We’re seeing the impact that Jesus’ birth has had beyond those who lived 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Here’s a story about one of the first people to meet Jesus, when he was about 40 days old, and how he saw Jesus would change the world:
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:22-35 ESV)
This man, Simeon, was told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah – God’s anointed one – the true king of Israel. Now, here he was, a baby in Simeon’s arms. In this song or poem, he essentially says he can finally die happy.
But this isn’t just about Simeon. It’s not even just about his people, the Jews, even though t happens at a very Jewish occasion – the temple, with all its purification laws, etc. and a Jewish blessing.
You can see it’s much larger when Simeon says God is doing something about salvation for “all peoples” and specifically a light of revelation for the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well as Israel.
The child Simeon blesses will have an impact globally, eternally. Sometimes that will be wonderful, but other times he’s described as being divisive. Whether we like that or not, we can see Jesus has indeed been divisive – it’s hard to sit on the fence about Jesus – families, friends and other people groups have long been divided by their beliefs about him.
Question: How does the birth of Jesus divide people today? What thoughts might he reveal?
Yesterday, I introduced the idea of grace with a diagram. We will build on that now, so if you missed it, go back and watch Tuesday’s content.
Grace is the most powerful force in the world, it is what makes Christian faith stand out like a jewel---the world craves it---people are so hungry for grace, often desperate for grace---and grace is there for all people.
Imagine grace in Syria, imagine grace in Iraq, imagine grace in a time of marriage breakdown, in your workplace. Just imagine grace everywhere…grace says there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, there is nothing I can do to make God love me less…how would that change the way people act in our world?
Imagine grace in your life…a fresh start, forgiveness, a relationship with God, and hope for the future. A certain way of life, of obedience to God’s way of living is an important part of this, but as outcome, the thanksgiving for God’s love, rather than a way of earning it in the first place.
We’re invited to practice living in God’s kingdom now. This affects many areas of our lives. It reorders our priorities, views of success, sex and marriage, money and possessions, and the poor. That is a big, loaded list.
From the outside, although it looks strange and different, those who practice living God’s kingdom here and now in these ways find that it’s exactly what they were created for – that they’re living according to the script written for their lives and their world, and it’s a natural fit like none other, even though it’s new and different.
We all want to be free, and so sometimes when we hear about laws, living a certain way, we think someone is trying to control or take away our freedom. But imagine a train, that gets bored running up and down its tracks, and looks at countryside, longing to be “free” of the rails. If it does hop the rails, it will meet with disaster and destruction, not happiness and freedom. A train is not designed for fields, but designed for tracks. A train is never more free than doing what it was designed to do...run on tracks.
It’s the same with humans, we’re designed by creator with a specific way of life. For best results, follow maker’s instructions.”
Question: Have you ever gone off the rails in life, thinking you were enjoying your freedom? What helped you get back on track?
Reminder: Last week we talked about worship, and asked you to complete our online survey about worship here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8TS7K93
Reminder: Earlier in this series, we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.