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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sunrise from the Martin farm 12/6/09
Here's another photo our friend Nancy Martin sent us of the sunrise from their farm north of Mount Joy on Sunday morning after our first seasonal snow. Today it's sunny but we have a brisk wind coming from the west!

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"Simeon's Prophecy"

"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." The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: "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" (Luke 2:29-35).

Yesterday we studied Simeon's encounter with Mary and Joseph and the infant Christ.  When Simeon took the Child in his arms he uttered a remarkable prayer/prophecy.  After this utterance we never hear him mentioned again.  I would presume he did not live to see Christ's ministry some 30 years later and His great work of atoning sacrifice on the Cross for us.  We're not told how many years Simeon had waited to see God's promise fulfilled, yet we're privileged to read of that awe-inspiring brief moment that he saw, heard and held in his own hands "the Lord's Christ"; the absolute fulfillment of his faith.

Simeon holding Jesus
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace."
  I take this to be a fulfillment of the promise from verse 26, "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ."  Now he had indeed seen the Lord's promise fulfilled.  He was now prepared to be "dismissed 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."  God's salvation was seen in the Person of Christ. Simeon, a devout Jew, recognized that this salvation was for all people. Up to this point many had thought that the Messiah would bring salvation only to the Jews, but Luke made sure his Greek readers understood that Christ came to save all who would believe on His name. Remember, at the birth of Christ, the angel announced to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10).

Both Mary and Joseph clearly heard Simeon's confession of faith and his pronouncement of blessing.  "The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about Him."  Other translations describe the parents as being amazed or they wondered at the words Simeon had spoken.  Just imagine all the different announcements and pronouncements that had been spoken about Jesus over the past nine months to two very ordinary people.

Simeon blessed the parents who brought their child to be purified in the temple according to the Law of Moses. I am so enriched by the blessing, particularly of older people.  We who are of the faith appreciate hearing the common expression, "God bless you". And we're especially enriched when a believer goes out of his way to bless us by his words, his prayer, or carefully selected Scripture pertinent to our need. One specially enriching time comes to mind as I prepare this message today when both Brooksyne and I were recipients.

Bill Shibilo with EsterBill Shibilo, a dear older member of the congregation we served in New England, was one of the kindest men I ever met with sterling Christ-like character. At the end of his life we gathered with his family in his hospital room at New England Medical Center in Boston and sang hymns, read Scripture and prayed. Bill had a debilitating lung disease which made his breathing very labored.  He could hardly speak but mustered the strength to solemnly speak from the depths of his heart, "May God bless your ministry." That blessing came with an anointing that strengthens me to this day!

For some reason Simeon addresses only Mary for a prophetic conclusion in their brief encounter. Notice that after he blessed them (plural) Simeon said to Mary, Jesus' mother: "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."  What a powerful prophecy that we certainly see fulfilled in the life of Christ and through the current age.

The final word must have been so intriguing and even troubling to Mary. "And a sword will pierce your own soul too." This is surely a word concerning the future atoning death of Christ and the grief that Mary will experience at that time.  As we read the crucifixion story in the gospels it appears that Joseph is no longer living, thus the specific prophetical word is spoken directly to Mary.  I wonder if Simeon's words filled her mind 33 years later on the Via Dolorosa as she helplessly looked on while Christ lugged the heavy cross on His freshly wounded shoulders.  Surely, Immanuel, meaning God with us, brought amazing assurance even as the sword pierced her soul.  Immanuel is with us today as well.  May He bring amazing assurance to your heart in your hour of need.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we thank you for the Simeon blessing upon the Christ child reminding us that Your salvation is for all people.  A great price was paid for our redemption and we are filled with indescribable joy because of it.  We rejoice this Christmas season because of the wondrous birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and all that it means to us as believers.  Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" Video
Today's classic Charles Wesley anthem goes well for several messages in this series. I really like this version with the acapella voices.
Here's a beautiful instrumental version.  Video

"The Twelve Voices of Christmas" In the course of my study for this series I found this interesting resource by Back To The Bible. It is a dramatization of the main characters in the Christmas story
Here's the overview page.
Here's the message about Simeon: Text  Dramatic audio reading

Resources for
Christmas Celebrations

It is our desire to share online resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources through Christmas Day. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.

Christmas Memories  Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story. 

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

re you Christmas shopping online?

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Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
"The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
"The Blessing"
Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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