AN OLD MAN’S HOPE
Advent, Redemption, God is faithful to his promises
Note: These scripts are written with the idea that an original participant in the advent story has come into our time to share their story. I presented these as simple monologues. I didn’t dress up or give any particular introduction . . . It didn’t take people long to see what I was doing. Please use these for your own ministry but do NOT publish them as your own. I would also appreciate a note telling me that these words are continuing to be used by God. Note to Bruce
I’m a “bit player” in the Nativity story. In fact, I wasn’t involved in the story at all util the baby Jesus was about six weeks old.
I met the Christ-child in the temple. His parents had come to Jerusalem to perform two important rites: The redemption of their Son and the purification of the Mother. The circumcision and naming of the child had already taken place in Bethlehem eight days after His birth. The very name given the child is significant because the name “Jesus” means: “Salvation if of the Lord.”
The circumcision procedure was designed to portray the special relationship with God the child had by virtue of His birth as a Jew.
Every firstborn male child also had to be “redeemed” sometime after the first month of birth. The reason for this redemption ceremony goes back to the Passover when God spared the firstborn sons of Israel and killed the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. From that time on the firstborn son belonged to God. Instead of making each firstborn male a priest, God made the tribe of Levi the priests. The Levites then represented the firstborn children.
The redemption ceremony was simple yet profound in meaning. The parents gave their child to God by handing their child to the priest. The priest would pronounce generally two benedictions and then the parents would pay the redemption price of five denarii (which was used to support the Levites) and the child would be given back to eh parents.
Many have pointed out that this simple act pointed out what Christ did in order to redeem us. Because of sin we and our children belonged to the Evil One, God gave Christ as the price to redeem us.
During this time Mary also had to offer purification sacrifices after having a baby. She was considered ceremonially unclean for 40 days after the birth of a boy, 80 days after the birth of a girl. I don’t really know for sure whey there is the difference….there just is. At the conclusion of this period she is to bring a sin offering and a burnt offering to the temple in Jerusalem.
All the acts of cleansing or purification were designed to remind us that God is Holy. He is undefiled and cannot be approached with a sinful or an unclean heart or body. We must come to Him in purity. Any time we become impure: because of sin, through disease or being near a disease, through war or a bodily discharge of any kind, we had to bath and sometimes offer a sacrifice to restore our purity before God. In the case of childbirth, though it is a beautiful experience, it involves healing and bleeding, both resulting in uncleanness. In your culture a woman is believed to need 6 weeks to recuperate from childbirth, this is basically true for us as well.
The Burnt offering (a lamb, ram, goat) was to atone for any sin committed during that time of uncleanness. The Sin offering (a pigeon or dove) was to seek cleansing from unintentional defilement. You see, we knew that even an unintentional sin made a man unable to stand in God’s presence. A poor family (like Mary and Joseph) who could not afford the price of a lamb could offer two doves instead. The laws seem complicated but are designed to underscore the Holiness of our Creator. They are not as strange as you think.
Any way . . . . it was following the redemption ceremony that I met the newborn Savior. I had heard from the Shepherds who tended the temple flocks, their claim that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. I had been watching ever since for God to point that child out to me. That’s exactly what He did that day.
You cannot imagine how special a moment this was for me. I had stayed around the temple for years waiting for Messiah. Most people had given up hope, but I hadn’t. I expected Him at any time and stayed near the temple to pray and keep my spirit clear before the Lord. The Lord has assured me years before that I would not die before seeing the Messiah with my own eyes. I can’t explain exactly how He told me that . . .He just did. You can Imagine how the words of the Shepherds made my heart race.
As in your day, there were people in mine who’s spiritual intensity was only as great as their last spiritual experience. When nothing extraordinary happens in their life they grow cold and lazy. Well, we had spent 4 centuries waiting for a new prophet and people had grown skeptical. Their religion had become formal rather than vital. I had spent most of my life waiting and yearning for a day when God would bring Messiah to us.
People made fun of my confidence and expectation. They would walk by me and say: “Hey, old man, see any Redeemers lately?” If I had to leave the temple area for awhile they would taunt me: “Hey, Simeon, are you going to see if the Messiah got lost trying to find you?” or “You better not leave, the Messiah might come while you’re gone.”
