Sunday, December 27, 2020

Reflections on Christmas One

 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;[a] 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.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] 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[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
    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[f] 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[g] 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[h] 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. (Luke 2:22-40)

 Merry Third Day of Christmas! Sometimes, I think, we forget that the Christmas holiday is actually twelve days long. Usually, after December 25th, we’re so sick of hearing “Frosty” and “Rudolph” on the radio that we can’t wait to be done with the whole thing. This year, however, we actually get two Sundays to celebrate in the Christmas season (usually we only get one, but Christmas was on Friday this year).

 There are four things I’d like to point out about the Gospel reading above: 

First: The Law of Moses required the faithful—as a sign of true, “I-ain’t-no-scaredy-cat-and-I-trust-in-God” faith—to offer the first-born of any animal or human as a sacrifice to God. It showed you trusted God to give you more of what was already provided if you could easily part with the first one. Obviously, you weren’t going to sacrifice your kid, so the Law allowed you to buy back your first-born child by offering an animal sacrifice instead. 

Second: Your animal sacrifice was prorated according to your personal wealth. I think it’s interesting that the Savior of the World was only worth the price of two pigeons.

 Third: Simeon’s prayer of praise has often been set to music and used as a canticle during our worship service. It’s sung right after we receive Holy Communion. We’ve met Jesus, so we can go in peace. I just always find this story touching. God let this old guy live long enough—not to see Jesus perform miracles or rise from the dead—just long enough to die knowing God is always active and, if we don’t live to see it, others will. 

Finally: This story really respects the prayers and faith of elderly people. I know we in the church keep asking, “Where are the young people?” All the same, there is something to be said for those who have run much of their race and are now resting in retirement. If I don’t tell you often enough, I want you to know how much I value your prayers, your faithfulness in giving, and your wise understanding that God has a way of making everything work out. To all you “Annas” out there, I offer my sincerest thanks and appreciation. Our congregation could not get along without you, and I love you all very much. May God continue to bless you today as God has in the past.

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