THE UNIVERSAL MESSIAH
These days we here this word called, Globalization a lot. What is it? “An English princess with a Welsh title leaves a French hotel with an Egyptian companion who has supplanted a Pakistani; she gets into a German car with a Dutch engine that is driven by a Belgian chauffeur full of Scottish whiskey. They are then chased by Italian paparazzi on Japanese scooters and motor bikes into a Swiss built tunnel, where they crash. A rescue is briefly attempted by an American doctor using Brazilian medicines. And the whole story is told to you in Sharon at Hope Church by an Indian pastor who grew up in Costal Districts of Andhra Pradesh, that is Globalization.! (15 countries) So, did you guess who the princess being mentioned is? That’s right it’s Princess Diana”.
Is globalization a bad thing? How does God view diversity? Whether we like diversity or not, the world we live is becoming more and more diverse. We are living in times where people are constantly on the move from one place to another. Who do you think is behind this cross migration? What should be the role of Hope Church in a vastly diverse community called Sharon? For the past four weeks we have been preparing our hearts for the, advent of Christ at Christmas. Our preparation includes many things: We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah. We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins, give peace and restore our Joy eternal. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let’s look at Psalm of praise by Simeon around the birth of Christ and its worldwide implications. Luke 2:25-35
Background: Let me give you the historical and background to our story. Luke notes, the emperor Augustus issued a decree to take the census throughout the Roman world.
The Jewish historian Josephus notes this census took place under Quirinius during 6 or 7 A.D. What is the significance of this worldwide census? First, to show that the issues of power and status occupy the center stage, for both Augustus and Quirinius as they were introduced as wealthy sovereigns. Joseph along with the rest of the world, portrayed as their subordinates. Second, this new universal census was outwardly designed to number each nation by family and tribe. Property and income values were not recorded in this registration, but soon the statistics gathered in this census were used for the levying of poll taxes on Jews, hence they regarded census as a symbol of Roman oppression.
Third, to imply that Jesus’ ministry would be universal. Fourth, the census locates the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
As per the decree, Jews from all over the then Roman world made their way to Judea. Joseph and Mary too made their way to register themselves in the records to Bethlehem as Joseph belonged to the house of David. While they were there when the fullness of time came Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger as there was no guest room available for them. According to the Mosaic law every first-born male is to be consecrated to the Lord. When the time came for the purification rites to be completed, Joseph and Mary took their eight days old baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. Let’s pick up our story from here.
I. BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME:
We often hear people brag about their fortunes, somewhat like this: “I guess we were in the right place at the right time, because the person ahead of us in line paid for our drinks!
I got that great parking space because I pulled up just as someone was leaving. My friend could never get promoted when she worked here, but I've been in the right place at the right time to move up in the company. Unless you are in the right place at the right time you cannot meet a movie star. Being in the right place at the right time, what does it mean?
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as, “being in the best position or place to take advantage of an opportunity. The key to success is to be in the right place at the right time.” One blogger notes, “Being in the right place at the right time is really a lesson about persistence.” There is some truth in these explanations. Coming back to our story, Simeon was in the right place at the right time. He was one of those who had been persistently waiting for the savior of the world. He was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. From that day, Simeon was patiently waiting for the appearance of the Lord’s Messiah.
On one of his visits to the temple he was prompted by the Holy Spirit, to go into the temple courts, and at the same time Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to be dedicated. Was it a coincidence or Simeon was at the right place at the right time? Seeing, the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother, Simeon must have been overwhelmed. His prayers were answered and his waiting had come to an end. He had been waiting to see the consolation of Israel. That was the salvation of Israel. Simeon took the boy in his arms and made some bold proclamations. Let’s see how that proclamation would impact our lives today in the 21st century.
II. THE UNIVERSAL MESSIAH
Vs, 29-32, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
At the time of the birth of Jesus, many Jews were looking for solace. The Roman Empire was quite powerful and imposed an oppressive burden on the Jewish community. Life on the first century was hard for other reasons lack of clean water, disease, high maternal mortality rate, and a host of other challenges. In this bleak context, we see a righteous person anticipating some relief. As Simeon was lifting Jesus in his arms he understood that he was not only embracing the messiah for the people of Israel, but for the whole world. In one way he was holding the Universal Messiah and proclaimed saying salvation of the Lord is for all nations.
Is this proclamation consistent with God’s overall plan of salvation? Consider these scriptures: The call of Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3 “The Lord had said to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God wanted to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham.
Isaiah Prophesied, Isaiah 49:5-6 “And now the Lord says he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself… “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” These two scriptures reiterate that God’s salvation is meant for the Jews and the Gentiles alike.
In Judaism tikkun olam. means, “God is repairing the whole world through his people.” This concept now is a regular part of the Jewish prayer service. Listen to a third century Jewish prayer, “And therefore, we pray to you, Lord our God, that we may speedily behold the splendor of your might, to banish idolatry from the earth – and false gods will be utterly destroyed; to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty.
All mankind shall invoke Your Name to turn all the wicked of the earth to you.” John the Baptist saw himself as the repairer of the world. Simeon saw the salvation of the gentiles. The Jewish community understood that God is repairing the world through them, so they get involved in fighting for justice, loving the immigrants and the eradication of poverty.
It is interesting to note that Simeon embraced the universal Messiah in his hands. With his eyes closed he saw into the future, farther than any telescope could see, the salvation of millions of gentiles. How do we see the world today? Are we aware of what God is doing around the world? How do we respond when we encounter people from other countries, are we quick to dismiss them, or do we embrace them as Simeon did?
I personally believe that God wants to repair the world through us his Church, so He is sending people from all over the world into our neighborhoods. Many bright international students from countries that are closed to the gospel, are coming to the USA, as the followers of the Universal Messiah how are we going to reach out to them?
There are so many ways to build friendships with internationals who are likely craving relationships because they have left so many behind: Host an international student, or welcome home a college student from another country for meals on weekends and holidays. As a church let’s explore opportunities to work among the Somalin and Syrian refugees. Maybe we can plan on running or be a part of an ESL program in our community. The town of Sharon is well known as a diverse and welcoming community, let’s connect with our neighbors, take a meal to a Chinese or an Indian family down the street. As a popular proverb goes “where there is a will there is a way” let’s pray and ask God to put in our hearts a will and desire to build friendships, and to show us creative ways to share the gospel with our neighbors. Amen!
 An Illustration on globalization originally shared by Shahi Tharoor, Indian Member of Parliament shared in a Key note address at Harvard University in Boston. (Slightly Modified)
 Dr. Todd M. Johnson, Director of the Center for the Studies of Global Christianity at GCTS