The Third Noel 12/26/99

Luke 2:29-32

JESUS CHRIST’s birth resulted in polyphony of praise offered by angels and earthlings alike. Mary offered the first Noel, “The Magnificat.”

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior.”

The first expression refers to letting God’s sufficiency be observable in her life in a broader sphere. Are you willing to let God demonstrate His sufficiency to guard, guide, and govern in your life? Will you live in such a way that others may see Jesus in you and be attracted to Him. That is how we magnify God. It is by letting Him be seen more clearly through us.

In her second expression she revealed her elation in that a Savior was being provided for her and all human kind. Have you joyfully responded to Christ acknowledging with great gladness Him as Savior? If not do it now.

The angels shared the second Noel, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, good will toward men!”

Now the third Noel. Forty days after Christ’s birth Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem and journeyed about ten miles to neighboring Jerusalem and the Temple for a special service of consecration. There lived in the Bible land at that time a group known as “the Quiet in the Land.” They had no dreams of powerful marching armies with banners, no aspirations for violence. They believed in lives of quiet watchfulness and constant prayer. Among them was an old man named Simeon.

Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph came to the temple to comply with a Jewish religious right. They came to make a sacrifice to God. The normal sacrifice was a lamb. Provisions were made for the poor, those who couldn’t afford a lamb. They could offer a pair of turtle doves. The poverty of Mary and Joseph is revealed in their offering of doves.

In the temple Mary and Joseph encountered the elderly Simeon who voiced the third Noel: “Nunc Dimittis,” which in Latin means “Now let Thy servant depart.”

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation. Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2: 29 – 32).

The summary of Simeon’s message is one of hope. For centuries Israel had hoped for the coming of Messiah. Simeon himself had kept a long vigil in the temple in anticipation of His coming. He lived by hope. Do you? Keep it alive. It energizes life and empowers effort. Hope for tomorrow enables us to bear the burdens of today.

Hope is good for our health. Dr. Harold G. Wolff wrote: “Hope, like faith and a purpose in life, is medicinal. This is not merely a statement of belief, but a conclusion proved by meticulously controlled scientific experiments.” (“What Hope Does For Man,” The Saturday Evening Post, 1\5\57)

Right now turn in your Bible to Romans 15:13 and mark it resolving to make it a life long project. Let it be your code for life.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Couple that with the realization that “The hope set before us …. is like an anchor for our lives, and anchor safe and sure” (Hebrews 6:19).

That hope is in Christ. He is our anchor.

In Simeon’s statement he reveals Christ to be:

I. HE IS A STANDARD (Luke 2: 30 – 32)
He is God the Father’s standard for ALL PEOPLE. He is as obtrusive and fixed as the stars in the solar system. His coming resulted in the “taking off from the Gentiles the veil.” His coming was intended to be the crowning glory of Israel.

The artist, Rossetti, has painted a humble oriental house with Jesus looking out a window. There, as of then unrepentant Mary Magdalene, is frolicking down the street with a rowdy group. She turns her head and their gazes meet. On her face is an expression of horror and dismay. In His face she sees herself as she is and is filled with self- loathing, self-disgust. Jesus reveals to each of us what we think of our self = humble or arrogant, AND of God = skeptical or submissive.

Christ is the standard established by the Tri-Unity before the dawn of creation. People portend to judge Him but in reality we and all persons are judged by Him. We judge ourselves by how we judge Him. If when confronted with His love for Him we respond positively it results in our salvation. Thus, many will rise. If we respond negatively it consequents in our condemnation. Thus, many will fall.

Some denominations set standards called by various titles as the means of measuring spirituality. They require a person to do good works to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor. Persons living under this system of beliefs are always in suspense. Repeatedly they must ask themselves, “Have I done enough good to compensate for the bad I’ve done?” When is enough —- enough? We can always find someone we are better than. However, there is always someone better than we. Suppose God graded on the curve. We simply score ourselves on the basis of how well others score.

