Are You Prepared? Luke 2:25-35
This morning as we turn to God’s Word, are there any adults who were “that kid” on Christmas morning when you were growing up? That kid who was up before anyone else, seeing what was under the tree, and making sure everyone else was up? In my house, “that kid” was me. One year, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to see what was under the tree. As a good older brother, I felt it was my responsibility to wake my younger brother, then my older brothers, my sister, and finally, Mom and Dad. Now in my mid 40’s, I may get up at 3:30 just long enough to see I need to go back to sleep. After that year, we were told that unless we had already eaten breakfast and were dressed, don’t wake up Mom and Dad on Christmas morning. If we (or more specifically, I) were to wake them up, we needed to be prepared.
In this season known as Advent, it is a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is also a time to reflect on being prepared for Jesus’ return. When Pastor Mark asked if I’d like to preach an Advent sermon, I started thinking of events around the birth of Christ. And the one person who kept coming to mind was Simeon, the man who approached Mary and Jospeh in the temple, as Leanna and Mike read for us.
In this short portion of Scripture, I see three marks of someone who is prepared.
The first characteristic of someone who is prepared ...
demonstrates a reliance on God’s PROMISES.
One of the firstnthings we learn about Simeon is that
“it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26).
Simeon was shown an important truth regarding Messiah, that He would be coming soon. Someone who is prepared for Christ has a heart-level knowledge of God’s promises.
Here are just a few examples. If you ever think you’re alone, our Father reminds us “I am with you.”When you are in a situation that makes you anxious or fearful, God reminds us to “fear not.” When it seems that everything is coming against you, you can stand in the face of trials and temptations when they come, because the God who spoke the universe into existence refers to Himself “the LORD, your God.”
It is when we get that heart-level knowledge of God’s promises that heart-level change occurs in our lives. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:1,
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God”.
Once we know God’s promises at a heart-level, and not just head-level, we have greater and greater desire to please Him.
Some of you may remember the 12-Hour Prayer Burn that was held here in June 2019. For those of you who had not yet started attending Church Requel, we hosted a Godsfield event, that was 12 hours of prayer, praise, and seeking God’s face.
I had my journal with me that evening, and was writing out a lot of questions I had regarding potential ministries. At the time, a small group of us had recently completed a study of R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God. I was wrestling with knowing what God was calling me to. I hadn’t preached yet. As I was looking at my journal entries from that evening, after all the questions and the objections I had come up with, I started writing out passages, either references and implications or complete passages, on the promises of God.
As I had written, prayed, thought, prayed some more, and was prayed for, there’s one thing I had written down. “Don’t bury your gift! Use it to point others to God! Invest in it to grow the Kingdom!” Less than a month later is when I preached my first sermon here.
So how do we get that heart-level knowledge of God’s promises? What I have found helpful is to keep a journal. As you write out a promise of God from the Scripture, the words go from the page into your mind. And as you make a habit of writing, those words turn from intellectual facts into truth that is integrated into the core of who you are.
For some you, it may be writing songs, or poetry. For others, it may be listening to the Scripture being read. Find what works for you, and do whatever you must to get that heart-level knowledge.
So, being prepared for Christ relies on God’s PROMISES.
Second, a person prepared for Christ
acknowledges the reality of PAIN.
We live in a world where every molecule is affected by the Fall. No area of life is untouched by sin’s pollution. Though He was without sin, that He was born into this fallen world had serious implications for Jesus. Simeon told Mary,
“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 2:34b-35).
It’s hard to consider that these words didn’t come to Mary’s mind as she stood at the foot of the cross, and witnessed as Jesus was pierced with a spear by a Roman soldier.
So long as we live in this world, trials, pain, and heart- break are going to be a part of it. One of the most dangerous aspects of prosperity teachings is that idea that God will never allow a Christian to experience difficulties. This flies in the face of the teaching of Scripture, which is best summarized by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12,
“all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
The persecution we face may not be as a part of systemic martyrdom, as we have seen through church history and up into today. Persecution in America, at least up until now, has been more along the lines of taunts and peer pressure. We should not assume this will always be the case. For over two hundred years, we have enjoyed freedom to worship. We should also be praying for strength to endure persecution.
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking over the Psalms. This ancient book of hymns and prayers speaks to so many situations. And it’s amazing that so many of the Psalms start from a place of pain. David fleeing from somebody. Being involved in the Babylonian Captivity. Seeing your enemies appearing to win the day.
There are times when God’s character comes in question. God does not minimize these concerns. As your Father, He loves to hear you pour out your heart to Him.
So, when life difficulties come, how can we deal with them? We start by meditating on the truth of God’s promises. As we experience difficulties, we consciously focus on God’s ongoing presence with those who are His. We consciously focus on the truth that He is for us. We consciously focus on the objective fact that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the LORD our God. Though pain is a reality in this life, we can be reminded that we don’t have to face difficulties on our own.
We’ve seen that being prepared for Christ involves a reliance on God’s PROMISES and acknowledging the reality of PAIN.
We can also see in Simeon that preparation is shown as
we respond in PRAISE for God’s goodness.
Picture this. Simeon, who is often depicted as an older man, was holding the fulfillment of all the promises of God since the Fall. This was the Seed who would crush the Serpent’s head. This is the One who would fulfill the promise made to Abraham to bless the nations, just Israel. This Child would perfectly obey the Law handed down through Moses, and would be the perfect final Sacrifice for sin. This was the promised Son of David, who would be seated on the throne. Everything from Genesis through Malachai points to this Child. What else could Simeon do but give praise to God's goodness and His faithfulness?
Turning back to Luke 2, we see Simeon’s response to seeing Messiah. Starting at verse 29, Simeon sings,
“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.”
Upon seeing the fulfillment of the promise he was given, Simeon erupts in a song of praise. I mentioned the Psalms earlier, and how many of them start with painful questions, stemming from painful circumstances. And in almost every instance, there’s a “but God” moment.
If you ever want to preach the gospel to yourself, just say “but God.” My enemies want to see me destroyed, but God hasn’t failed me yet. I may be an alien in a foreign land, but God will bring me home. Evil men seem to be winning the day, but God has already won the victory. God’s character may be called into question, but ultimately, His goodness and His faithfulness will be seen. These “but God” moments in the Psalms point to a God who is sovereign over our circumstances. They point to a God who is most worthy of praise.
Think of your own life, your own situation. How has God been good to you? How has God shown Himself faithful to you? One of the powerful implications of journaling is seeing how God has shown his faithfulness over a span of time. I’ve been journaling for a couple of years now, and when I look back over how God has shown His faithfulness and goodness, the most reasonable response I can have is to worship.
This morning, many of us have preparations for this time of year. Shopping lists. Gatherings for friends and family. Family trips. Christmas Eve services. It is very easy for us to let the business and the busyness of December keep us from remembering the meaning of our celebrations. As we take time to prepare for a very busy time of year, set aside the time to prepare your hearts for Jesus.
Rely on God’s PROMISES. Acknowledge that PAIN is a reality. And respond to God’s goodness with PRAISE.