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?
We are in our last weeks of a new series on “Becoming Like Family”. This is important as our online community begin to share the daily challenges with friends, and we begin to gather our larger community together as one church community. We won’t be bound together by a building, or institution, but rather by five commitments. We’ve talked about commitment to common learning goals, connectedness as a community of small and large groups, connectedness to God in worship, grace in our lifestyles, and finally this week we end our series with a commitment to generosity in our resources.
Last week the Governor General kicked off a new initiative in canada: MY Giving Moment at http://mygivingmoment.ca/. You can watch a video introduction here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9Tn22k6jwE
Canadians clearly have an openness and willingness to give to others. According to a survey published in November 2012 the number of Canadians who made a charitable donation increased by 10% in 2012, while the total amount of donations increased by 14% when compared to 2011.
But when Christians talks about giving, sometimes it feels different. We might expect Christian teaching on giving to be self-serving, like we only talk about generosity when it means putting money on a plate to support a particular institute or building, or in the worst examples, buying a pastor a luxury car or mansion in the woods.
Imagine you are channel surfing, and you see a televangelist asking people to make a pledge – do you assume they’re genuine, or do you get concerned? Billy Graham, who just celebrated a birthday, is widely recognized as one internationally known preacher whose reputation is intact, but it’s so unfortunate that he’s seen as the exception rather than the norm.
A friend of mine attended church for first time, to support a friend's baptism, and I remember the look of horror on his face when the members of the church started passing a brass collection plate around. This man of another religion felt compelled to give to support something he didn’t believe or understand simply because a plate was going to be passed under his nose and he didn’t want to be embarrassed appearing cheap.
For all these reasons and more, the notion of churches and christian ministries talking about money can be a touchy thing. Some might suggest we’d be better to leave it alone, and teach about lighter stuff.
But if someone told you that the Bible was a great way to learn about Jesus, and then handed you a Bible with a bunch of sections blacked out, you’d be suspicious, wouldn’t you? You’d wonder what they were holding back, and rightfully so. You’d call WikiLeaks and see if they know what's been blacked out!
It would be dishonest of me to pretend that Jesus didn’t have an awful lot to say about money and how we live with it. It would be like blacking out 15% of Jesus’ words in the Bible!
I think Jesus said so much about money and possessions because he knew that the place of money in our lives was a spiritual issue far more than it was simply an economic issue. He knew money had a lot to do with our feelings of self-worthy, identity and security in life. The exact things we are meant to derive from God, and that are meant to be developed in and through our generosity.
Question: Have you seen someone who worships money? How could you tell?
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.