Chatfield United Methodist Church
December 28, 2014
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Did you get what you expected? Are your needs all met? Are your wants satisfied? Was it the Christmas you expected?
I love getting and giving gifts. I love watching to see what other’s reactions are to what is revealed as the paper is torn from a package. Even if it isn’t total joy or even acceptance, I just love seeing the reaction. I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like the gift I gave them. It is the giving that is the fun.
I also like to unwrap gifts to see what might be inside. Just the anticipation, the expectation of wondering, what is hidden in there. It doesn’t matter what it is…it could be a hairbrush or even a toaster. I don’t care. I just like the expectation of seeing what is there.
I had one of those awful experiences this year. I had asked for a gift for Christmas a while ago, sometime this summer. I saw it in a magazine review and it looked like something that would be really useful and environmentally responsible. And fun. So I sent the product information to Steve and my daughter just suggesting that they think about this for a gift for me. Then I promptly forgot about it. I was reminded when I went into to Hammell’s a few weeks ago, but then forgot about it again.
Then, wouldn’t you know it; I saw a package on the front steps of the parsonage. It was tall and skinny. I had no idea what it was. Until I went to bring it into the house. Instead of just a shipping label on the box, emblazed on the sides were the words that explained exactly what was in the box.
It was the very thing that I had forgotten about. The thing that I would have never expected getting for Christmas this year. The thing that would have been so fun to unwrap. Because I wouldn’t have been expecting it. And would have been so surprised…
Rats. That gift, while still useful, environmentally responsible and fun and appreciated, very appreciated…was just a thing now…
The expectation had been taken away.
What about you…did you get what you expected?
This Sunday our texts are about expectations. Two people, two old people, have been waiting, all of their lives it seems. Waiting for salvation. Expecting to see God’s revealed glory before their lives were over.
One of those poignant verses in the scriptures is old Simeon’s speech as he holds baby Jesus:
Picture it, an old wizened gentle Jew, led by the Holy Spirit to attend temple services on that particular day. Who knows what he was expecting when he came to temple. There was nothing special to indicate that his Savior was in the temple. Just a crowd of people going about the business of the temple.
The Simeon saw a baby. No labels on this child. No, angels singing, no star in the sky. Just a poor baby from a poor family, they could only afford pigeons for the offering. Just a very poor baby in for his customary dedication. Yet, Simeon was drawn to this child, some prompting of the spirit led him to take this child in his arms. What was he expecting? He was waiting the restoration of the nation of Israel. He was waiting for Rome to be overthrown. For a political upheaval. Would he see in this child who was coming to the temple that day the fulfillment of his expectation? Would you?
In a child? Would you be able to see the fulfillment of your expectation for the restoration of Israel?
Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God…Then he said: God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. I have seen the one who will restore Israel.
Simeon’s life was fulfilled. Wow! How would that be, to have that expectation fulfilled?
Your whole life’s purpose and journey! Fulfilled! By the poorest of children?
Enough so that you could say: take me now, God. I am done.
I have been at the bedside of many saints of God who have spoken this same refrain.
I am ready. I have seen my salvation and I am ready.
This is the sort of life we should all hope to live. Ready to leave this earth when our purpose is fulfilled. Ready to move into the next stage of our journey when we have experienced the completion of the expectation of our salvation.
We pray in our prayers during a funeral: let me so live as one who is ready to die. And enable us to die as those who go forth into life
Simeon knew something about this salvation he was expecting. It wasn’t a salvation that brought him a warm fuzzy feeling in his soul. Nor was it a song that would lodge in his heart and put a smile on his face. We have seen those types of salvation in our Christmas specials all month.
And those are wonderful moments of salvation.
But Simeon saw a deeper more earth changing salvation. A more soul and spirit changing salvation. Not a happy ending, at least not an easy happy ending.
He saw a sword, opposition, a death, the rise and fall of empires and of stories and of expectations.
Yes, salvation will come through this tiny infant. Born to a poor family raised in a small village. Salvation will come, has come to the world through this one named Jesus. But, even though we expected great change when our salvation appeared,
the world wouldn’t change much.
Sin would continue to permeate the powers and principalities of the landscape. And war would continue to threaten the nations. Neighbors would continue to take each other to court. Families would continue to break apart. People would continue to be suspicious of each other. And personal sins would continue to beat us down.
But Simeon wasn’t lying when he declared: I have seen salvation. I am holding the salvation of the world.
For Simeon’s immortal words: now dismiss me, now release me will be echoed again when we encounter the cross: Jesus himself will fulfill his purpose at his death saying to God: it is finished. Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
We weren’t expecting that.
This tiny infant will become a man whom we will crucify. Because he dared to bring a salvation to the world that we were not expecting. It is NOT the salvation that we wanted. We wanted a king to wipe out our enemies; we wanted a savior that would destroy those who destroy us. We wanted a man of power and might who would stand on the pinnacles of heaven and earth and say: these are my people, don’t mess with them.
We wanted a happy ending, at least.
But what we got was a salvation that required a death, so that all death could be defeated. So that anything WE ever did do, will do or might think of doing; anything that would destroy another, would in fact itself be destroyed. It wasn’t our enemies that we needed salvation from, it was ourselves. We needed saving from ourselves.
We weren’t expecting that.
Unlike my gift, the Gift of the Savior of the World didn’t come clearly labeled. We have to have the eyes and heart and expectation of Simeon to be able to see it. To be willing to unwrap it and accept it for what it is, the Salvation that we need. To believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world is one thing. To believe that he is the Savior that we need, is another.
The Savior that we need is a Savior who will live the messy, dirty life with us. The Savior that we need is a Savior who will go to family functions with us and prompt us to bring peace rather than drama. The Savior that we need is a Savior who will walk with us through our dark valleys and stand with us on our joy filled mountaintops bringing meaning and purpose to both.
To believe that a purposeful, benign Creator created the universe is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human flesh, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken so that he could walk with us and know us all because God loves us, is quite another.
It is not the gift we were expecting. But it is the gift we have received. May this year of our Lord, 2015, by the year that you open fully the gift of Salvation for yourselves for the sake of your world.
(in the package, clearing labeled, was an electric, rechargeable chainsaw.)