The Two Keys to Seeing God At Work
By Beth Demme
As we’ve moved from Advent to Christmas and now towards Epiphany, I’ve been repeatedly surprised at how unexpected it all is. I’m more aware than ever that I need to be open to seeing God at work in unexpected ways.
The Messiah was conceived by the Holy Spirit but then was born in the normal human way to an unmarried couple from the wrong part of Israel and laid in a manger instead of a fancy crib in the palace or temple. And then, a month or so later, when it was time for his mother to go to the temple, his parents didn’t walk in and declare, “Hello Chief Priest, we’ve brought you the Messiah!” Instead, they humbly offered the sacrifice of the poor (two birds) and devoted themselves and their baby to God (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:6-8).
At the temple, it was Simeon and Anna who declared that Jesus was the Messiah, not Mary and Joseph and not the Chief Priest or any temple official (Luke 2:21-38). How did they know?
Mary and Joseph knew Jesus wasn’t just a regular baby. They had both been visited by angels (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:26-36), Elizabeth confirmed it (Luke 1:41-43), and the shepherds showed up at the manger declaring that Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 2:15-18). If Mary and Joseph and Jesus were happening today, they might put a bumper sticker on their car (or donkey or whatever) that says, “MY SON IS AN HONOR STUDENT IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. HE WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER.”
But Mary and Joseph didn’t declare it. They were just in the temple trying to do the right thing according to Jewish law. It turns out, they didn’t have to declare it. There were people who were waiting expectantly for the unexpected.
Simeon and Anna saw Jesus for who he really was, even though he was only a baby. They were able to recognize who Jesus was and what his birth meant because (1) they each had a deep relationship with God and (2) they expected God to be at work in the world.
Simeon “was righteous and devout” and he was on the look-out for “the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). Simeon had been told he would see the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:26). On seeing Jesus he said, “I can die in peace. My eyes have seen God’s salvation.”
Anna was always in the temple, engaging in the spiritual disciplines of worshipping, fasting, and praying. When Anna saw Jesus, she “began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). I picture Anna telling everyone, “I found the Messiah! If you need to know that God is alive and at work, meet this baby!”
When Simeon and Anna saw Jesus, they didn’t just see a baby, they saw God’s saving grace.
As we begin to settle into 2018, that is my prayer—that in 2018 I will see God’s saving grace at work in the world.
In order to do that, I need to be like Simeon and Anna. I need to nurture my relationship with God and I need to be open to the unexpected.
What about you? When, where, and how have you seen God’s saving grace at work in the world? Was it expected or unexpected? How can we be more open to the unexpected in 2018? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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