The Word of God makes us always ready. When we hearken to the Message of the Gospel of Christ, we are always ready. When we drift away from the life-saving Message and go through the motions of life, we become dull and insensitive to the things of God. This is truly a difficult age that we live in. There are so many things going on around us that compete for our attention and we have been conditioned to think that we shouldn’t give too much time to the things of God or we might risk being strange. In fact, we are strangers in this world –we are not meant to ‘fit in’. No, we’re not meant to do unloving or un-Christian things to get attention, we are meant to live and breathe the breath of life: God’s very Words. Jesus Himself said (Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4 quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) that man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of Yahweh. The Word, which is God breathed is the Breath of life. We get the impression from the Deuteronomy 6:4-9 passage above that we are meant to LIVE the Word continually –this is what makes us truly Christian and truly alive. The sad fact is that we are finding our sense of worth from sources other than the Word of God. Let’s not be like the church of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) which had a reputation of being alive but in fact was dead. The living Church hearkens to Jesus’ voice. There were those in Israel who hearkened to God’s promises of a Messiah. Two remarkable people met Joseph and Mary at the temple complex in Jerusalem when they brought Jesus to be dedicated to God. Both a prophet and a prophetess were told that the Messiah had come:
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. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem,” (Luke 2:25-38)
Simeon is a remarkable prophet. We don’t know much about Him except that he truly hearkened to God’s voice. We don’t know the name of his father or the name of the tribe he came from –only that he was waiting for the “consolation” or Messianic Age that would bring peace to the whole earth. Certainly he knew the “Shma” (as the Israelites call it), the passage from Deuteronomy that begins with the word “Hear” or “Hearken.” In fact, Simeon was reminded by his own name to listen to and obey God because Simeon, when translated from Hebrew to English, means “one who hearkens” -and he certainly did. He who hearkens anticipates the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Anna is also remarkable. We know more about Anna than we do Simeon. Anna’s name, when translated, means “grace.” Her father’s name means “the Presence,” and she comes from the tribe of Asher, and “Asher” means “blessed.” prophetess. Grace always anticipates a reward that only God could bestow. Grace is what makes us children of the Presence. When grace is received there is an outpouring of thanksgiving to God and true change takes place. By grace we are saved through faith. We are saved by grace to do good works to the glory of God. Grace always anticipates complete and total redemption for the whole world, beginning with the Jews.
When I said, “Merry Christmas,” to everyone as services were dismissed last Sunday, some said, “It’s too early to be wishing ‘Merry Christmas’. But Christmas is not simply a date on the calendar, it’s a state of mind and heart. Unlike the world, we do not celebrate Christmas only once a year; we celebrate it continually as we serve the King. Will you hearken to His voice, anticipating the fulfillment of His promises? Will you live by grace, anticipating your own full redemption and the redemption of all the saints? It is the commission of the Church to be Jerusalem to the world until the complete consolation when Jerusalem is completely restored. Because “Jerusalem”, when translated, means “teaching of peace.” Until that Day, and especially during this season, wear the name of Jerusalem as your own name; we are God’s children, teaching the world about God’s peace. That peace is very precious and full of grace and truth and is intended for the whole world. Serve those around you as you know Jesus would. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love those in the world, church, love them richly that they might be saved. You, and you alone are the one who can bring “merry” back to Christmas. We have much to be merry about –so let your joyous heart be glad, and let your joy be complete and contagious. Hold nothing back. Let the Light of Jesus shine. Merry Christmas.