First, question: What’s a passing grade?

Then along came Jesus and He aced the test. He lived a perfect sinless life. None can compare: “For all have sinned and come short of the grace of God.” “There is none righteous, no not one.”

The Lord wants to make it perfectly clear Jesus is the standard.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

By this Standard, established by Heaven, Christ, many rise and fall. Within eighty years of His death a governor of a Roman province wrote: “People are deserting pagan temples, and are gathering in illegal conventicles to worship somebody who it was always understood, had a name of infamy – one Christus, who had been put to an ignominious death years before.”

Within 300 years a Christian occupied the throne of Caesar and was guarded by soldiers bearing scars from persecution resulting from them being Christians.

Faith in the Living God had broken the bonds of nationalism and exclusiveness. The “salvation” offered is for “all people.”

This was a shocker to people who were expecting a restrictive deliverer. YOU are in included in the statement in Verse 30. Christ came to die for you.

With a new millennium many persons are seeking spiritual cleansing and guidance. In searching the Bible be logical and don’t hesitate to ask for help in understanding.

In Lansing, Michigan three sisters were arrested for riding around in a stolen van naked coated with mustard. They had read the account of Adam and Eve in their naked state so they thought it to be proper to be naked before God. They had read the passage regarding having faith the size of a mustard seed so they coated themselves with mustard. I don’t know what symbolism the stolen van had. In this way they were seeking to earn God’s favor.

II. HE IS A SWORD (Luke 2:35)
A sword? Yes, a sword. A sword pierces and divides. This He does. A stand for Him divides those who follow Him from the world.

Ask a teenage girl left out of all the party invitations because she will not forfeit her virtue what is meant by the sword. She has been cut off by her faith and stand for Christ.

Ask a young male who will not drink and use drugs what it means for the sword to fall. He is cut out of the gang.

Ask a business executive who will not cheat or compromise because of faith in Christ what it means for the sword to be applied.

Ask a young homemaker who will not give in to the “soap society” what the sword principle means.

Neutrality accomplishes nothing positive. It is an evasion of responsibility. In ancient Athenian democracy a citizen was stripped of all rights of citizenship if he refused to take sides in moral and political issues.

Webster defines “neutrality” as “not being engaged on either side.” Edmund Burke pointed out this vice in his often quoted statement: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”

In the Revelation neutrality is described as being neither “hot nor cold,” and is graphically represented as the sin that nauseates God. Christ said of the Laodicean church, which He described as neither hot nor cold, that He would “spew them out” of His mouth. That is, literally, to vomit them up.

Dante vividly got specific: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintained their neutrality.”

A “certain Samaritan” received Christ’s commendation because he got involved when a priest and a Levite were neutral.

Dean W.R. Inge pointed his index finger of accusation at the uninvolved segment of Christianity when he wrote: “Christianity is a creed for heroes and we are harmless, good-natured little people who want everybody to have a good time.”

Get involved in what you believe. Happiness is a by-product of a job well done. One reason for so many unhappy Christians is they are uninvolved.

III. HE IS A SIGN (Luke 2:34c)
“Darkness” represents sins.

“Light” represents righteous living.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms. Have you taken a grip on Jesus?

Simeon’s life climaxed upon seeing the Christ child and he exclaimed: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” (Luke 2: 29).

In this climatic time in history with a millennium ending and a new one about to be birthed does the old one’s passing find you conditioned to depart in peace. If not take Christ unto yourself and be prepared for the new millennium with new life.

As the year 1900 approached many leading secular thinkers including George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, argued that the dawning of the 20th century would mark the close of history’s religious phase. That is, that mankind would no longer need religion.

Futurist, Faith Popcorn, in an interview on December 9, 1999, said the new millennium would be one focusing on spiritual values. People will be trying to gain a better understanding of spiritual values.

Now will you prepare to enter the new millennium with a commitment to Christ that will make the new era one in which He is your guide?