ALL TO WORSHIP
Arise and shine for the light has come.
God’s glory has risen in our midst.
The wait is over.
Come, let us worship the light that brings true life.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Love, we come to you to acknowledge your power, grace, and glory. We come with the belief that your promises are certain and your light shines through all things. May we be grateful during every moment of life. You are in all things and we thank you for your great faithfulness. Gracious God, hear our prayers. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Most Merciful Heavenly Father, despite our best intentions we fall short of who you would want us to be. Teach us to be more responsible for the hurtful things that come from our mouths and the words of encouragement that are not spoken. Help us always, through our words and actions, to bring healing out of pain, life out of death, restoration out of destruction. Forgive our sins, O God. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
As we meditate on God’s Word, we realize that his love is greater than our shortcomings and failures. Nothing in all Creation can rob us of the salvation that has been given to us. God hears our honest confessions and cleanses us.
This Sunday in December we read from Luke 2:22-40
Jesus Presented in the Temple
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”[a]), 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.”[b]
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.[d] 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.
On this first Sunday after Christmas, many of us will be starting to take down decorations and return to the regular routines of living. The wait is over. The holiday is over. Back to that elusive thing formerly referred to as ‘normal.’
In this passage, we hear that Mary and Joseph, too, are getting on with life. The angels are gone. The shepherds are gone. The Magi are gone. And they are returning to Galilee. But first, they must stop at the temple and complete those things that are required by the Law of the Lord for a firstborn son. He is to be consecrated to the Lord.
They have taken him to the Temple to fulfill the obligations to their faith and there they have two very interesting encounters. The first is with Simeon and the second is with Anna. I appreciate that both a male and female are recorded as offering thanks for the child. There is inclusion in the celebration of who Jesus was and who He would become to the many nations.
Simeon is described as a wise and devout man who has been waiting for the Saviour. Hear his words again: “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.”
I don’t know about you, but as a parent, some of this is a little unsettling. What does it mean that ‘this child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel?’ If you are a parent and you had your child baptised, imagine if the minister or senior layperson of the church had spoken these words over your son or daughter. Imagine hearing that they would be destined to cause the falling and rising of many. At first you might think they were destined for greatness; some lofty position of authority or leadership. A position that with the mere utterance of a word or wave of the hand could change the courses of people’s lives. But then he says, ‘…to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”
What does that mean? Perhaps it refers to Jesus as the sign of a new covenant with God. A sign that will be spoken against – and we know that is true. Many spoke against the teachings of Jesus because he represented a new way of living and loving both God and one another. Many still do. And through those words, the truth of a person’s heart is revealed.
And then the words no mother ever wants to hear, “…a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” Not a piercing of the heart, but the soul, the very seat of our feelings and emotions. Mary would be wounded by how people would treat Jesus. She must have looked down at her baby’s precious little face and wondered why. Why did he have to suffer. Why God had chosen her to be his mother? Why a people who had been hoping for a messiah for so long would deny and denounce him?
While they were still potentially reeling from Simeon’s words, Anna appears and after remaining in the temple for years waiting for the one who would redeem Israel, she greets Mary, Joseph, and the young Jesus with gladness and praise. She was so grateful, as Simeon was, to live long enough to see the arrival of the Saviour.
Have you ever seen the look on an elderly person’ face who holds a new baby for the first time? Or someone who has been ill and unsure if they would live to see the baby’s arrival? There is delight and relief. There is gratitude and reverence. I’m sure Anna’s face revealed her joy as she looked into Jesus’ eyes. She knew who she was seeing and what his arrival meant to a people who had been waiting.
And now the waiting was over. She and Simeon could die in peace. They had been witnesses to this amazing gift and they were satisfied.
Are you satisfied this day that you have seen the baby who will change everything? Are you able to walk away from the stable, the star, and the stuffing with a renewed sense of Jesus, alive and working in your life.
Mary and Joseph left the temple to start their lives as a family. They had satisfied the law. They had received a warning and a blessing. Now the routine of daily living. The day to day grind of raising a family; feeding, clothing, educating, shaping, and nurturing. And so to we are returning to our regular lives; different and unfolding.