Posted on Thu, Jan 1, 2015
December 18, 2014
1st Sunday after Christmas
Gospel Text: Luke 2:22-40 “The FULLNESS of Time”(We have received Christ, Now, let your servant God in Peace”)
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’ 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ 36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth
39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
We had a wonderful Christmas! We had a wonderful Christmas because all of you did so much; you worked very hard for our celebration! The day of Christmas Eve seemed to last forever until 5:30, and then everything moved forward like a steam roller until we went home after Christmas Day worship. The only interaction I had after worship on Christmas Day was with the fish, turtles and corals of our beautiful bay. I slept very well that night. When I woke up, I had very little desire to go anywhere at all! I read in the newspaper that people were flocking to the malls, and that immediately told me that I wouldn’t be going to any malls for the day, so I/we enjoyed Boxing Day very quietly! It was heaven.
But eventually we did have to venture out into humanity. I was already in sermon writing mode with today’s Gospel text in my head as I walked along and I was especially interested in looked at all the young families with small kids. There were many families that looked much like Mary, Joseph and a newborn. I recalled our experience with a 5-year old Andrew and a 1-year old Kai in the streets of Japan … Young parents “multi-task” in order to keep their kids alive! … Especially in parking lots!
As I watched the families, I remembered passages from Daniel Erlander’s “Baptized We Live.” In this book that I also give out to every new member of our church, Pastor Erlander reminds us that as Baptized members of the Body of Christ, we now are Re-Created with a new way of seeing, hearing, teaching, and following. http://danielerlander.com/bwl.html
As God calls you ‘beloved’ and will stop at nothing from reconciling, mending, or bringing us back into a proper relationship with our God, once we are made Children of God, in faith we begin to look at all people as God’s beloved; the world no longer is a planet waiting to be exploited but cared for; our teaching reflects the justice and mercy of God, not human thought; and now we are free to follow Jesus walking and living in the ‘discipline’ of Christ. In short, we truly become new people with new eyes, ears, hearts and priorities.
When I was on a music ministry team traveling all over Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, my team was waiting for a boat or plane, and in a practically empty terminal we looked over and there we saw, Mother Theresa. Yes, THAT Mother Theresa. She was visiting one of her groups of nuns in Port Moresby and was busy making taking notes in a simple ragged notebook. Of course, at that instant we turned into a bunch of bungling tourists and asked if we could take her picture and ask a few questions. Honestly, I don’t think she appreciated us and really wanted to be just left alone to gather her thoughts, but she allowed us to take some pictures. When people read about her mission to the poor and dying, many are astounded at how she could do what she did. In one article I read about her ministry, she said, “I can see Christ in everyone I meet. I see Jesus’ face in the dying, the poor, those who have been cast away by society. In these people, I see Christ and it is an honor to serve Christ in serving the poor and dying.”
She is talking about a new way of seeing, hearing, teaching, and following.
Simeon and Anna had those eyes, ears and heart. Simeon and Anna were prophets and they had been faithfully watching countless babies and their parents come and go from the temple, but according to the Spirit of God, they knew that one day they would lay their eyes on their Messiah, the One who could save their people.
Mary and Joseph didn't look too different from any other young couple that came to the temple in Jerusalem each and every day to celebrate the birth of their children; they brought a modest offering to the temple to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But to Simeon and Anna, Mary and Joseph were no ordinary couple and the baby they cradled in their arms was no ordinary baby.
Luke says, “when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”
It is interesting to note that Mary seemed a little surprised at the words that Simeon and Anna began to proclaim. But we also need to remember, Mary in all her faithfulness, was not a prophet, Simeon and Anna were.
Simeon the prophets Simeon and Anna alone seem to know the exact future AND PURPOSE of baby Jesus. They look upon Jesus and rejoice in that by SEEING JESUS, they know they are looking upon the one the prophet Isaiah spoke about in Is. 9:6, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Simeon and Anna, people of great faith, living each day with the expectation that this could be the day God will show to them their Messiah! Every baby they looked at, every family they took care of at the temple became a holy gift from God given in order to bless God’s people and God’s land… but this little baby Jesus was different! Jesus was to personalize God’s salvation to all people. It was a time to rejoice for the Promise of God had been fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. Now, they could die in peace, for they knew that had witnessed the salvation of their people, as well as themselves.
For you fans of Liturgy, we used to use the word, The “Nunc dimittis” (also called the Song of Simeon or Canticle of Simeon) it is a canticle from today’s text in the second chapter of Luke named after its first words in Latin, meaning 'Now you dismiss...' and in the Lutheran Liturgy, they are the words we sing, or sang, just after receiving communion. For example, after we have received, meaning we have seen and experienced the very Body of Christ, we become like Simeon and Anna and we rejoice saying, “now that we have ‘seen’ the Lord, let your servant depart in peace.” In our setting, as we have been served by Christ in the Eucharist, we can now depart in peace as the Servants of the Lord.
At this Christmas time, we celebrate because the very same Christ Child has blessed us! Not only has Jesus been born, but also through faith, God has entered our hearts and minds, and now we have new eyes, new ears, and a new heart, we can look upon every person we meet and see them as forgiven and redeemed through the death and resurrection of this Christ Child! In Jesus, we see the salvation of God! Amen.
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