Theme: Rejoice (Sunday 6 December, 2020)
Series: Advent 2020
Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-56
Preacher: Phil Swain
Do you have a Christmas memory that just makes you smile everything you remember it? Something heart-warming or joyous that just captures the spirit of Christmas?
Marion and I have a great memory of a Christmas conversation with Matthew when Matt was very young. It was Christmas and we were doing something in the loungeroom, and Matt was chatting away. (Which was not that unusual because Matt as a toddler was constantly talking). But then he suddenly gets very animated and excited and started saying over and over … Santhasahose. Santahasahose. He was speaking so fast that I had no idea what he was saying … Santahasahose.
I was trying to get him to slow down a little, slow down so I could understand. Finally, Marion worked out that he was saying: SANTA – HAS – A – HOSE. Santa had come to the community carols on the back of a fire truck and therefore, Santa has a hose.
Other than being a story that makes me smile … it does connect with the message of today. You see sometimes we can get so caught up in the excitement of Christmas, the busyness of the season, the rush to get everything done before Christmas eve that we are missing this simply because we are going too fast.
I want to propose and idea this morning that some of the profound insights and messages from this season can only be heard or understood or experienced if we slow down. I want to suggest that there is joy to be found if we just … pause … for a moment.
We are not good at pausing … just stopping for a moment.
As we prepare to dive in deeper into our Bible reading … lets just sit still for a moment … and ask God to speak to us this morning.
In our bible reading we had two Christmas Characters that we often don’t focus on. They are not part of the nativity image like the wise men or the shepherds but they are two people who certainly understood the power of the pause … that joy comes in the waiting.
The first is Simeon. He had been waiting for the ‘consolation of Israel” (v25). Who knows what that means?
Just on the side … what do you do when you read something that you don’t understand in the bible? Do you just shrug your shoulders and move onto the next verse? How would we work this out?
Dictionary? Consolation means the alleviation or lessening of the grief, sorrow, or disappointment that someone has; comforting.
Other translations of the verse?
(NIRV) He was a good and godly man. He was waiting for God’s promise to Israel to come true.
(GW) He was waiting fr the one who would comfort Israel.
(CEV) He loved God and was waiting for God to save the people of Israel.
(MSG) Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel.
That makes a bit more sense now. Simeon was waiting for God to send the one who will bring comfort, alleviate the grief and sorrow of Israel, to bring comfort, the one who would help and save Israel. Simeon was waiting in the space, in the pause, between the promise of the Messiah and the fulfillment of that promise.
But for Simeon, this was a hopeful waiting. The Holy Spirit has revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before he died. This particular day Simeon gets the nudge from the Holy Spirit to go to the temple and was there when Mary and Joseph arrive. Taking Jesus in his arm he said those amazing words, “with my own eyes I have seen your salvation” (v30)
Anna had a similar but different story. She too was “looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (v38). But whereas Simeon was going along with his daily life and responded to a prompting of the Holy Spirit … Anna, lived at the temple. Verse 38 tells us that she never left the temple but day and night she worshipped and prayed.
Anna must have been good at waiting patiently. If you do the maths … she would have been married around 14, widowed at around 21 … and she is now 84. That is 60 years of praying in the temple for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And on this day, she saw it. The Messiah had come. The one who will bring redemption was here. And coming up to the child she gave thanks to God.
But why did Luke when writing his gospel highlight the wait? He could have just told the story of Jesus coming to the temple and how Anna and Simeon spoke over Jesus. But Luke wanted us to know that the wait was an important part of the story too. That somehow the experience of seeing Jesus was made more profound, more intense, more impacting because of the wait involved.
I wonder if we had a chance to chat with Simeon, what he would say that he learnt or discovered or experience during the wait. Or I wonder if Anna might have spoke just as highly of the worship and prayer during the wait as the day that she saw Jesus?
What might we experience if we took some time this Christmas to pause for a moment … or to slow down in prayer or worship.
Is there peace or joy to be found in the pauses?
What is God saying to us today?
I am going to let that sit as I finish with one last story – a story that I could relate so much to. A story of a young boy called Simon – aged 8. He had just finished school for the year and all he wanted to do was to run around outside in the great weather. BUT his music teacher had told his mum to make sure he kept up his daily piano practice during the holidays. The last thing that he wanted to do on a sunny Summer day was to sit inside and practice the piano. He wanted to run around, explore, it was Christmas in a few days and he wanted to pack as much as he could in every day…
But his mum was insistent … Simon … come inside … slow down … sit still … and practice your scales. [Play scales really fast].
No Simon … this is not something you can rush … slow down … scales again. [Play scales really fast].
His mum sat next to him. Simon … you need to slow down. If you are always going fast you might miss the Good News of the Season. Simon was getting frustrated. What was his mum talking about … the Good News of the Season???? He just wanted to get this practice over and done with so he could go back and play. [Play scales really fast].
Simon’s mum spoke softly and slowly – slow down. I promise that the Good News of the Season will be revealed. [Play scales a bit slower].
Again just a little slower, his mum said as she stroked his hair. [Play scales a bit slower].
Now as you come down the scales, put a few pauses in. Often the good news of the season can be found in the pauses.
[Play scales up … and then Joy to the World as you come down].
May we all slow down enough this Christmas to discover the good news of the season. May we all experience Jesus in the pauses.