TEXT: Luke 2:27-32; Isaiah 60:1-3
Today is the second Sunday of Advent, which we are spending with Anna and Simeon, two people in the Gospels who were faithfully serving the Lord and waiting expectantly for God’s Messiah. Last week we looked at the first part of Simeon’s story to better understand what it mean that the Messiah Jesus would be the “Consolation of Israel.” This week we are going to look at Simeon’s prayer and how it helps us understand the scope of God’s salvation which would be demonstrated through Jesus.
If I asked you what “God’s salvation” was I bet most of you would be able to tell me that Jesus died on the cross for your sins so that you might go to Heaven. You might even elaborate using John 3:16 to say that this salvation was because of God’s great love and that Heaven was eternal life with God. And you’d be right!
One of my favorite things to remind people of is how deep God’s love is. So many people struggle with thinking that they are too sinful or too messed up for God to love. Far from it! Jesus came to save sinful people and God’s love is bigger than human sin… by a long shot!
All of that is true, but it’s not the focus of today’s verses. These are not talking about how DEEP God’s love and salvation are, but how broad or WIDE God’s love and salvation are. And this is also true! And our tendency to focus on individual salvation and not God’s plan for the world causes us to miss a big part of God’s purpose for us in the world!
The Breadth of God’s Salvation
There are three phrases in verses 31-32 that help define the BREADTH of God’s salvation. I’d like to look at each of them with you.
“prepared in the presence of all peoples” – God’s salvation has been for all peoples from the beginning. Even in pronouncing the consequences of the Fall with Adam and Eve, God spoke of the descendant who would crush the serpent’s head. And though God would choose a particular family and people in Abraham, the covenant with Abraham always had all peoples in view. God blessed Abraham and his descendants so that through them God would bless (and save) all the peoples of the world. This IS the old covenant and it was not replaced, but explained and fulfilled in Christ through the new covenant. Testament is another word for covenant, so that our Old Testament is the story of the covenant with Abraham and the new Testament the story of that covenant fulfilled in Christ. From start to finish, the covenant – God’s love and salvation – were for all the peoples of the world.
“a Light of revelation to the Gentiles” – God’s specific Law, message, and promises were spoken to a particular people, Israel. As such, God was yet to be revealed to non-Jews or Gentiles. So in his prayer Simeon recognized that the fulfilling of God’s covenant would reveal God’s love and salvation to the Gentiles (aka the peoples of the world.) Yet even this eventual revelation to the nations were part of the Old Testament promise. Look at our first scripture from Isaiah 60 as one example. To the Exiles Isaiah spoke to this was yet to happen, but Simeon knew the scriptures and recognized Isaiah’s words coming to pass…
1 “Arise, shine; for your light has come,Isaiah 60:1-3
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 “For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
3 “Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.
In the opening to his Gospel, the Apostle John also linked Jesus to this promised light… the “Light of the World.”
“the glory of your people Israel” – As I said, God’s specific Law, message, and promises were spoken to a particular people, Israel. So the coming of the Messiah wasn’t to be a new revelation, but the realization of God keeping His promises through the people Israel, through the descendant of Eve and Abraham and David. Israel’s glory was God’s glory – a promise kept through the generations and the ages for the blessing of the whole world!
Church for the World
As I noted last week, Simeon is described as “righteous and devout.” It is evident that he knew (and followed) the scriptures because of how he used language from Isaiah. I noted that he experienced God’s Holy Spirit, as evidenced by his certainty of seeing the Messiah and his being led into contact with the holy family on this day. So he had a personal knowledge and experience of the DEPTH God’s salvation in his own life! But he also understood the BREADTH of God’s love and salvation as evidenced in his prayer of thanksgiving to God that we’ve looked at today. He prays, “Now Lord, you are releasing your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to your word.” (v.29)
I find all this to be a meaningful testimony and story. But it also challenges us to have a more complete understanding of God’s salvation. It is of vital importance to know God personally, to have a personal relationship with God through our savior, Jesus Christ! I am in no way downplaying the importance of that! But it is essential to our mission, to our purpose as Christ-followers, to have an understanding of and gratitude for the BREADTH of God’s love and salvation.
Why? Because it is at the root of who we are in the world. It is at the root of Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of God, love of neighbor, and life in the world. Our faith is not intended to be a private me-and-Jesus thing, but a public, all-encompassing, way of being in the world. God has prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. That’s how we are to be in the world… in, with, and among all peoples as little lights in the world.
It’s as straightforward as the children’s song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!” The second verse asks if we should hide it under a bushel-basket… “No!” our children sing enthusiastically. Rather, “Everywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine!”
If we understand the DEPTH and BREADTH of God’s love and salvation, we will do no less!
Where do you go? Who do you know? As Pratt and Ashley asked last Sunday, “Where are you and where is God?”
Before you go to sleep tonight, ask that question or sing that song to yourself. If we take it seriously, it will change us, change our church, and change our world. Amen.
Some Music Used
- O Come, All Ye Faithful
- Joy to the World/Unspeakable Joy
- Of the Father’s Love/Love Shines
- Rick Bean, piano
- Choir: Advent Processional (Greig)
- Lo! How a Rose
- King of Kings
- People, Look East