Simeon’s Departure – Luke 2
This message is the fourth in our Merry and Bright series.
The Song White Christmas is a consummate hit. In 1942 alone, Crosby’s recording spent eleven weeks on top of the Billboard charts. Re-released by other artists, the single returned to the No. 1 spot during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946, becoming the only single with three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases.
It has often been noted that the mix of melancholy—”just like the ones I used to know”—with comforting images of home—”where the treetops glisten”—resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II. A few weeks after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Crosby introduced “White Christmas” on a Christmas Day broadcast.
While Berlin did not celebrate Christmas because of his faith he did have a Christmas Day tradition. Each Christmas he would visit the grave of his son who died on Christmas Day 1928 at just three weeks of age.
Irving Berlin wrote numerous hit songs, making him famous before the age of 30. He wrote songs like Blue Skies and is the songwriter behind God Bless America. Irving wrote songs for other people to sing. He wrote famous hits that would be made known by other people…
Sometimes, the truths of Christmas and Christianity become things we say for other people, things we say to help others feel Merry and Bright while we experience great sorrow. For Irving Berlin, White Christmas was a song he wrote for Bing Crosby to sing on the classic movie Holiday Inn and on his Christmas Day broadcast while Berlin would visit the grave of his son… I’m afraid there’s an idea that being Merry and Bright has to be separate from Melancholy…
That Joy and Grief are sequential, that they must be experienced separately, that only once we are done grieving can we have joy, and whenever Grief comes that Joy must be banished… This is not what we see in the scriptures… In the Christian faith, we see that Grief and Joy are not independent of one another, but rather they are intermixed.
Joy and Grief are not sequential, but rather simultaneous.
It is not as though we go through periods of grief and when they are over, then we can have joy. We have moments of joy in the midst of our grief and periods of grief in the midst of our joy. This is not bipolar religion, rather it is the layered, deep emotional harmony that goes along with the ever-changing melody of the human experience. We see this laid out for us in scripture in a few places-
Jesus loses his friend Lazarus, and even though Jesus knows better than anyone else that he will see Lazarus again for he has the power over death and would ultimately and finally conquer death in a matter of a week, though he better than anyone knew of the life that is beyond death, he weeps.
Also for Paul, who says in Philippians 2 that to die is gain and that to live is Christ, basically meaning that whether he lives or dies he will have joy, in the very next verse speaking of having sorrow upon sorrow upon the passing of a colleague.
Elsewhere, in 2 Corinthians 6:10 Paul described his ministry band as “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;”
What we have pictured here for us in this experience of simultaneous joy and grief is what it means to have peace. The peace the scripture offers is not the absence of adversity, but joy, trust, and contentment in the midst of adversity. This is part of the reason it is referred to as peace which passes understanding…
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of an art competition where artists were challenged to draw or paint an image that conveyed peace. Many artists submitted drawings of serene landscapes. A lake as smooth as glass… A meadow with the first hints of sunrise… etc. However, the winning piece was a painting of a sea wall where waves were crashing against the rocks. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. Growing out of the sea wall was a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest… perfect peace. The judge explained “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
In the Christmas Story there is a figure who embodies this…
Let’s look at his story in Luke 2. Luke 2:1-20 gives us the Christmas Narrative…
Luke 2:21-35 We are given a pretty good description of the type of man that Simeon was. He was just, devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was upon him… Waiting for the consolation of Israel I had never realized until studying Simeon this week that there are a few characters who Mark and Luke point out to us as “Waiting” Anna who Luke introduces to us next will go and tell of Jesus to all who are “looking for the redemption of Israel” Joseph of Arimithea who would loan Jesus a tomb for 3 days is described as one who “looked for the kingdom of God.”
There was a group of people who had read the prophecies of the Old Testament and were looking for the consolation, redemption, and work of the Kingdom of God. They had been waiting. Simeon was one of these. The Holy Spirit had promised Simeon that he would see the fulfillment of this promise before he passed away.
The moment Simeon sees baby Jesus and the Spirit reveals to him that this is the child, this is the promised one, Simeon is overjoyed because this is what he’s been looking for, hoping for, praying for, waiting for all of these many years. Simeon was blessed to see with his own eyes this fulfillment of the promise, this delivery of hope…
We opened gifts at our house on Friday morning because we’ll be traveling on Christmas Day. The kids had been patiently waiting, but once the opening of gifts began, they couldn’t wait for dad to construct, build, cut open the toys they had just received…
It was a moment of absolute joy as the gifts they had been eyeing were suddenly opened… that’s what we see in Simeon as he runs up to Mary and Joseph and takes up baby Jesus in his arms and begins to sing and testify unto the Lord.
It’s not that Simeon just stumbled upon this, it’s been something he’s been waiting a lifetime for, looking a lifetime for, it was the fulfillment of a lifetime of looking for the king.
This year we’ve said goodbye to several saints, and it is only appropriate that we feel grief, but we should also feel relief and joy. We should celebrate. Because for all 5, it was the final fulfillment of a life dedicated to looking for the king, waiting for the kingdom of God, hoping and trusting in the Lord.
I was thinking this week about how this year has actually been the whole reason our church was started…
Bob Helms started a church in Warrick County because he knew there were people here who would meet God one day and he wanted them to be ready…
When these saints have gone on to the Lord, ready to meet the Lord, it was the accomplishment of that goal!
Simeon says here, you may now take me home Lord in peace, for I have seen your salvation!
Simeon had peace in facing death because he had seen the Christ child, he had seen the Lord! The consolation of Israel had arrived, God had fulfilled his promise and Simeon was holding that fulfillment in his own hands!
Every one of the sad farewells we’ve had this year has also been a departure of peace.
The examples these believers set impact my generation and my kids generation.
(Gavin story about obit)
June’s grandchildren sharing at the funeral…
I want you to see what Simeon says about baby Jesus
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Simeon was not only at peace because he had seen the fulfillment of the promise, but because he knew this child would be a light to the people in the ages to come…
Viola’s grandchildren sitting in the sanctuary… listening to me preach the gospel….