Luke 2:22-40 NIV
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Can you picture this? Mom is in the delivery room at the hospital. Dad is there with the doctor in the nurses. The family is gathered in the waiting room. Parents are there, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. Cousin Zechariah and Elizabeth are in the back with her 6 month old, John.
Someone sees dad emerge from the delivery room. He has scrubs on, and his hair is covered with one of those surgical hats. He is carrying something in his arms.
He reaches the waiting room to introduce the new arrival to his family. Uncle Simeon approaches and announces that this is the baby that he has hope for, that the Lord promised he would see before he died. Aunt Anna comes over, blesses the baby, and thanks God for Him.
We have heard the birth announcement from angels and from Magi, but finally we have confirmation from the family. The time has come, not only for the Salvation of the family, but an opportunity that is shared with the whole world.
When we look back through the Christmas story, there is someone with whom everyone can identify.
- With Zachariah and Elizabeth, we have an older couple surprised by the birth of their new baby, John, another child full of promise.
- We have Mary, the young lady, finding out that she will have a special baby, being asked to do more than she thought she was capable of, but then accepting it anyway.
- Joseph is a man in a precarious position. His is an honorable man, wants to do the right thing, but keep his place in society. By following Gabriel’s instructions his is put in a precarious position himself. He is given the responsibility to look after Mary, and to be the Earthly father of the son of God.
- The Shepherds are often the ones outside looking in. Technically Jewish, they still weren’t well thought of. They were the ones who provide a needed commodity to Judea with food to eat, wool for clothes, and not to mention providing sacrifices for God, but they were always on the fringes. They couldn’t participate in the normal life of Judea because they had to tend and watch over the flocks.
- Then there are the Wise Men, the Magi. They are complete outsiders from another country who practice another religion who are curious by this spectacular event. They are compelled to investigate. They cannot keep themselves from coming to find out about this new king that was told to them through the stars. (Amazing how God finds ways to draw us in no matter what our background or what has happened in our lives.)
- Then there are Simeon and Anna, these two people who even with their long experience and long lives are still waiting with expectation and hope for the salvation of Israel and the world that God promised. They are praying day and night for their people.
Do you find yourself anywhere in there? Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, this story of Jesus, from the manger to the empty tomb and beyond, can become your story.
When it becomes your story, it becomes your undertaking, your mission. Everyone has their role in God’s Kingdom. For some it is out in the front calling people to action like John the Baptist. It can be sharing the love of God with people by talking to them or directly providing for their practical needs. It can be helping to lead and worship, or it can be quiet and away from the public eye, behind the scenes, praying to God for others, random acts of kindness, seeing what needs to be done and doing it without being asked or requiring accolades.
For most of us it will be some combination of the two. Always, working in concert with others. When Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple, they needed Simeon and Anna for encouragement and support, confirmation about their son by other people.
Anna and Simeon also needed Mary and Joseph that day to bring the baby Jesus to encourage them that their long hope and faithfulness have been rewarded with the fulfillment of what have been promised. Now, they thank God for it.
That’s what we do all the time as followers of Jesus. We hear a prayer request, and we go to God with it. We get any mail from the prayer chain, and we pray on their behalf. We also sing in choirs and play the piano. We go to Bible study. We come to worship. We give honor and sing praises to God, and possibly thousands of other things. Today, we will be addressing practical needs as we build our health kits for disaster relief. We will be working as a body of Christ. We will be providing for the needs of people when they are the most vulnerable, after a disaster. We had two hurricanes in the fall. Now we have people dealing with the destruction of the fires in Southern California.
One of the ways we worship this day is by being the hands and feet of Christ. This New Year’s Eve we have a special kind of party. As I said back in October, it is always good to do the Lord’s work on the Lord’s day.
And the church said, “Amen!”