Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel."
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (Isaiah 53:1-5; Luke 2:25-32; John 1:45-46, NASB)
In the great hall of the king, in a seat beside the elevated and empty throne, the man in important robes looks up at the outsider with a scowl. He scoffs at the notion this might be the important event he has supposed to have been looking for. Instead, he coldly remarks that the man is the "last of a line long bereft of honor." Aragorn is, in the addled mind of Denethor, just a no-account, itinerant mercenary. And surely, not a king. But what the near-insane steward in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings fails to understand is that his belief does not govern what is true. A king stands before him, acknowledged or not.
As the Advent season progresses toward the lighting of the Christ candle, my thoughts turn toward the words of Isaiah once again, specifically his writing about the coming of Messiah. In a nation that has not heard from God for over 400 years yet has so much writing that leads up to the moment, how can it be that so few will realize the One who is before them. Simeon, in that simple passage of Luke saw Him and knew. And, perhaps, he knew because he never stopped seeking and, while he was most likely looking for a handsome young man, was open to the idea that God would come in the form of a common baby. Whatever prompted his spirit, the old man took the baby and danced, knowing he had seen God's faithfulness. Perhaps he even recalled the words of Isaiah which said the Messiah would be rather ordinary.
And ordinary He did appear. This King of kings spent his formative years as a carpenter's apprentice in a rather remote and rural town. Nathaniel's thoughts on hearing from his brother emphasize that - nothing of any account comes out of Nazareth. Yet this One who Simeon saw and declared his own life complete was most certainly the promised King, even if they didn't recognize Him. That baby in the manger was and is Immanuel - God with us!
Yet how many of us today recognize Him when He comes to us? Just what are we expecting to see anyway? If He came once as an average baby and grew up to take on a brief ministry as an itinerate rabbi, why are we looking for crowns and jewels and swords? It's our complacency that keeps us from seeing Him as He is, just like it kept so many from seeing Him as He was 2,000 years ago. The lesson here, in my way of thinking, is to take the approach that Simeon took: Don't limit God, and never stop looking.
As my Crooked Path winds through the season of Advent again this year, I'm encouraged to know that God in Christ came to us in the most common form. Remembering that, perhaps I can recognize the King when I see Him working around me. After all, He is the Servant King, so why wouldn't He be serving?
- Are you willing to set aside your complacency and open your eyes and heart to who God is and what He is doing right around you?
- Are you willing to remove the limits you have placed on God so you can see His work in new and exciting ways?
- Will you make the effort to keep looking for the King so that you are sure to recognize Him when you see Him at work around you? Are you ready to sing and dance with Simeon at the coming of Immanuel?