First Mennonite Church
December 26, 2021
A Day of Consolation
This passage presents a beautiful picture of how human lives intersect. It is a passage in which heaven and earth meet and more specifically it is a picture in which God in human form meets with mankind. In this picture, we see city dwellers meeting countryside folks, where an elderly gentleman meets a newborn, where a mundane day become a divine moment, where ritual becomes incarnation, and where promise of long ago comes to fulfillment. It is a moment in which a longing heart is dismissed in peace and a joyful heart takes a journey of heartbreak. This passage is filled with contrasts. But today, I only want to talk about two general observations. You can explore and ponder on the other contrasts.
Up until recent decades, people went to church every Sunday. Today, we must admit that the practice of rituals, sacraments, or religious ordinances are at its lowest in Christendom. Religious rituals in general have been relegated to fewer occasions in the lives of people. Besides Easter and Christmas, people only become aware of religious rituals when marrying, preparing funerals, or dedicating or baptizing their infants.
In the Jewish context of Mary and Joseph, every household was required to honor God in everything and every day. Every Jew was mindful of God’s command: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone…Keep these words…recite them to your children everywhere you go, when you rise up, when you lie down. Post them everywhere you could see them daily (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Mary and Joseph read the word, lived by the word, worked out the word, rested with the word, and worshipped with the word. The Torah was present when they rose up in the morning and it was with them when they went to bed. So, when their baby boy was born, their saturated lives with the word led them to fulfill the rituals pertaining to the dedication of baby Jesus and of the purification of Mary, the mother. Their ready compliance with the rituals flowed out from a saturated life with the word. Circumcision must take place on the eighth day Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3, see also Phil. 3:5.
This passage calls for us to open our eyes and to take notice how secularism, the idea that human life is possible without any consideration of God, so subtlety can overtake us. Joseph and Mary’s bond to the word of God and their ready compliance to it call us to pause and to discern the entrapments we can be caught by that prevents us from immersing ourselves into the word of God. The busyness of life, the pressing desire for happiness and fulfilment, the shrinking family-time, and the ever-increasing attachment and dependence on technology are not only physically consuming and mentally draining, but are spiritually numbing us. These things stunt spiritual growth and desensitizes us to the voice of God. It makes us to fail to recognize the sacredness of every aspect of life and to miss out the presence of God in our everyday lives.
As we close this Advent Season, let us take time to reflect on our spiritual life. Where does the Word of God stand in your life? What changes will you implement this coming New Year to make or increase your time with the Word of God? What area in your life would you like the Lord to take over? If you have not been baptized yet, would you like to, this coming year? If you have young children, will you strive to lead them to the Lord? Will you dedicate your children to the Lord as Joseph and Mary did? Will you honor your spouse as you vowed to do the day you got married?
Joseph and Mary’s lives with the word and their close obedience to follow it are models for us.
At the beginning, I said I will make two general observations. The second one is about Simeon.
Simeon is described as “righteous and devout man”
Simeon had been waiting for the “consolation of Israel.” This vision of a day of “consolation” for Israel is based on the words of Isaiah.
Comfort, O comfort my people,
Says the Lord
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. (Isaiah 40:1-2)
For the Lord will comfort Zion. (Isaiah 51:3)
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
Who bring good news of salvation,
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Break forth together into singing,
You ruins of Jerusalem;
For the Lord has comforted his people.
He has redeemed Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:7, 9)
We do not know since when Simeon started looking forward to the day in which God would bring redemption to his hurting, oppressed, and spiritually fainting people. Simeon had not only expected and hoped for that day of consolation to come, but he also prayed. Implied in the text is that Simeon had been fervently praying for it to the point that the Holy Spirit made known to him he would not see death before that day comes true. Simeon prayed and kept waiting. He grew old, but his hope did not wither. It began a normal day for Simeon and then the Spirit prompted him to go to the temple and he obeyed. He did not know that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were in the temple fulfilling their obligations to God. Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismissyour servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation…”
Oh, what a joyous moment it was for Simeon! How lovely it was to see this older man holding in his arms an eight-day old baby. But what make this the most marvelous of occasions is what Simeon said, “You may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” What a sense of peace and joy. What a sense of confidence and satisfaction! Simeon got everything he has lived for. He got everything his heart had yearned for so many years. There was no more waiting to do and nothing to hope for. It was all complete!
What happened to Simeon inspires faith and trust in God. What happened to Simeon is an example and encouraging news to everyone who is patiently waiting for a “day of consolation” of their own. What happened to Simeon is testimony of what will happen to everyone who waits. Simeon reminds everyone that those who hope and waiting in God are not wasting their time. As the apostle Paul writes: Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. (Romans 5:5).
There are many who are patiently waiting for “a day of consolation” of some kind. For some, it is a medical report that would relieve them from their fears. For others, it might be a day to see their loved ones getting saved by the Lord. Still yet for others, it could be a dream come true. For a mother-to-be, it is the day when her baby is born. For a student, the day when he or she walks the graduation stage; for the young lovers, to see their grand day arrive.
Each of us has hopes and is hoping for some sort of day of consolation to come.
Jesus is God’s consolation for Israel and the world. He was the hoped-for Messiah. He brought God’s light and love to the world. But we are looking forward to God’s promised full rest yet.
My dear friends, there is still the greatest day of God’s consolation awaiting us: the day of the Lord’s coming. It will be the day of all days. It will be the day when everything wrong in this world will be made right. It will be a day when our faith will become sight. I will be a day when “we will become like Christ is,” says the apostle Peter. When the Lord comes, God will wipe our tears. There will be no more pain.
This day of consolation became nearer to us the day Jesus was born. Amen!