Sometimes I could hear people whisper to others. They would point at me and say, “That old man over there is a nut. He says God “told him” that He would live to see the Messiah . . . we better not bother him. He may be expecting another “message from God.” God checks with him before He does anything!” They would all get a good laugh out of these taunts. As for me, I was not angered . . . just saddened by the nonsense.(1)
It troubled me that my own countryman had grown lackadaisical in their devotion. Sure, it had been 400 years since God had sent a prophet but . . .God is faithful to His word. I’m sure you feel the same way about those who make fun of your expectation of the Savior’s return.
Anyhow, on this day the Spirit within me drew me to the place where Mary and Joseph were. As soon as I saw them I knew that this was the child. Unless you have experienced the Spirit’s leading in your life I could never explain it to you…..and, if you have experienced it, you don’t need an explanation.
When I saw the child, I trembled with excitement. At first I could not speak. I reached for the child and they gave Him to me. My heart filled with joy. The Lord had fulfilled His promise to Israel and to me. I had seen the Messiah with my own eyes. My life was now complete. I could die in peace. I had met the Messiah and all fear of death was now gone. Death no longer was a bleak prospect, but a glorious one. I began to sing of God’s greatness.
I understood and proclaimed the fact that this was the one awaited by all men. Not just the Jews mind you, but all men. This child was to be the Savior for the entire world. . . .both the Jew and the Gentile. The Hebrew and the Roman, the religious and the pagan. This child would make it possible for all who would believe, to be brought close to God.
The parents were understandably taken aback by my behavior. They did not expect anyone to know who the child was. They let me hold Him. He grabbed my finger and I swear He smiled at me. Life was never richer than at that moment.
As I stood there with them, I offered a blessing and then the Lord gave me a prophetic message, a glimpse of this child’s future. I said: “This child will cause the rising and falling of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken again, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Then I looked at Mary and said, “And a sword will pierce your soul too.”
Now these words may not mean much to you but as I pondered them they had great meaning. God showed me that this child, Jesus, was going to bring people to a point of decision: they were either going to fall away or rise with Him. They would serve Him or hate Him, He would leave no middle ground.
He was indeed a sign from God, a sign of His love, His justice, His grace…but that sign was going to be spoken against. Though He was sent by God, not everyone would be pleased. He would ultimately reveal the true heart beneath the surface of the showy piety. Jesus would bring people to show their true colors. He does the same still today, doesn’t He? People are more than happy to be involved in religion, they’ll agree to rules. . . . that’s safe. However, Jesus calls us to renounce our sin (which we don’t even want to admit) and follow Him completely. Even today when you preach that message many religious people show their true colors. They will have none of that kind of talk. They want religion, not Lordship.
And of course when I spoke of the sword piercing Mary’s heart, it pointed to that day when she would stand at the foot of the cross and watch her own Son die. When the spear when through His side it was as if it went through her as well. I didn’t understand all this at the time, of course, but God did, and He used me to prepare her.
The thing I personally remember from the encounter was that tremendous sense of finally having found the key to life. Until I met Jesus my life was empty, like a piece of it was missing. Granted, I was religious, I was respected, I had a good life . . . but something was missing. I found that something, that someone in Jesus. He was the one I spent my life longing for. Now that I had found Him, I found peace with God. I didn’t need to witness the miracles He would perform, I didn’t need to hear His teachings, I didn’t even need to see the cross. In seeing the Messiah I knew God had been faithful. I entrusted myself to Him even at that time of infancy.
In talking to others I have concluded that my experience is not unique. Most people who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Master tell me that their experience is the same. They too have found Him to be the one who fills the ache in their soul. I can’t imagine facing death without the peace that can come only from Him. Yet, millions die every day without Him.
I know Christmas is a festive time of year. And we don’t like to think about death any time, especially at Christmas. But, you see, I’m not really talking about death, I’m talking about life; a fulfilled, meaningful, complete, peace-with-God kind of life.
Many people were in the temple the day I met Jesus, and most of them walked on by in the pursuit of their religion. The same is true today. The same is true this Christmas. May are busy preparing for the celebration of the Savior’s birth even as they walk right by the Savior Himself. They search for happiness in a shiny toy, or a cherished possession. Unfortunately, what they search for can only come from Jesus.
One of your writers has said: “light is never given while we fear the dark.”(2) I think I’d paraphrase like this: “you will never enjoy life until you’re ready to die.” The moment I met Jesus, I was ready to die in peace; and also at that moment I was ready, for the first time to taste the joy of living. I pray that you would come to know this same peace and joy in your life.
1. This is obviously hypothesis. I received the idea from R.C. Sproul’s tape: “The Infancy” in the Life of Christ audio series from Ligionier Ministries, PO Box 7500 Orlando, FL. 32854.