go along.

Context – Ben Hur: Perhaps to understand something more of what I have just been saying, it might be appropriate to think about the film ‘Ben Hur’. I realize I haven’t seen the 2016 version and so you must put up with my comments about the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston. When people speak about that film the thing that usually comes up first in conversation is the deadly chariot race, but the images that always stay with me are those of Judah Ben Hur as a slave on a galley, chained in position with absolutely no hope whatsoever of his life as a slave ever changing. That is the world of two thousand years ago under the domination of the Roman empire with possibly one of the most disciplined armies of the world, disciplined by fear (because punishment for disobedience was either death or worse, slavery) and triumph (being part of a totally successful army).

Life in General: But life in general – although we may view it through the lenses of life today – was nothing like life today. When sickness struck, the odds were against you. If there was a bad harvest, you would know the pangs of hunger and fear of food running out. If you travelled it was either by foot or possibly by donkey, horse or camel, depending on how rich you were. There were no social security benefits so you took whatever job was available and if your father was a carpenter, you probably followed in his footsteps. Money came from work – your work. If your family didn’t have a trade or business, you worked as a servant, or even slave, for someone else.  If you were a woman, you cared for the home and had children.  Life for most was entirely parochial, you just didn’t travel. The word ‘holiday’ was probably unknown for most. If you had a disability and could not work, you begged and relied upon charity of passers-by or of your family. Because of the Roman presence, sometimes you worked for these overlords, perhaps collecting taxes for them and as they were not too concerned, just that you collected sufficient, it gave you space to be less than scrupulous in your dealings with the ordinary people. Yes, they may have disliked you but who cares, you are in the place of power and power means wealth and wealth means comfort in this often-uncomfortable world.

Why this world? Perhaps most people were too busy surviving to bother thinking about such issues but for us today we have space to ask the big questions, why is this world like this, why did you allow it to be like this God, why don’t you do something to change it? Security comes from an ordered life, and for a Jew living in the land we call Israel, order came through following the Law of Moses, hoping for a Messiah to come one day to bring us freedom as the prophets hinted, attending Synagogue on Saturday and entering into the life of our local community. As long as you kept the rules you were acceptable. Those who collaborated with the Romans were despised, and some had jobs that put them outside the ambit of community life, like those who were shepherds and who had to live out on the hills looking after their master’s sheep. Why was life so tough?  Why did God make it like this? Why didn’t He do something to change it? Those are some of the questions we’ll pick up along the way in these days ahead.

Meanwhile, back in heaven: Some have the view that Jesus first came into existence when he was conceived in Mary but such people clearly have never read John’s gospel. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, certainly did appear in human form for the first time two thousand years ago, but the Son of God had existed with the Father from before time began and was there with the Father bringing the material world into being (Jn 1:3, Heb 1:2, Prov 8:27-31) and there he existed as the glorious second person of the Trinity (Jn 17:5,24). From there the Son ‘came down’, “I have come down from heaven.” (Jn 6:38)

And to Christmas? Unfortunately so often, in our thinking, we have relegated the Christmas story to nativity plays in schools where the baby Jesus gets accompanied by angels, sheep, penguins, lions and anything else that takes the school’s fancy, just helping the reality of what really happened drift further and further away from our understanding today. It is actually a harsh and difficult story, with occasional bursts of glory, but it is the story of God coming to do things which most people consider impossible – the first being that Almighty God, who sits on clouds in many people’s imaginations, comes to earth in the form of a baby. How ridiculous – but true!

The reality: Perfect God coming to a very imperfect world, perfect God coming to very imperfect people: that is what brings hope for you and me, and that must be one of the primary messages of Christmas, that God acted on their plan to leave the wonder, the beauty, the glory, the peace and the harmony of heaven to come to the war-torn earth where human beings abused and enslaved one another, fought one another, argued with one another, allowed their minds to be distorted and twisted and warped in self-centred godlessness. That is the wonder of Christmas and if you’ve never seen it like that, perhaps you’ve missed the reality of this story.  But it’s not just a story, it is history, facts of time-space history, and it is, together with the story of Good Friday and Easter Day, the most incredible and wonderful story ever to be declared on the earth.   It is only, I suggest, when we see the impossibilities confronting these people and the harshness and difficulties that they went through, will we truly see the wonder of these events.

22. A Seeking Heart

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.22

22. A Seeking Heart gets Revelation

Luke 2:25,26 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 upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Most of us have dreams. No, not the dreams-at-night type of dreams, but dreams of what might be. Sometimes those dreams just lurk there in the background of your consciousness and you’re hardly aware of them – but they’re there. For many people they’re in the form of, “If only….” They may be dreams of winning the lottery (most unlikely to be fulfilled) or they may be dreams of going somewhere or achieving something – perhaps of learning something new. Oh yes, most people have dreams, even if they’re just below the conscious level. Simeon was someone with a ‘dream’.

Simeon lived in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the place where the Temple of God was. Simeon was a Jew and no doubt well taught. Simeon had been taught the many scriptures, in what we now call the Old Testament, that pointed to One who would come to fulfil God’s purposes of the ages for Israel. He looked at Israel in subservience to the Roman overlords, and he read the scrolls and saw in them the glory that Israel had once been. He saw that the One would come to comfort the people of Israel, and be the consolation of Israel. The teachers had differing views of the sort of person this One would be. Some said a conquering king, others said a suffering servant, because the prophetic scriptures seemed to indicate both, and they couldn’t see how he could be both, so they opted for one or the other. Simeon read these Scriptures and then it was as if someone or something – the Holy Spirit could it be? – seemed to say to him that this One would come in his lifetime. He became absolutely convinced, the more he thought about it, that this was God confirming this to him.

Now, do you see what has happened in what we’ve just described? Yesterday we described again ways that God speaks. Included in the list was through the Scriptures, and also directly by His Holy Spirit. In the text, in the verses we’re reading, the Scriptures aren’t actually mentioned, but being a righteous Jew in Jerusalem, he would certainly have been taught them. There clearly was, in Simeon, a coming together of Word and Spirit. He read it and he heard it in his spirit. That’s how it happens in Christians. This man is a pre-Christian, a Christian in all but name, for he believes in the saviour, even though he’s not there yet! He’s read of him and been spoken to within himself of him. He is utterly convinced about the Coming One.

That’s amazing because it’s more than most people today achieve, who now have all the story of Jesus available to them and yet who don’t bother to read, don’t bother to seek. Jesus was later to say, Seek and go on seeking, and you will find.” (Mt 7:7 using the ongoing tense that is there). We don’t know quite how it was for Simeon but often there is something in people that starts them looking (God speaking to them?) and so they start searching and as they start searching the search becomes more intense – and as they go on searching they come to a place of decision, a place of realisation.

If you have read through these Advent meditations, welcome to the seekers club. Whether you’re a Christian or a not-yet-Christian, welcome to the Club. As you read, pray, because as you pray you are seeking God and seekers who go on seeking always find. May this time be a time when you either find and deepen your existing relationship with God, or even perhaps for some, find Him for the first time. We’re only a few days off Christmas now. Have this most wonderful of presents. If need be, go back and reread these meditations, go and read the whole story in a Bible. Seek and find.