ADVENT WEEK 4: What is Yet to Come & A Walking Meditation Exercise
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’ The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.’” Luke 2:25-33
Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord, as every new parent did in those days. Simeon, a devout man of God, who as far as we can tell had never met anyone in this little family before, walked right over to pray and prophesy over them. He saw in this tiny infant the truth – that Jesus would become our salvation, our hope, the One who offered a different way of peace and light – for all nations.
That had to be so incredible for Mary and Joseph, in a series of awe-inspiring encounters around Jesus’ birth they didn’t anticipate. It must have buoyed their energy and anticipation. God was moving and doing incredible things! Justice was coming – through their precious little son! People were stopping to notice and praise God, angels were announcing it, stars were fortelling it, and seemingly random guys at the temple were waiting and watching for THIS child. And then Simeon prophesies this little thing at the end, and puts a bit of a dampener on the mood…
DAMPENING THE MOOD
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’” Luke 2:34-35
A foretaste. A premonition. This would certainly not be an easy road ahead for any of them. Transformative forces that challenge the status quo never are. Mary couldn’t have known on the temple steps holding baby Jesus that day that she’d see her son targeted with violence, rejected by the religious authorities, live as a homeless rabbi, and ultimately that she would witness his horrific death. The angel (mercifully) didn’t go into detail at what she would see in the years to come. But what Mary and Joseph DID get is a bigger vision of hope that Jesus would give to a weary and broken world. That, and the awe-inspiring knowledge that they were a key part of it.
IT WON’T BE EASY
Our own journeys to embody Jesus’ hope for the nations are similarly never as easy as we’d wish, are they? We, like Mary and Joseph, don’t get to see the whole picture ahead of us, and we certainly aren’t promised that following Jesus to the ends of the earth will be all joy and excitement and easy success. But what we do get is a taste at a much bigger picture. We get the presence of God with us as we seek to bring Jesus’ message of hope to the world.
This week, many of you will celebrate Christmas far away from family and friends. After celebrating with teammates or your family and praising God for sending Jesus to earth, you’ll get back to work. Many of you will carry in the coming months the daily stressors of your life overseas, challenging situations with neighbors and teammates, more language and cultural miscommunications, and will probably feel like you’re missing opportunities to love people well. These human burdens and challenges are part of the difficult work of crossing cultural boundaries and working with people who are different from us. They are also the very essence of Jesus – transcending boundaries, loving people who feel unlovable, and defying the status quo to bring a message of unifying hope to the world.
Amidst the grief of losses in your life overseas and the missed holidays with your extended families, may you take joy and renewed purpose from Simeon’s words this week and into the season to come. He looked at Jesus in his mother’s arms and knew this child was the light of the world, the hope of the nations, Emmanuel, God who is with us still.
WALKING WITH JESUS: A Guided Meditation Exercise
Sometimes we need to get a reset to have fresh eyes for the world right around us. Consider a good place to take a bit of a contemplative walk outdoors and find at least 30 free minutes to spend there. This doesn’t have to be in nature, it could be down a city street you walk in every day. You just need space where you can be quiet within yourself.
The goal of this exercise is to clear away the pressures and agendas you carry through each day and imagine just taking a walk with Jesus, noticing what is immediately around you. This mindful exercise can help reduce stress and give a fresh perspective on your daily surroundings.