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 want to be a church known for generosity. Yesterday we saw two principles that a relationship with God teaches us about generosity, and we’ll see two more today.
What we have is not as important as what we keep
The third principle of stewardship has to do with attitude. This is a far more important consideration than how much money we happen to have. Stewardship has far more to do with faith than it does with money. How we look at what we have is far more important that how much we have.
Peter Marshall, who was chaplain of the United States Senate for many years, shared this true story:
There was a man who struggled to give even though he had a large income. He had long been taught to give 10% of his income away, which is called a tithe. The man said to Marshall, "I have a problem. I used to tithe regularly some years ago, but...but now...I am earning hundreds of thousands a year, and there is no way I can afford to give ten percent to the church."
The chaplain said they should pray about it and led off, "Heavenly Father, I pray that you would reduce this man's income back to the place that he can afford to tithe.“
Like the senator, one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that we will begin to give more generously when we have a little bit more. This is simply not true, the day never comes. Jesus said that those who are faithful when they have a little will be faithful when they have a lot.
The time to learn giving is when we have a little. It becomes increasingly difficult as our prosperity increases…remember those cords around our hearts.
How much we give is not as important as how much we keep
One day as Jesus sat in the temple with his disciples people came by with their offerings for the temple. Some of the people were quite rich, and they made sizeable donations. Among them was a poor widow who dropped in her gift of only a few pennies. Perhaps someone laughed…Jesus pointed out that this widow had actually given more than all the others.
Seeing their surprise at his remark he explained that all the others given from their wealth. They still had lots left. But this woman had given out of her poverty. She had nothing left. In the eyes of God her gift amounted to more than theirs. God evaluates things differently from the way we do. In this matter of financial stewardship it is important for growing Christians to remember how much we hold back is far more important than how much we give. Once again the issue comes back to whether or not we will allow Jesus to free us from the power of money and are we willing to trust God.
These same questions apply to how we use our time and how much of our time we are using to further God’s work around the world. How much time do we keep for ourselves and how much time do we give to God and those he loves?
Think of a child's allowance. The parents don't really give a child money because he needs it. They provide everything he needs. And they don't ask him to give to charity, buy gifts for others, etc. because he has too much. They do it to teach him something, to shape and guide him for the future.
Question: Based on these two stories, what do you think God is training people for? What's the end goal?
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.