Advent 1 - Hope

life of jesus Dec 22, 2023
 

Welcome to Advent 2024, as we focus on Jesus, the Reason for the Season.

Hope

It was a very dark world. Extremely dark.

The descendants of Abraham had rebelled against God, and they had gone into captivity as a result. And then He had restored them to Jerusalem, but once again, they had neglected Him and pursued the pleasures of the world and the religions of their neighbours. So, God stopped talking to them. For four hundred long years, he remained silent.

Then, along came the Romans in 63 BC. Their ruthlessness was only matched by their desire to avoid conflict in the cultures that they conquered. So they had an uneasy peace - going along to get along - but everything the Jews did was subject to the whims of the Empire. They were far from free.

But there were those who were still watching for the Messiah - the One who would restore Israel. We meet two of them in the Temple when Jesus is 8 days old, and he has been brought to be consecrated to the Lord.

The first we meet is Simeon, who Luke describes as "righteous and devout" (Luke 2:25). We read, "He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah" (2:26). Pretty amazing! When Mary and Joseph brought their baby into the Temple, Simeon sensed the Holy Spirit's leading. He took the baby Jesus into his arms and praised God:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (2:29-32)

Simeon says, "Messiah is here! Now, I am ready to die! Salvation is here!" His prayer had been answered. His hope had been realized. He could rest in peace.

Hope had kept him going for who knows how many years. Hope of a Saviour. Hope of something much, much better than the darkness in which they lived. And now, the world could have hope because Jesus was here!

And there's also Anna, a prophet who had been widowed after only 7 years of marriage, and now at the age of 84, she "never left the temple, but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying" (Luke 2:37). When Anna saw Simeon holding the infant Jesus, she too knew that this was no ordinary baby. "Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).

"Mary, did you know?" the song asks, and the answer is yes, Mary knew. So did Elizabeth, and her unborn still in his mother's womb, John who became the Baptist. So did Joseph. And so did Simeon and Anna. The Messiah had arrived!

Now, they knew that the Messiah was here, but I'm pretty sure they didn't know what that was going to mean. Most expected the Messiah to be a great warrior who would conquer the army of Rome. What they got was an even greater King who would conquer sin and evil.

At that moment, they only knew that their hopes had been realized. Messiah had come!

Of course, as so often happens, when our prayers are answered, it doesn't always end up looking like we expected.

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