Sunday, December 28, 2014
Sermon: Luke 2: 22-40 Simeon's Bucket List
Can you work out what all these things have in common. Visit Hawaii. Carve a pumpkin. Experience zero gravity. Go surfing. Learn how to drive. See the Northern Lights. Throw a dart at a map and travel to wherever it lands. Swim with dolphins. Any ideas? They are among the most popular items on people’s bucket lists. (According to www.bucketlist/org/popular)
What’s on your bucket list? You may not know the term, but you might just have a bucket list. Now, it’s not a list of buckets that you own (if indeed you own more than one bucket, just in case, like Liza, you get a hole in it). Rather, it’s a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. They’re the things that you want to achieve before you die. The things that you could say ‘I’ve done that, now I can die happy.’
So what would your bucket list include? What would you prioritise? What would you want to do so that you could die happy?
This morning in our reading, we meet a man with just one item on his bucket list. That one thing might not seem like a big deal to us. His bucket list says: ‘See a baby.’ He lives in Jerusalem, he must see loads of babies - especially if parents observe the Law and bring their newborns to the temple for dedication.
But it’s not just any baby. It’s actually see ‘the’ baby. Simeon is described as righteous and devout. He trusts in the Lord, he’s living by faith. But more than that, he is ‘looking forward to the consolation of Israel.’ (25)
He knows that Israel is in distress. God’s people are not in a good way. They need to be consoled. Now I’ve had some experience of this recently. The Bowling Club had a party night. Everyone picks out what team they play on, and after three games, the highest men and women scorers get prizes. I was playing terribly that night (as I always do!) and needed to be consoled. I ended up with one of the very lowest scores. But I was consoled - I got a booby prize! It made up for what was lacking. When I received my Terry’s Chocolate Orange, the pain of my terrible performance was forgotten!
Israel was not in a good way. They seemed to be far from God. God hadn’t spoken for about 400 years. The Romans had conquered the land. Israel was an occupied land. Israel needed to be consoled. Israel needed God to console them.
The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Christ). The consolation of Israel will come through the Christ. The Christ will be the comforter Israel needs. And Simeon has been guaranteed to see him before he dies. His bucket list is to meet the Christ.
Out of all the babies that were in the temple that day, Simeon is guided to the right one. He takes the baby Jesus in his arms, and breaks into song: ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples. a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’
I can die happy, because I have seen your salvation. He may not know how the salvation will come, but he knows who will bring the salvation. And even though he can’t know the future, it seems that he is basing his song on the servant song of Isaiah 49. He links Jesus to the servant in that song, who is the means of the Lord comforting his people; the way Israel will be gathered back to God; but also as a light to the nations.
Even though Simeon sees only the seed - the baby Jesus at just 40 days old - he knows that the full flowering of salvation will come. God’s word is sure. Just as God promised Simeon he would see his salvation, so God will fulfil that salvation in Jesus.
The baby didn’t stay a baby. He grew up, in a lifelong obedience to God’s will. He lived the perfect life, and died the perfect death. Through his death, we have life. Through his name proclaimed, Jews and Gentiles are brought back to God.
You might have 1001 items on your bucket list. You might have so many ideas about what would you should do before you die happy. But Simeon tells us that only one will really matter after death. It’s the one that Simeon had on his bucket list. To get to know Jesus. To find in him your salvation. Because when you have his salvation, you can die happy - but more than that, you can die confident that you will live with him for eternity.
This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 28th December 2014.