Sermon: Epiphany, 31 December 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Song of Simeon; Luke 2:21-40

-What are some of the things you hope for?

-All of us have hopes.

-At this time of year hopes run high.

-I doubt that there was a kid in Australia who didn’t have a specific hope which they looked forward to being fulfilled under the Christmas tree.

-There are thousands of young students who are looking forward with hope,

-To the results of their HSC exams getting them into a career.

-On New Year’s Eve people all round Australia and the world will be making New Year’s resolutions.

-What is a New Year’s resolutions?

-It’s a hope for a better future.

-It’s a hope that changes can be made in our life which will help us improve our lives.

-The desire for hope runs deep and wide within everyone of us.

-Hope gives us meaning and purpose in life.

-There is a very ominous ring to the phrase ‘he hasn’t got a hope’.

-To be without hope is a very disturbing condition.

-Hope is the fuel which drives our zest for living.

-We’ll put up with all sorts of trials and tribulations,

-As long as we have hope that something better will come through in the end.

-The consistent promise of God throughout the whole Bible is that something better will come through.

-In the Old Testament book of Lamentations the prophet is despairing of the trials he’s facing,

-But just listen to how he deals with these woes;

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” Lamentation 3:19-22

-He remembers that our God is a lover.

-God loves us and his compassion will never fail.

-We matter to God.

-The apostle Paul also reflected upon the sufferings we all face,

-And he comes to a similar conclusion;

“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5

-In the passage we just heard read we saw the man Simeon.

-Luke tells us that Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel.

-Simeon must have been despairing of the times he was living in.

-Everything seemed stacked against his people.

-Their nation was ruled by a foreign army.

-Insurrection was put down brutally.

-Their leaders looked after their own interests not the people’s.

-Even their religious leaders were not what they should have been.

-There was great show,

-But very little love of God.

-Simeon may have felt the way many Australians feel today.

-As a nation we’re buffeted by outside forces,

-Our leaders seem directionless and more concerned with their own position than the national interest.

-Even our religious institutions seem to be selling out to the spirit of the age.

-In times like that it’s not surprising people look for consolation.

-And hope will give us consolation.

-Simeon knew the promises of God.

-He knew the hope that God would save his people.

-He’d been waiting earnestly for this salvation, this consolation.

-The Holy Spirit of God had even told him personally,

-That he would not die until he saw with his own eyes the one who would bring salvation to his people.

-Then one morning as he’s heading off to work,

-He finds himself heading into the temple courtyard.

-There’s a young man and women with a baby in front of him.

-Nothing unusual about that,

-There were always young families coming in to fulfill the religious requirements after the birth of a child.

-But this child is different,

-And the Spirit tells Simeon,

-‘There is your hope’.

-‘In the arms of that young mother is the Saviour of the world.’

-That tiny little eight day old bundle was the Lord’s messiah, the Christ.

-He takes the baby Jesus in his arms,

-And the hope that has kept him going for all these years wells out in a psalm of praise;

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

-Mary and Joseph are amazed at what Simeon says.

-Their child will be a light to the whole world.

-Jesus will not only give hope and meaning to his people the Jews,

-But the whole of humanity.

-Every person from every nation,

-Will be able to find peace with God and eternal life

-Through the life of this new born child.

-But there’s even more that they learn,

-For Simeon turns to Mary and says;

“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.” vv.34-35

-We all know the Christmas story well enough to know that not everybody was pleased to see Jesus.

-True the shepherds and wise men experience the joy of visiting the Christ child,

-But King Herod was less than pleased.

-A new born king was a threat to his rule.

-A new messiah was a challenge to his position and authority.

-This new ruler stood in opposition to Herod’s autonomy.

-Although Luke doesn’t tell us of this incident in his gospel,

-Mary and Joseph will soon experience the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy,

-Of the hatred that will be directed against Jesus,

-And the pain that that will inflict on Mary his mother.

-Jesus will not go unchallenged.

-Not all will see him as their hope.

-Simeon made that very clear to Mary.

-Jesus will be the cause of the rising and falling of many in Israel he said.

-But this statement was not limited to Israel.

-It applies to the whole world.

-When people are confronted by Jesus,

-The thoughts of their hearts are exposed.

-Jesus poses a challenge to all of us,

-And the reason for hostility is quite simple.

-It’s because he provides our only hope of a certain and happy future.

-Many people don’t like that exclusive claim of Jesus.

-Most of us don’t want to have our options limited.

-We’re just like Herod who didn’t want his autonomy challenged.

-He wanted to be in charge of his own life and kingdom.

-His hopes lay in a completely different direction to the one being presented in Jesus.

-Everything he stood for was being threatened.

-Think of your own situation.

-How do you feel when you have your heart set on something,

-And someone else says ‘no that can’t happen’?

-When our hopes are dashed,

-Even if the dashing was inevitable and visible to everyone but ourselves,

-We’re hurt and angry,

-And we lash out at whoever we think caused the destruction of our hope.

-Hope is a powerful thing,

-Even if it’s a false hope.

-And Jesus smashes our hopes

-He destroys our consolation in earthly things.

-Let me give some examples of the hopes we set our hearts upon.

-Why do some people change jobs?

-If I have a different job people will respect me.

-Why do some people buy expensive cars, houses or furnishings?

-If I have all these things it will show I’m important.

-Why do some people buy lottery tickets or play Lotto?

-If I win the big one I’ll be set for life.

-Why do some people remarry?

-If I marry this person I won’t make the same mistakes I made before.

-Why do some people take drugs?

-If I stay drunk life can’t hurt me.

-Every decision we make is backed by a hope.

-But Jesus says every one of those hopes is either going to be totally unachievable,

-Or is going to fade away.

-Do you want to be told that?

-Do you want to be told that its not your job that gives you respect,

-That possessions don’t make you important,

-That money will not make you happy.

-Do you really want to hear that if you don’t change,

-Your relationships won’t either,

-And despite what anyone tells you,

-Life is tough!

-If you’re honest,

-You’ll admit you don’t want to hear those things and a thousand other false hopes that you’ve got.

-But every time you hear the name of Jesus you’ll be challenged again.

-Now there can only be two responses to Jesus.

-One is to turn your back, block your ears, cover your eyes.

-And in your arrogant pride you will stumble.

-Oh, you may rise up every now and then,

-But you won’t get up from the eternal fall.

-The other response is made by those who have fallen.

-Those who have been pushed, shoved and knocked around by the realities of life.

-Those who have seen that the hopes we set our hearts upon are as fragile as a Christmas tree bauble,

-And in humility see the offer of hope that Jesus extends and accept it.

-For in accepting Jesus’ offer we receive a hope that cannot fade,

-A hope that cannot be shattered or taken from us.

-Just like Simeon we’ll see the salvation God has prepared for us through his Son.

-We’ll experience for ourselves the peace which Jesus promised when he said,

‘Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’

– We’ll know the fulfillment that Jesus promised when he said,

‘I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full’

– We’ll taste the freedom that Jesus promised when he said,

‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ John 8:32

-We’ll feel the respect and value that comes from knowing we’re loved by God,

-And are called his children.

– We’ll have that certain hope that we’ll live with God forever,

-And that he’ll wipe away every tear from our eyes,

-There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

-My friends think about that.

-Think about that and be honest with yourself,

-How do your hopes compare with the hope that Jesus offers you?

“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18