“The Promise is Renewed!”
Luke 2:22-40, December 27th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Hear now these words from the second chapter of the gospel according to Luke, verses twenty-two thru forty.”
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 turtledoves 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 seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped 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. 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.
“Having heard the incredible accounting of the response of the prophets Simeon and Anna – when Jesus’ parents brought him to the temple for ritual of purification, let us now ponder the implication for us.”
“The Promise is Renewed!”
Christmas Eve was so wonderful, so much beautifully prepared music! Thank you: Mariana, Eddie, and Tyler, as well as all those who participated in the effort; it was your voices and talents that made it so extra special! It was a night to remember. I pray we all had a good Christmas day as well. Now the preparation for a New Year is on the near horizon. What new things, new hopes, and new dreams, shall it bring? Of course, it is hard to set aside what a difficult year we have experienced as a people. Such turmoil and tragedies all over the world. Especially here, in our own country. Yet, today’s scripture lesson is about renewed hope and promises kept. As it is said in ‘Mathew Henry’s Commentary’ “The same Spirit that provided for the support of Simeon’s hope, provided for his joy.” Let us not miss the point here that neither the Prophet Simeon nor the Prophet Anna, they would not have seen the Christ child, if they had not gone to the temple that day. Our commentary writer Brian Stoffregen, points out for us: “Those who would see Christ must go to his temple.” Therefore, let us be reminded that we must seek out God’s presence ‘if’ we are to be in God’s company. Inviting the Spirit of God into our new Year, as well as our very homes, is crucial. When looking for new hope, especially on a Sunday morning, seeking a place of worship, a time of Spiritual nourishment is a good choice. This worship broadcast, this sanctuary, they each hold the mystical Spirit of God’s renewed hope and reassurance of promises kept. A good place, a good time to seek the presence of God’s essence.
As I was writing this message our little dog, Peanut, was sitting in my lap. Lois had gone out to the store. Outside was a bright sun-shinny day, although a bit brisk as the cool air was with us that day, but still a beautiful day. The vacant lot that had been cleared, behind our home, was being worked on and is being prepared for a new home to be built. Fascinating to watch how quickly the process can go. In less than four workdays they had carted off the base of what is referred to as the “organic dirt”, with all the roots and such, about fifteen truck loads. Then they refilled the area with a like amount of ‘foundation fill’, as a base material, before building up the construction area (another 15 or so truckloads of dirt) where the planned home will be built. As Floridians we have learned it is imperative to do this to protect the new construction, from flooding in the rainy season. The process is continuing as I write. Expectations are that in the next weeks they will continue the process, as they prepare to pour the cement foundation. This is what we each must do, prepare ourselves by building up our foundation, by building up our relationships with the very ‘Spirit’ of Christmas. Foundations are so important. Let us not skip any steps as we build-up our foundations of faith. We shall need to be diligent as we move forward in our lives, our faith journeys. Just as the workers were diligent with their responsibilities ‘in their tasks’ to prepare the land for a new home, a home which shall be built on the lot behind my own, so also must we be diligent in our efforts to strengthen our relationships with God. One prayer, one worship service, and one day at a time – is a good start.
What is truly needed in our lives… is to continue developing in our faith, strengthening our relationship with God, through Christ. A relationship that began on that first Christmas night as the baby Jesus was born in a humble stable. The gospel speaks so eloquently of the birth scene – in beautiful poetic language. As one reads the story of Jesus’ birth, the pangs of such an event are neatly tucked out of sight. One can not but marvel at the story and indeed we have – for Centuries! The celebration of the boy born of Mary is known around the world, perhaps simply because the story was told in this enchanted fashion. Christians around the globe lift-up his birth as the heart of what the Christmas event is all about. It has become the foundation of the Christmas story itself. Mother Mary unwed becomes pregnant. The scriptures tell us she was a virgin. Joseph comes to her and after having a vision in a dream, he is reassured by God and Joseph and Mary are wed. The story continues as they are forced to travel to Bethlehem to register for their tax burden. All this while Mary was with child. They were poor and when the birth of baby Jesus came, they were forced to seek refuge in a stable, in a barn with the farm animals. Born in poverty, born in a humble setting the story of God’s essence, through the Holy Spirit, and a baby named Jesus, come together. God’s embodiment is the core of Christian belief. And the gospels tell us much more about how the baby grew and grew… becoming a Man – Jesus of Nazareth – who still mystifies us all!
