When I was about 16, I left my parent’s Baptist church and joined a Christian fellowship that had been formed after a split from mum and dad’s church. I don’t remember the reasons why the church had split, and I really can’t recall what my own reasons were for following after the other congregation. What I do remember though, is that I found myself in the company of people who were so devout, committed to prayer, devoted to Scripture, and in love with their God. They used a little hymn book full of Welsh revival hymns, and I quickly found my favourites. That’s also where my love of Scripture took root.
In today’s Gospel reading, we meet two faithful people who remind me of the faithful people in that congregation long ago. Simeon, we read, is devout with the Holy Spirit upon Him. The Holy Spirit has revealed to Him that before he dies, he will see the Messiah. He feels led to enter the Temple where Jesus is being brought for circumcision, sees Jesus, lifts Him up and says, “now I can depart in peace, because my eyes have seen Your salvation, here, this light to all the world. Like You promised.” All my life I’ve trusted in Your promise that I would see the Messiah, and here He is, this Christ-child. I’ve been faithful, trusting in Your promises to me, and here they are fulfilled. Like You said. As You promised.
Then along comes Anna. She has spent the larger part of her long life serving God in the temple with her constant prayer. And we read that at the very moment that Simeon is declaring God’s promise as fulfilled, she comes along and joins in – thanking God and talking about Him.
These two witnesses to God’s salvation, these two faithful servants of God with their public, vocal, testimonies of God’s faithfulness and His provision. Because God makes good on His promises.
There’s a story in the Bible of God and Abraham. God has promised to make Abraham into a great nation and give him land in all directions. It hasn’t happened yet. And so, when God later says, “don’t be afraid, I am your shield and very great reward”. Abraham says (and I’m paraphrasing), “what can you give me? You make all these promises. I’m a hundred. Sarah’s 90. And we’ve not had a child together!”
And God replies by leading Abraham outside to look at the stars… “Count the stars if you are able. So shall your offspring be.”
And, of course, Abraham believes what God is promising, and a great nation is indeed born through Abraham.
For nothing is impossible with God. Gabriel said as much when Mary questioned how she could give birth to Jesus being a virgin.
God makes promises. He sets things in motion. And sometimes it all seems quite impossible to our eyes. And sometimes the timing of things makes no sense to us at all, but God nevertheless keeps His promises, and delivers on the things that He has set in motion. Like His plan for salvation – His gift of love that would be a light for all the world. And God is faithful, and invites us to walk with Him, to hear His word, and to trust in His promises.
But of course, we find a hundred and one excuses not to rest in Him. And yes, sometimes it seems like this world and the rollercoaster of life are doing their level best to keep us from fixing our eyes on Him. But friends, the best place to be, the surest place to be, the only place to be – is resting on God and His promises. Like Simeon, and like Anna in our reading this morning. Like Abraham, who believed God, despite the impossible. Like that congregation in Somerset that I used to be part of nearly 40 years ago – those faithful people who kept their eyes on Jesus, kept their minds on the things of God as revealed in Scripture, and kept their hearts open to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. How else do you navigate this life?
A New Year approaches. There may be hurdles and difficulties ahead, but we know that God’s love goes with us. God’s Spirit goes with us. God will always provide. And we can rest soundly, and assuredly, on the promises in Scripture.
In Isaiah we read these words: “Behold, I am going to do something new, Now it will spring up; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”
This New Year, like Simeon, I’m going to anticipate that new thing, God’s hand at work in my own life. I will watch and wait on the Lord.
And this New Year, like the prophet Anna, I’m going to keep serving and praying and thanking God, and telling people about this Jesus I know.
This New Year, like Abraham, I’m going to believe and rest upon God’s promises – even if they seem impossible.
This New Year, I’m going to say with David, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. For He is close by my side, and I will not be shaken.”
And this New Year, with God’s help, I will lay down the sorrows and regrets of the past year, I will hand over to God my mistakes and anxieties, and the hurts and fears and pains I’ve felt. And I will hear again those words of Jesus, “whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.”
This New Year, my prayer for Clayton Wesley is that we would hear and hold on to the words that Paul spoke to the church in Philippi. He said, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work among you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God is at work, in our lives, at the door of our hearts. Fulfilling His promises in all our lives, and in the life of Clayton Wesley. Our future is in His hands.
And God is saying to each of us today: read My words, hear My promises, and trust Me.
Read My words, hear My promises, and trust Me.
Scripture references include: Luke 2:22-40, Gen 15:5-6, Lk 1:37, Eph 2, Is. 43:19, Ps 16:8, Jn 6:37, Phil 1:6, Ps 20:7, Ps 33:4, Ps 85:8.