I dare say that during your life you have had, and perhaps still do have, great expectations for yourself and those whom you love – perhaps too great expectations for society, church, world.
We heard today of two people who certainly had great expectations: Simeon and Anna. Expectations of what God would one day (NB: NOT might) do for people of Israel and indeed for whole world. Expectations that one day God’s king would come. That he would reign on God’s behalf and that God’s people would once again be free, to live by God’s law and with God’s blessing.
A long time coming
Clearly they had been waiting a long time for these expectations to be realised. Child after child had been brought to the Temple and they were still waiting, hoping, expecting. They must have had the gift of perseverance in full measure.
What remarkable people they were. Not simply to wait in faith and hope, to persevere against all the odds but also to be sufficiently perceptive to see below the surface when Mary and Joseph came that day.
Outwardly there was nothing to distinguish the Holy Family from any other family, from the thousands that passed that way each year. They were ordinary people from the back of beyond. Clearly they were poor people because they couldn’t afford the big sacrifice but made do with what God’s Law allowed for those without much money.
No ordinary baby
But Simeon and Anna instantly spotted that in fact this was no ordinary baby. That here at last was the promised Messiah, the one who would bring God’s salvation, not only for God’s people but for the whole world – even though he didn’t come with fanfares and trumpet blasts and all that might have been expected for a Messiah.
We know, as they didn’t, though they had an inkling of an idea, what this would cost that baby who was presented in the temple today. And we know that this salvation, this work of God in and through that baby, wasn’t brought about in an instant, as if by waving a magic wand.
We know how much is still to be done before we see the rule of God on earth. We know of the paradox that God’s kingdom has come yet is still to come. And we know how important it is for us still to have great expectations, to retain hope in God’s promises, to look for the signs of God’s kingdom among us, and to play our part (no matter how small that part maybe) in realising it.
Carrying hopes and dreams
We are the inheritors of the salvation Simeon proclaimed. We are carrying hopes and dreams of a time when God’s kingdom will fully come and God’s will be fully done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Maybe also we, like those two old people, need the gift of perseverance, to wait in faith and hope on God. Certainly like them we need to have great expectations that God will work out God’s purposes as year succeeds to year.
Join me as we finish with the Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon, which you may recall from Evensong.
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation: which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be; world without end.
‘Carrying hopes and dreams’ was preached on Candlemas by Ralph Mallinson at St John with St Mark Bury on Sunday 2nd February 2020. It’s based on Luke 2:22–40. For more by Ralph please follow this link to the archive.