|A certain thematic insight ("What Are You Waiting For?") and suggested 3-part Advent MidWeek series of messages introduced here originally came from a magazine article I was shown sometime in the mid-1990s (Christianity Today -?), but the messages are my own work. This is then the first of three Advent "midweek" sermons...
SIMEON - WAITING FOR CONSOLATION
25Now 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. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved 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, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
33The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then 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, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
St. Luke used a specific (Greek) term just three times in his Gospel to characterize three specific people. They were "WAITING FOR" the fulfillment of certain promises expressly spoken from God. - Luke tells us who the three people were and the urgent desire each was anticipating:
--> Simeon was "waiting for the CONSOLATION of Israel."
Anna, the Prophetess, herself awaited and spoke to all who were "waiting for the REDEMPTION of Jerusalem."
(And some years later...)
Joseph of Arimathea was "waiting for the KINGDOM of God."
During the church's Advent season we're asked what it is that WE may be waiting for. If your heart is sincerely set on what God has clearly promised (as was true for those three), the answer to your heart's quest is guaranteed! - For this first topic, let's look through the eyes of SIMEON, WAITING FOR CONSOLATION.
SEEKING OR REJECTING GOD'S CONSOLATION
A. THE ILLUSTRATION OF SANDRA
Young Sandra had raised her four-year-old dog from puppyhood. She was only three herself when she chose "Inkspot" as the cutest of the litter, naming him for the large dot between his eyes. They went for daily walks together, and he often chased sticks she threw. She used him for a pillow while watching TV, and he adoringly laid at the foot of her bed every night, all night. - More than just pet and master, they were truly "companions."
Inkspot unfortunately contracted a canine virus, finally dying from it while Sandra was at school one day. In the way we might imagine of a now seven-year-old girl, she led the entire family into the backyard for a very reverential burial ceremony, personally fashioning a grave-marker she wanted to stay there for all time. It said, "Inkspot - Always a Friend to Me."
When all was finished, Sandra led her mother back into the house, pulled her down on the couch, climbed in her lap, and placed her mother's arms around herself. No words were needed. Mom sensed it wasn't the time to promise a new pet or toy. - And so for a long time they just silently sat together with Sandra resting securely and knowing how deeply her mother loved and felt for her. -- We would say that Sandra sought CONSOLATION, and there in her mother's loving arms she received it!
B. THE ILLUSTRATION OF TROY
Next door lived the neighborhood's teenaged "toughy." While Sandra's family was busy burying Inkspot, Troy (his name was) cracked an ankle-bone in a school football game. Although he was in quite obvious pain, he insisted on staying in the game and refused any medical attention.
Troy's "macho" behavior resulted in his team losing and his injury becoming permanent. His bigshot "Don't you dare try to console me"-attitude took a heavy toll, and now there was no changing the outcome.
C. WE ARE LIKE BOTH
Did it strike your attention that such opposing natures shown by Sandra and Troy should be presented as living next door to each other? That's what our hearts, as Christians, are like! There's the sinful, rebellious pride that provokes God's wrath, and there's the side that says, "Dear God, help me. Forgive me, hold me and keep me as Your child. I do believe in You, but help my unbelief."
At least in true Christians there is that Sandra-like side, though, which legitimately wants the same kind of CONSOLATION Simeon sought - frustrated by his personal sin-sickness and appalled and almost in full despair at the centuries of idolatry and waywardness of his countrymen and society. -- He had a Word and Promise from God, though - something he was waiting for, looking expectantly for, longing for, hanging on and enduring for - what Isaiah and the Prophets had proclaimed for all people, but also especially for himself that he personally "should not see death until he had seen the Lord's Christ."
SIMEON'S QUEST AND ANSWER
Simeon actively sought that consolation! His situation in many ways, although separated by a good 2000 years, wasn't really that different from our own. It was in fact the very same situation as ours regarding the sin that infected him and his society.
We're told that Simeon was "righteous and devout," which couldn't have been true if he hadn't been a person of faith, even as we claim to be. By God's grace his faith had its result when it HAPPENED(!)-- right there in the Temple where he was, when the Baby Jesus was brought in obedience to the Law. With his own eyes Simeon saw God-in-the-flesh. With his own hands he held the Child, and, in it being revealed to him who this was, what rapturous awe must have gripped his heart and soul!
Simeon both praised and prophesied. He acknowledged that God had kept the personal promise. Now he could die in peace - the peace of sin forgiven - because he saw and held for himself God's Anointed One, the Christ, the Salvation God truly had prepared - and for all people, both "a light to lighten the Gentiles" as well as "for glory to (His) people Israel."
In all this Simeon could still only respond and speak through faith, though! He didn't witness this Baby performing any miracles. Jesus was presented with the offering brought by the poorest, in fact. Simeon hadn't heard Christ's preaching and teaching or been present at the Cross or grave, or at Christ's resurrection or ascension, as he held the Baby and extolled God's Almighty Name. Only by faith was he able to pronounce such lofty assertions about this Child. - The same applies when Simeon addressed Mary directly about her Son, identifying Him as a "Sign" in whom many in Israel would believe and whom many would reject, and as One on account of whom Mary's own soul would be pierced with pain - as by a sword, -- and as the One by whom believing and unbelieving hearts would be distinguished and revealed.
How could Simeon speak of things he hadn't observed or experienced were it not for faith and God's revelation? - It would still be 30-some years from the cradle to the Cross, and yet Simeon's words stretched that distance! That many would either fall or rise in relation to this Babe leaves no room for neutrality. One either knows and receives Him as God's Light and Glory and Sign, or one is on the side that speaks against Him and falls.
CONSOLATION PROMISED TO US
For those who have received the "Lord's Christ" in faith, we too have many Bible-words from God of true comfort, promise and consolation. - Simeon really had no more than we do(!), except for the brief personal encounter with the Infant. He could have regarded Christ as any other baby, as many no doubt did who gave Him no heed in the Temple that day. If we're looking through Simeon's eyes, he too could only see as we do - but his faith then grasping the consolation God gives in Christ! The very same Christ he saw and held is no different from the Christ we receive through any of the Means of Grace (God's Word and Sacraments)! As Jesus suffered on the Cross and Mary's soul was finally severed with grief, He felt, pitied, lovingly experienced and endured all the hurts your heart may ever feel:--> every tear she d in hurt or anger or pain, all the resentment you ever felt or expressed in thought or word or deed, every illness or injury... -- Your list of the personal and private injustices done to you or by you is endless, and He knows you and your life so intimately well that He felt every bit of those things with nothing but compassion through His suffering!
THAT's CONSOLATION! It's what faith had set Simeon's heart to "wait for." - God tells us through David:--> "As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." Or again in Hebrews we're comforted:--> "We have not a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect was tempted as we are; yet without sin(!)."
If your heart is waiting for the kind of consolation Simeon did, you are then looking to the very same "Lord's Christ" who IS the Salvation for all, the Light for Gentiles and Israel's Glory. Because Jesus rose in victory, having paid for sin by suffering and dying and crushing death, the full consolation God so dearly wants to give is already yours! -- Your death, however near or far, can be in peace - believing in the same Christ that Simeon did. In Christ our deepest cravings for CONSOLATION are already completely met, so we can expectantly wait to see him ourselves in faith!