Close Encounters

Close Encounters

Every time I think of the Super Bowl commercials, the one I remember most is Mean Joe Green and the little fan meeting each other as the great Pittsburgh Steeler player comes off the field. Those of a certain age already have a smile on their face.

That kid will never forget that moment! And I bet he still has the jersey.

In today’s Gospel Lesson we revisit one of the most significant encounters of all time. In Luke 2:25-38 we read of our Lord being brought for His 40 day blessing by His mother and foster-father, in accordance with the customs of Jewish religious law. As an aside, isn’t it interesting that the scripture shows us this scene of the life of Christ? Here the One Who gave Moses the Law in the wilderness all those centuries ago, now willingly submits to obey the laws He established with His Own hand. The Lawgiver is a “law keeper.” The Lord never asks us to follow Him to any place He has not already gone! So, you know this path is a good and safe path for your life.

Mary and Joseph bring the 40 day old Uncreated Creator made Who took flesh for our sake, to the Temple and there two figures wait patiently in devoted prayer and focused attention on the true purpose of all our lives. The aged Symeon and the widowed Anna.

Symeon is the first to see the Child. He had been promised by the Holy Spirit (another aside, see what you can learn and how your life can be encouraged if only you will quiet your soul through prayer and devotion so you can sense the direction the Lord offers you?) that he would see the “Lord’s Christ” before he died. Seeing this Child, being sensitive to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit through years of prayer and devotion, he hears: “This is the One.” And Symeon knows this is the Encounter he has waited for all his life.

“Lord, now let your servant 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 for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

Symeon encountered Christ and his heart burst forth in praise. He knew this encounter signaled his own physical death, but his faith had so transformed him that he was able to see beyond his own personal demise to the glory of just what this Encounter really meant! He has now seen the Christ – the Anointed One. Symeon is so transformed by years of patient devotion and prayer that he clearly sees the significance of this Encounter and he reveals to us, if we have the courage to see, three life-changing insights into this universe-altering moment.

First, Symeon say he has seen “your salvation.” I’ve always found it fascinating that he didn’t say “my salvation.” He sees that this moment signals the Lord’s salvation given to the world. This salvation isn’t “mine” it’s His salvation. This salvation isn’t mere self-centered survival. No, it is God’s loving gift to the whole world. And it is in my response to this Gift that reveals if this Gift is going to be a blessing or a curse to me.

Next, Symeon see beyond his self, beyond his family, beyond his tribe, beyond his nation to what this Encounter really means. This salvation is for the whole world, even those outside the boundaries of his own tribe! Symeon recognizes that God is not merely a tribal deity meant for only a certain culture or blood-line, but even for the “Gentiles.” This is how big this Encounter is!

Finally, Symeon declares God has fulfilled His promises to His people. God has been faithful. God is trustworthy. God keeps His promises. God loves His creation. God is worthy to be praised. God doesn’t let us down.

No wonder Symeon begins by saying he can now “depart in peace.”

Today, you will get another opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ. You will encounter Him in the face of others who cross your path. In the face of your children, spouse, friends, family, and yes, even in the face of your enemies. Will you respond to Christ as Symeon? Can you depart from these encounters with Jesus “in peace?” If you develop through patient devotion and prayer a heart that can see beyond your personal comfort to the real activity of God in His world working to redeem His world, you will see as Symeon saw: God is saving His world; God is bigger than my finite tribe; God is trustworthy and dependable.

So, now, today, when you encounter Christ, depart in peace and allow that peace to point others to their own encounter with Jesus Christ.

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