12/31/2017 First Sunday of Christmas The text is Luke 2:22-4.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are gathered here today on the cusp of new year…waiting and hoping for things to move in a positive way in the year ahead and yet, not knowing what is going to happen. So, there is an anticipation and yet a foreboding that comes with the end of one year and beginning of the next.
Our gospel for today encompasses many of these feelings as Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth comes to its conclusion. It ends in the temple, with Mary and Joseph bringing in Jesus to do for him that which was prescribed by the law. It was the right thing to do. It was the law of Moses and the will of God that the firstborn son be dedicated to the Lord. So, Mary and Joseph, being people of faith, went to the temple in order to bring the appropriate sacrifice for Mary’s purification after childbirth and in order to present Jesus to the Lord.
It is here, in the temple, that the true identity of Jesus was revealed – not by angels or shepherds or by the thundering voice of God – but by two faithful people who went the temple in same way you have come here today – not knowing what the future will hold and yet, having their eyes and hearts open to the mystery and the miracle of the Christmas child.
First, there was Simeon, an old man of expectant faith, who for many years had been watching and waiting, alert for the signs of the coming of the Lord. Guided by the Spirit, he went to the temple that day as he had on so many other occasions. Walking through the temple courtyard, his gaze came upon a young mother, father and the infant they brought to be consecrated to the Lord’s service. Clearly, they were not wealthy people, and yet, there was something about them that drew Simeon to them and prompted him to receive the child into his arms.
The other watcher was an old lady, a widow named Anna. Years of fasting and prayer had made her ready to meet the Lord. When she saw the child, she broke into praise and spoke of the child to others who shared her desire to see “the redemption of Jerusalem.”
It was these two people, full of faith and ready to meet the Lord’s messiah, who found joy in the temple that day. These two elders who treasured the promises and images of the past were open to God’s plan as unexpected as it may be. For, God chose to enter his temple and their lives, not in power and glory but as one like them – poor, simple and totally dependent upon God.
Poor, simple and totally dependent upon God, that is how we end one year and begin the next. For, it doesn’t matter how much any of us has accumulated in this world. How much knowledge we have and how good our technology may be doesn’t matter. We are all poor, simple and totally dependant upon God as our salvation is not found in what we can build with human hands, but upon what God has built for us in the Christmas child.
Simeon and Anna looked into the face of the Christ child and saw the salvation that God has “prepared in the presence of all peoples.” They looked into the face of Jesus and knew that their waiting was over. They could now live and die in peace, knowing that the future belongs to the God who has chosen to be with us.
In the midst of tragedy and death, sometimes we turn to God, lamenting his absence from us, rather than trusting that God will keep his promises and bring us peace. We forget that God never promised us a rose garden here on earth. Instead, when God took human form, God promised to walk with us. God immersed himself in our lives so that God would experience the depth of our grief and sorrow, our pain and anguish, our disappointments and despair, our confusion and anxiety, our challenges and opportunities, our dreams and our hopes, our anticipation and our foreboding. God knows it all and God is there to be our security blanket.
To those who trust him, God offers a salvation which cannot be taken away or blown from the sky. As one door shuts, God opens another as he offers us eternal life in his kingdom. That new life began for us when we were made members of God’s family. And that new life began for Simeon and Anna as they looked into the face of the infant Jesus and saw in him all the hopes and dreams of the people. In Jesus, God entered our world and our life and identified with us so that he could show us the way of true life and salvation.
So, as we begin a new year, may we embrace the life and salvation that God offers in the same way as the aged Simeon who took the infant Jesus into his arms and exclaimed, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
My friends, no matter what the year ahead may hold for you may the peace and joy of Simeon as he took the Christmas babe in his arms echo in our hearts. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Christmas and New Year Blessings to You All!