“A candle in the wind.”
Sunday, December 28, 2014
“A candle in the wind.”
Dear Christian Friends:
The peace and joy of Christmas be yours now and throughout the year.
When I was growing up in the Lutheran Church, and the formal liturgy still had titles in Latin, there was a part of the liturgy entitled: The Nunc Dimittis. For all of you that took Latin in high school or college as I did, I’m really dating myself now, it means “Now I depart”. That liturgy which we sang at every communion service was based upon the words of Simeon in our gospel lesson. Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people. A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.
When I read that Simeon said Jesus would be “a light to the Gentiles” it triggered in my mind the song, “Candle in the Wind.” Elton John wrote two versions: one for Marilyn Monroe and the other for Princess Diana. In each song he lamented the tragedy of their premature deaths. In the case of Marilyn Monroe, she was a talented actress who brought a sense of beauty and zest for life to the screen. Princess Diana was a tragic character caught in the sordid intrigues of the royal family, but who still managed to show compassion to children and work publically to help eliminate land mines, to support hospitals for the poor, and numerous charitable causes. Both of those “candles in the wind” were flawed individuals who were still able to make a positive difference in our world.
But neither of them can hold a candle compared to Jesus Christ. Jesus was not just another pretty face, or a social activist. Jesus was the savior of the world. When Simeon saw Jesus, he saw the promised Savior. I don’t know that Simeon understood HOW Jesus was going to be the Savior of the world. He might have envisioned Jesus to be a new King David who would cast off the Romans and establish peace and freedom in Israel. He might have envisioned Jesus to be a great prophet who would save the people by imparting to them new wisdom and insights from God.
Jesus of course became the Savior of the world and a light to the Gentiles through his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus did not just come to restore glory to the nation of Israel, Jesus came to be a light to the world. Jesus revealed the depth of God’s love for the world that God would send his only Son to die for the sins of the whole world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that EVERYONE who believes in him, may not perish but may have eternal life.” What a profound revelation to make in the darkness of the world. We live in a world of sin, suffering and death and Jesus was the ultimate candle in the wind, the ultimate light to our world.
God was willing to offer his own Son as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. We are all sinful and separate from God, but God is willing to forgive ALL who turn to him in faith. That is the light of Jesus: it is the light of love in a broken world, it is the light of forgiveness in a world of sin, it is the light of eternal salvation in a world of death.
Simeon never lived long enough for the light of this little baby to shine in the world. Simeon never heard him preach about God’s love. Simeon never saw him reach out to the outcasts. Simeon never saw his miracles and never witnessed his death and resurrection. Yet, just having the promise of God that this was the Messiah who would be the light to the Gentiles and the salvation to the world was enough for Simeon to die in peace.
Simeon died in peace before he ever saw the great things Jesus was going to do. We however are more blessed than Simeon. We have seen the light of Jesus shine in the world. We have witnessed the numerous miracles of Jesus and seen his compassion for tax collectors, sinners, and Gentiles. We have heard his teachings on love. We have witnessed the depth of his sacrifice for us. So today, as we celebrate the day Jesus was revealed to Simeon as the Savior of the world and the light to the Gentiles, we celebrate that we have seen the fulfillment of that prophecy. Indeed, we have witnessed the candle in the wind: the light in the darkness.
Another thing that we can profit from as we reflect upon the story of Simeon is that Simeon was able to die in peace before he saw the fulfillment of the prophecy. Just knowing that the Savior had been born was enough for Simeon. He knew that God would fulfill his promises once the Savior had been revealed.
Although we have seen how Jesus was a light in the darkness of the world, like Simeon, we too wait for the final fulfillment of God’s promises. We wait for the day when there will be no more death or crying or death. We wait for the day when our bodies and minds will be transformed into perfect states that can truly love others as God has first loved us. We wait for the day when there is no more abusive or violent behavior, when there is no more warring between nations and religions, when the peace that the angels sang of will become reality for the whole world.
The biggest difference for us is that Jesus wasn’t a candle in the wind that died, and we no longer have him in our midst. Although Jesus died prematurely, he was resurrected from the dead. Jesus lives! He lives and the day will come when Jesus will return and establish his eternal kingdom. Because he lives, we can continue to have a relationship with Jesus. We can pray to him and know that he hears our prayers and answers them for our good. We can enjoy his loving presence. Each time we celebrate Holy Communion we encounter him in the bread and wine. His body and blood are present to us for the forgiveness of our sins. At Holy Communion Jesus comes down to be present to us. Jesus is a light who continues to shine in our hearts and minds. He is present to us in prayer. He is present to us in Holy Communion. He promises that the day will come when he will be present to us in heaven.
Even though Jesus is present to us today, we wait, as Simeon waited for the kingdom of God to come in its fullness. Simeon had peace as he waited. He saw the messiah, and he knew God would usher in his salvation. That same peace can be ours as we wait. We have seen the Messiah. We have witnessed how his candle shown bright in the darkness of the world. We have witnessed both his death and his resurrection. We too can live and die in peace. Our savior has come. Our salvation has been won on the cross at Calvary. Our hope of resurrection and eternal life has been secured in the resurrection of Jesus. “OUR 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.” Be at peace. AMEN