"Dear Father Christmas, please can I have a Rupert Annual, a drum box of chalks, soldiers and indians, slippers, a silk tie and any little toys you have to spare." So wrote David Haylock aged 8. David placed his Christmas list up the chimney for Father Christmas.
Seventy years later Lewis Shaw was demolishing a chimney in a house he was renovating. In the rubble he spotted a Christmas list written by a little boy. Lewis tracked down David who was now aged 78 and reunited him with his Christmas list. In fact when David and his wife visited his boyhood home the builders presented him with the presents he'd asked for all those years before. David said, "It has been a very long time since I sent this list, but it has definitely been worth the wait, it's amazing really."
There was once a senior citizen who waited a whole lifetime to receive a Christmas gift. He knew what he was waiting for was worth the wait.
What he was waiting for couldn't be bought in the shops; his parents couldn't provide; his friends couldn't give. He had been promised true comfort and peace.
Each Christmas we hear about the shepherds, the kings, but we don't always hear about the senior citizen at the first Christmas. In Luke's Gospel we're told that, shortly after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. It was there they met Simeon, most likely a senior citizen.
Luke tells us in 2:25 that Simeon was "waiting for the consolation of Israel.' The consolation of Israel was a name given to the one who would bring true comfort. Who is this person? Luke says in verse 26:
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he has seen the Lord's Christ .
God had promised him comfort before he died. The comfort would come from the Christ. And Christ was the name of God's king. We see that true comfort is found not in owning stuff or in the bottom of a bottle.
Nor is it found in trying impress God or following religious rules. Genuine comfort is found in Christ.
And after all those years of waiting for true comfort Simeon saw God's king. Simeon was in the temple in Jerusalem. He saw a couple with a child. Could this child be the one? The one he'd been promised by God? Luke writes in verse 27:
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought him in the child Jesus to do what the custom required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God…
Simeon holds Jesus in his arms. He doesn't comment on how cute he; he bursts out in praise to God! His peace and comfort have come at last! This is what he says:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eys have seen your salvation."
Simeon can now depart in peace. Because Genuine peace is found in Christ. How can this little child bring peace and comfort? Simeon says as he looks at Jesus, "my eyes have seen your salvation." Jesus is not only God's king but he's come to bring salvation. He saves people by bringing us peace with God.
Simeon knows the peace of God because in Jesus he's found peace with God. You cannot enjoy the peace of God without knowing peace with God. And the trouble is, without Jesus, there is no peace with God.
Gervaise Phinn, the writer and former school inspector, tells the story of a boy who was turned down for the part of Joseph in the school nativity play. He was cast as the innkeeper instead. On the day of the play he decided how he would seek his revenge for his casting. When asked if there was room at the inn by Joseph he said pointing to Mary, "She can come in but you can get lost!"
We too are a bit like that boy. If all the world's a stage then God is like the writer, producer and director. Our role is to live as he designed for us; that's the best way to live. Yet we think we know better and tear up the script. He gives us all the good gifts we enjoy; yet we go our own way. We have no peace with God. We know that too in our lives. After the hustle and bustle of Christmas we can often experience a flatness. Deep down we know there's no Christmas gift that will really satisfy us. Our brokenness is a reminder that life is not at it should be.
So can you understand Simeon's sudden outburst into song? As he holds the Christ child in his arms he holds the one who will undo the brokenness of our world. He holds the one who can give us peace with God.
But how can Jesus give us peace with God? Simeon gives us some clues in the following verses. Firstly, we're told in verse 34 that Jesus will be opposed. Secondly, he tells Mary, "a sword will pierce your own soul too." The Christ child would grow up to be opposed, so much so that he was hung out to die on a cross. And there Mary's soul would be pierced with grief. Yet that was all part of God's plan to bring us peace. On the cross Jesus lost God's peace so we could enter it. The Father poured out his anger on his perfect son, so sinners like Simeon, me and you could know peace with God. So we could know a comfort that lasts longer than Christmas; we can know the comfort of eternal life. It's the greatest gift anyone could receive. The question is will you accept that gift?
A few years ago my brother got me a voucher for Christmas. I stuck it behind the clock on the mantelpiece. A year later I pulled it out to spend but the voucher had expired. We can do a similar thing with Jesus. But don't take forever with his offer. Because Jesus won't wait forever.
God's gift of his son is far more precious than any voucher. Simeon knew it. But do you know it? Even if you're not convinced that Jesus is God's king it's surely worth finding out. Come back to church. Come to Life Explored. You have nothing to lose, and you have everything to gain.
And if you, like Simeon, see in Jesus salvation, then you too can enjoy the comfort Christ brings. A comfort that will not run out in January. And as you enjoy the passing comforts the season brings: family, friends, the feeling of coming home, enjoy them as foretastes of the heavenly peace Jesus has won for you. I wish you a merry Christmas.