Summary: Simeon hoped to see the messiah before he died and he did. His story teaches us something about why we hope and how to hope.
We’ve just sung that great song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, ‘In Christ alone my hope is found.’ That’s quite a declaration! Getty wrote the music and Townend wrote the words. Townend isn’t merely saying that Jesus is A source of HOPE. He’s saying that Jesus is the ONLY source of hope! What do we think of that?!
There is a tradition of associating four major themes with Christmas. The most common set of themes is hope, peace, joy and love. Churches often highlight those themes over the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. Then on Christmas Day we light the fifth candle, representing Jesus, the light of the world. There’s variation between churches and there’s no reason why we have to say that one candle represents any particular theme – or have candles at all! It’s just a tradition, but it isn’t a bad one.
We’re going to take the first Advent candle as representing hope. Why has the coming of Jesus into the world 2000 or so years ago brought hope? To answer that question, I’m going to look at the response of someone who encountered Jesus soon after he was born. The person is Simeon. I’m guessing Simeon is old, because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Let’s see why Jesus’ coming brought SIMEON hope and then we’ll think about why Jesus’ coming brings US hope.
Please follow me from v.28. Simeon takes Jesus in his arms, blesses God and says:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation…”
[REASON TO HOPE FOR OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY]
In v.30 Simeon says, “for my eyes have seen your salvation.” This is his key statement. It tells us WHY Jesus’ coming brought Simeon hope.
Let me try to explain this with an illustration. Suppose you live in Bath. Today, you have an important meeting in London. You head off down to the railway station and wait for your train. It will whisk you into London in an hour and twenty minutes. But if for any reason the train doesn’t come there’s no other way to get to London on time. So, you very much hope that it does come! Right on time you see the train coming. You feel a sense of relief. You haven’t yet got to your meeting but the fact that the train has come makes it pretty certain that you will.
For Simeon, seeing that Jesus had come was like you, standing on the platform at Bath station, seeing the train come. Jesus is the train in our illustration. He still has a journey ahead of him. But he will complete it and carry those who put their trust in him to their destination.
That was Simeon’s perspective. But what about US? We look back on history and we, like Simeon, see that Jesus has come. Like Simeon, we know that Jesus’ coming means SALVATION. Like Simeon, we don’t see the completion of the salvation. However, we see considerably more of Jesus’ journey than Simeon did. From our vantage point in history, we see Jesus on a cross and three days later, we see him resurrected. Jesus’ journey of salvation has made massive progress. But it still isn’t complete. Jesus still has to come again and take up his rule.
Simeon saw Jesus with physical eyes and said, ‘my eyes have seen your salvation.’ We see Jesus with the eyes of faith and can say the same thing. We, like Simeon, can and should look to our ultimate future with great hope.
But there’s a difference between most of us and Simeon. It seems as though Simeon probably didn’t have many years still to live. I imagined that for years he’d been yearning to see the prophets’ promises fulfilled, to see the messiah. I imagine there wasn’t very much else Simeon was hoping for.
Before we move on, let’s go back to Stuart Townend’s words: ‘In Christ ALONE my hope is found.’ Is he right? Was there any other way to get to London in time for my meeting? Is there any way to enter God’s presence except through Christ?
[REASON TO HOPE IN THE HERE AND NOW]
I imagine that most of us are a bit different from Simon. Like Simeon, we’re looking forward to Jesus coming again and establishing his kingdom. But unlike Simeon, I think, we’re also hoping for all sorts of things in the here-and-now. Some of us are hoping for some things and some are hoping for other things.
• We all hope for an end to Covid-19.
• We might be stretched financially and we hope that money will come in from somewhere.