Brian Stoffregen makes a reference to Jesus “growing”, and “increasing”, after his dedication at the temple. Now that we have renewed our celebration of Christ’s birthday, let us reflect on just how much we ought to follow in his footsteps. Marking the birth of Christ each year is only the first step. We must honor his birth through our actions and through the living of our lives as Jesus would hope for us to live! We must also grow… not just in height and breadth, but in all areas of our being. We must expand and utilize the gifts, the talents of who we are as individuals. We shall need to learn how to use these gifts as we also learn about Jesus, about God through the gospels and our traditions. It takes all the gifts which God has bestowed upon us to grow to fullness. Yet, there is more. We will need to turn to our powers of reasoning as we move from childhood into adulthood. With our God given attributes, we shall be able to put our own personal experiences into the equation, of who Jesus was and is, and how God is in our lives today. Our understanding of the Messiah, the Savior, and the Redeemer of ‘our human nature’ is a process that we must develop once we have that strong base foundation of our faith, which is essential.
We need good tools, good equipment, if we are to expand and increase our understanding and relationship with our Creator God. William Loader, a theologian I often quote, picks up on this theme of honoring the wisdom of those with considerable length of service, and time, upon this Earth. “Luke reflects the honoring of wise elderly people… they are rich sources of wisdom.” Our lesson today brings to us two prophets, a man named Simeon and a woman named Anna, both well advanced in age. They were old. It is no small point that our lesson today is brought to us by two very old prophets! Jesus and his parents were there too, of course! Yet, the whole point of the scripture revolves around the response by these two distinct, old Prophets.
Simeon who had been promised by God that one day he would lay eyes on the Messiah. “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.” /Luke 2:30b-32/ Not much is written about Simeon, yet, it is apparent he had dedicated his life to the service of God’s people and relied on the very word of God to guide his words along his journey. He had strong tools that brought him great faith and clearly based on our reading he was well pleased with God’s faithfulness to himself personally… as he entered the temple that day and laid eyes upon the boy Jesus.
Anna too is raised up for us as a woman of advanced age and wisdom. Our scripture speaks of her devotion and faith. Upon seeing young Jesus, she expounds for all to hear. “At that moment she (Anna) came and began to praise God and to speak about the child (Jesus) to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” /Luke 2: 38/ At age twelve there is an accounting, in scripture, just a few verses beyond today’s reading, of Jesus spending three days in the temple talking with the elders, the teachers of the church. Seems Jesus knew the value of speaking with those who were senior to him in age. Jesus was a quick learner, for by the time Joseph and Mary found him, as he had been missing three days, he had gained the upper hand in his discussions with the older teachers at the temple – as they were amazed and in awe of his grasp of the scriptures.
Christmas Day has passed, yet we are still in the season of Christmas. Let us not waste the strength of our renewed insights into what the birth of Jesus has meant for humankind. Renewed hope for sure. A promise of better tomorrows, which when we embrace with deep faith, we shall feel a new sense of peace, the peace of Christ can come upon us; one and all! The joy of our celebrations, the joy of both Simeon and Anna at the presence of young Jesus, this ‘in itself’ ought to keep us working diligently to strengthen our relationship with him, the Christ child, the anointed one. The miracle of the birth of baby Jesus… as his very seed, his essence has joined with the essence of God, the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirt – that is the power of God’s love coming to us in human form!
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” /Luke 2:40/ From the seed of God’s abundant love comes the promises kept for Anna and Simeon. There testimonies have the power to strengthen our own willingness to grow with Christ, grow stronger in our journeys of faith – to serve God and the people of God. As we age, we too shall be filled with wisdom and the favor of God shall be upon us!