Seward United Methodist Church
Monday, December 17, 2018
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The Right Time

Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 2:21-40

 We only find this story about Jesus’ childhood in Luke’s Gospel.  It can’t be because Luke had any personal knowledge of it himself.  Luke was a Gentile, and while we don’t know for certain where he was from, it appears he was from the city of Troas on the western coast of modern day Turkey.  But Luke traveled to Jerusalem and Judea with Paul at the end of his Third Journey, and he stayed there for a couple of years while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea.  It was during time that he wrote his Gospel, and most likely he knew this story because he heard directly from Mary the mother of Jesus.  

 It begins with the rituals surrounding the birth of a son.  As Galatians reminds us, Jesus was “subject to the Law.”  So in keeping with the Law, he was circumcised on the 8th day and given his name at that time.  After Mary’s 40 days of purification after the birth of a child, he was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Every first-born son belonged to God.  So each one was presented to God and then bought back with a price.  The price was a lamb and a dove, or for those who were too poor to buy a lamb, as Mary and Joseph were, two doves or pigeons.  

 Rituals serve an important function in our spiritual life.  Some people look down on rituals, and they certainly can become “empty rituals,” but that doesn’t mean that ritual itself is bad.  Rituals remind us of the mysterious presence of God all throughout our lives, and call that presence to mind in important moments like birth, “coming of age,” marriage, and death.  

 While they are in the Temple, two remarkable encounters happen with Simeon and Anna.  These two are described as righteous and devout people, people who listened for and obeyed God.  Anna is specifically said to be quite old, either 84 years old, or possibly that she had been a widow for 84 years, which would put at over 100 years old.  She worshipped God and prayed both day and night.  That’s certainly a model for all of us.  Worship of God and prayer with God should permeate our lives.  We talked a little about that two Sundays ago when we looked at 1st Thessalonians 5.  Simeon’s age is not mentioned, but from the fact that he begins his prayer by saying, “Now your servant may die in peace,” we can deduce that he was probably also a “mature” adult.  

 Both of them have been eagerly waiting for God’s Messiah to appear.  Simeon was told that he would not die before he saw Messiah come.  And it was God’s Spirit that led him to the Temple that day to see Jesus presented.  

 It happened at the right time.  Galatians 4:4 says, “At the right time, God sent his Son.”  In the Greek language of the New Testament, there were two different words for “time.”  One was KRONOS, which referred to time in the normal sense, 2 AM, 6 PM, noon, oh-dark-thirty, etc.  The other word was KAIROS, which was more about “timing” than time.  It’s often translated as “appointed time” or “the right time.”  In God’s timing, in his KAIROS, his promises come true.

 But I do have to wonder, what did Simeon think of Jesus?  Here is Jesus, a tiny little baby boy, just over a month old, born to an average couple, a carpenter or stonemason and his wife, who were too poor to be able to buy a lamb?  Remember:  The common concept of the Messiah in 1st century Judaism was that he would be a great, conquering warrior king.  Not a poor, little baby.  I have to wonder if Simeon was a little disappointed.  But it seems he wasn’t!

 And I find it equally amazing that he could then pray, “I may die in peace.”  Simeon:  Don’t you want to know what’s going to happen next?  Don’t you want to see what this Messiah will do?  But that wasn’t his place.  His place was just to see a glimpse of God’s salvation, and then testify about it.  

 To me, these two humble servants of God stand as giants of faith.  Through their long years, they never gave up hope.  They trusted God to fulfill his promise in his timing and in his way.  Too often we lose faith in God when God doesn’t meet our expectations, our hopes, in our timing.  Simeon and Anna stand as reminders that God is always faithful, and we should trust him.  

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