12/28/2014 First Sunday of Christmas The text for today’s sermon is Luke 2:22-40; Galatians 4:4-7.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Welcome, my friends, to the first Sunday after Christmas!
A cartoon in the New Yorker magazine says it all. In the middle of the floor is a dried up, withered, Christmas tree. The calendar on the wall reads December 26. Dad is sitting in his chair with an ice pack on his head. Mom is in a bathrobe and her hair in rollers. The floor is a virtual mountain of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. Junior is reaching in his stocking to be sure that there is no more candy. In the background we see a table with a thoroughly picked turkey still sitting there. The caption on the cartoon reads simply: The morning after.
Well, perhaps we feel a little that way and if you do it makes a lot of sense. Over the past weeks our emotions have been wound tighter than a toy doll. Our festivities have led up to near fever pitch. And then, suddenly, it is all over. It’s no wonder that the Sunday after Christmas seems ho-hum. Psychiatrists even have a word for the way we feel. They call it Christmas-slump. (adapted from “Making Christmas Last,” Sermons.com)
There’s even an old Christmas carol which used to be sung regularly on the Sunday after Christmas. It begins:
There’s snow on the mountain and ice on the pond,
The wise men are home now in the back of beyond.
The shepherds have left us; the heavens are dumb;
There’s no one to tell us that Jesus has come.
Is it possible to lose the spirit of Christmas that quickly? As we take down the decorations for another year, there is a sinking emptiness and an emotional letdown. We feel like live Christmas trees, shedding what is left of our needles. I remember as a child trying all the tricks to keep the Christmas tree alive. We put aspirin in the water, then we would try sugar, but regardless of the solutions the tree would always wither. Why? Because it has been cut off from its roots. Maybe that is our problem this morning. Maybe we have trouble making Christmas last because we have become cut off from our roots. Or, to put it another way, maybe our celebration of Christmas is not deeply rooted enough in the gift of the Christ child.
To an old man named Simeon who was looking for the “consolation of Israel,” Christmas would never have been a one-day celebration. To him, Christmas was the culmination of a life time of faithful waiting. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about him except that he was a righteous and devout man…but, if he was described with these words, he must have lived a faithful life. Going to church wasn’t an option for Simeon. It was something he did every day as he waited and watched. For, by the Holy Spirit, God had informed him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Simeon dreamed of that momentous moment when God would reveal himself – so much so that his life and soul were captured as he wondered how it would happen and when. He kept watching and praying, anticipating the event, but having no idea what it would look like or when it would burst on the scene. And yet, when he found himself in the presence of Jesus, all he could do was raise his voice in prayer and thanksgiving, saying: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” Simeon held the child in his arms and praised God for he had seen in the baby Jesus the face of God.
My friends, this is what Christmas is all about. During the 12-day season of Christmas, we probably will not be watching and waiting as Simeon. For us, Christmases come and Christmases go. And we don’t look for the face of God in others. In fact, many of us may actually become little scrooges – trying to forget the season as we are left with big bills and bigger disappointments in what we did and didn’t receive this year. But, it is Simeon’s spirit that sets the true tone for the Christmas season. His soul is full of anticipation, and the strength and joy that come from knowing that God will fulfill his promises. When he sees Jesus, he knows that he is in God’s presence. He sees in the baby Jesus the salvation that is to come, and with this knowledge he can now rest in peace.
This peace is for all people. It is the peace of Christmas. It is a peace that comes from knowing that God loved us enough to send Jesus and loves us enough to keep his promises to us. With this peace and a life centered in God’s gift of the Christ child, the season of Christmas becomes a joyful year-around celebration.
So, on this first Sunday after Christmas, I invite you to remember the last verse of the old Christmas carol which used to be sung regularly on this day. It says it well:
But God’s in His heaven, and Jesus has come
To show every sinner he’s welcome back home,
To be this world’s Saviour from hunger and fear,
And give us new courage to face the New Year.
Merry Christmas, my friends, and have a peaceful new year. May limitations be starting points; challenges be opportunities; struggles be blessings; and troubles be mediated by God’s presence. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.