Christmas Eve 2014 7 PM- “Believing is Seeing”
Lk. 1:13,18; 2:29-32 ?Believing is Seeing: Light and the Glory?
?For video of this service, click here:
Missouri is the Show me state. I lived there for several year and know the saying is there ?I won?t believe it unless I see it.? The problem is we do not live like that. I do not check my brakes out every time I get in the car. I do not have to see them to believe in them. I do not check the sun charts out from NASA to make sure the sun comes up in the morning before I set my alarm clock. We live more by our beliefs than we like to admit. There are mixed videos coming out of Ferguson Missouri. We see on the one hand crowds overturning police cars and looting- and people think saying terrible. And the other hand we see tear gas and riot gear and it looks like violence. Many people will see the same exact video clips and come to two different conclusions. It is the same with faith. I believe that there is more concrete evidence now than ever before and scientific support to the idea of creation (See Metazas Wall Street Journal this week), and medical support for the importance of ethical behavior. Others only see science conflicting with faith to the point that they cannot coexist.
Simeon held Jesus in his hands. Jesus was not the only one in the Temple. But Simeon, moved by the Spirit came up to them and held Jesus. He saw in Jesus hope. He saw in that little baby a light for the nations and the glory of Israel. For some, Jesus was just another 8 day old baby. One among many. Today, some may say Jesus was a great teacher, a great enlightener. But they would not admit that He was the Light of the Gentiles. For Simeon, believing allowed him to see hope in a baby. Believing allowed him to see light for the pagan Gentiles and even all nations- in fulfillment of the promise of Abraham, David and Isaiah that God sought to bless all people through Israel. ???? Today, there are people in every continent in every nation that would make the claim that Jesus has not just taught them, but has changed their life and given them hope, faith, and love. Jesus has become a light to the nations. Simeon?s prophecy made in utter faith has come true. Wherever Jesus has gone there has gone peace and hope. I want to celebrate that. Some of that last bastions of cannibalism fell to the Christian missionaries in the 1960s. Even Darwin gave much credit to the Christian missionaries for eliminating cannibalism. The rise of modern science owes much to the faith?s idea of a measurable universe of which patterns can be seen. As one writer (John Ortberg) put it, most pioneers of modern science believed they were called to think God?s thoughts after Him. The rise of modern hospitals and western medicine owes much to the Christian faith. Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge would have no reason to be founded without this baby. So much art and music (like we heard tonight) were written and inspired by Him. Simeon was right to believe- and we are still right today.
There is a unique thing called paradelia- which means seeing things we want to see- especially seeing patterns out of really random things. So people saw a man on Mars out of a random mountain when other angles were shown of the mountain there was no man there. People see the man on the moon out of random craters too. Our preschoolers take advantage of this when they put a handprint here and a footprint there and we see a reindeer. So some go to the other extreme and say there are no patterns in life. But there are- we count on patterns. We count on the sun coming up by design. We count on the temperature on earth to not be boiling hot or zero value frozen. We count on gravity to hold us down. There are obvious patterns around us- and to say there are none is the opposite of seeing things that are not there- it is refusing to see things that are there. ?? Faith is in some sense trust. It is believing life is not totally random or totally an illusion (Maya as the Hindus say).?? For many we define God out of the picture ipso facto as if He cannot possibly exist. God cannot answer a prayer- because that just doesn?t happen. It takes faith to believe that we do not create the world- and we do not set the parameters for what can happen and what cannot or should not happen. Rather, we are placed here by the grace of God. Our being placed here is a gift- and we are called to discover the world as it already exists. It is clear that patterns exist- so that life is predictable. We can predict the movements of the stars and of the planet and of the seasons. But we also know there are hiccups in these movements. The patterns and movements are not perfect (as we would define perfection). Sometimes these hiccups in the pattern are tragedies, and sometimes these hiccups in the pattern are miracles. Either way, God weaves them into the pattern of life. That life is not totally controlled by us or predictable is a gift- and it makes life interesting and mysterious. ?? So a baby born homeless- born with animals- and not in a palace could become king is a mystery. How could Simeon say, ?Mine eyes have finally seen your salvation?? ?? Believing and trusting- is a way of seeing. It is a way of looking at life. I believe it is more blessed to look at life with trust in God than to look at life as if you are alone in the universe. Believe me, if you do not believe in God- at some point you will recognize that you are alone in the universe- and that is hell. Hell is separation from God- and it is separation from everyone else. It is separation from being able to trust to move forward. ???? My challenge to you today is to enjoy the mystery. Enjoy the miracles. Believe in order to see. Do not just see in order to believe. Ephesians 2:18 says, ?The eyes of your heart have been enlightened that you may know.?
There was a study that came out last year in Yale by Dr. Kahan called ?Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self Government? – In Kahan?s experiment, some people were asked to interpret a table of numbers about whether a skin cream reduced rashes, and some people were asked to interpret a different table ? containing the same numbers ? about whether a law banning private citizens from carrying concealed handguns reduced crime.? Kahan found that when the numbers in the table conflicted with people?s positions on gun control, they couldn?t do the math right, though they could when the subject was skin cream.? The bleakest finding was that the more advanced that people?s math skills were, the?more?likely it was that their political views, whether liberal or conservative, made them?less?able to solve the math problem.
In other words- you decide what evidence you accept based on your belief structure. You decide whether you will allow a surprise or not a miracle or not ? an answered prayer or not based on your belief structure- your presuppositions.
Hebrews 11:1- Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
John 20:21- Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.
I Samuel- the Lord looks on the heart.
The Post-modern world is flat- it has no perspective (or appreciation of the past)- everything is plain and meaningless- two dimensional. There is no mystery. There is no miracle. There is no real or ultimate hope. ???? Faith in God sees deeper. It allows us to see an ordinary baby born in a manger as the Prince of Peace. It allows us to see Jesus as the beloved Son of God. It adds a vertical dimension to life. Belief in God is not just another perspective among many- it is a rich and enriching perspective that calls us to see value in all people. To dream new dreams and to sing new songs. So Simeon sang- ?My eyes have finally seen your salvation.? We could say, ?Wait Simeon!? You are not seeing things right. Look through my lens. For I see no salvation here. But the seed of salvation came when that baby was born, and the world would not ever- never ever be the same. The deaf hear- not necessarily with their ears- but they hear. The blind see- not necessarily with their eyes- but it is possible for a blind man to see more than those who see with their eyes but are blind in their hearts. The lame and the prisoner are set free. Sin no longer imprisons us. My eyes have seen it. Have you seen it? He is the light of the world who enlightens us. I have seen the light in this child. Or is Jesus still just another baby to you? ???? There is an old Christmas carol that asks, ?Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?? This is because believing is seeing. At some point you must step out on faith and not just your understanding. This is true of all life and all love. I had two good friends who dated almost twenty years. I asked my friend why he didn?t ask the girl to marry him. He said he felt like he didn?t know her well. I said, ?Man you know her better than anyone else! Put your faith in her. Make a commitment.?
Simeon made a commitment in faith to this baby. He was able to have peace because of that view. Put your faith in Him. You know Him well enough. Trust Him now this Christmas.