The First Sunday of Christmas; Year B (12/31/2017)

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
St. Luke 2:22-40

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and yet more wonderfully restored it. In your mercy, let us share the divine life of the one who came to share our humanity, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.22 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.

St. Luke 2:22-40, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Recognizing Jesus

This weekend we will gather for worship on the last day of the year. As we reflect on what was and wasn’t during 2017, and dream about what can be in 2018, we turn our attention to a two thousand year old story about an elderly man and woman who were worshipping in the Jerusalem Temple. Simeon (righteous and devout and hoping for the arrival of the Messiah) and Anna (a prophetess who lived day and night in the temple, fasting and praying) observe Mary and Joseph bringing their infant child to be purified, and they both break into words of praise, moved by the Holy Spirit to identify Jesus as the Messiah for whom they had all been longing.

Two old saints. The first ones to understand who this young Jesus from Nazareth truly was. There is much going on that day. People are offering sacrifices. Parents are having their children dedicated. Judges are resolving arguments. Rabbis are teaching Scripture lessons. But in the midst of all the commotion, Simeon and Anna pick out the arrival of the Savior. They have waited, prayed, hoped, and prepared themselves for that day. They have studied the Scriptures, and sought to understand as best they can… so when the day comes — when the Messiah does arrive — they are ready.

This story is an important one. But an even more important for us is the story of how Jesus is seeking to enter into the lives of those are living today. The baby who was born in Bethlehem grows up and becomes the man who walks to Golgotha, is raised from death by God, and is now seeking to gain a place in our lives.

How do we see him today? What does he look like? Where do we recognize him? We discover the answers to these questions as we learn to look at the world through the eyes of faith. And this happens as we, like Simeon and Anna, deepen our awareness of those places where faith and life intersect.

The beginning of a new calendar year is a great time for the beginning of new patterns and commitments in our lives. Perhaps this year we will increase our commitment to daily study of God’s word, and weekly worship with God’s people,. That way, you and I might also, as Simeon and Anna did, seek to grow in faith day by day. And when our Lord Jesus does come to visit, we may well be among those who see him — who recognize him — with eyes that are open to the ways he would lead us, in faith and in faithfulness. Amen.

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are Simeon and Anna among the first to recognize who Jesus is?
  2. What must Joseph and Mary think about their words that day?
  3. How do Simeon’s and Anna’s specific words come true in Jesus’ life and ministry?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I believe that it is possible Jesus might return during my lifetime?
  2. What disciplines have I adopted to keep me worshipping, praying and studying?
  3. Are there other ways that I recognize Jesus’ presence in my life today?

The author would love to hear what you think about this post.