Pastor Michael Frye:
In recent years “the bucket list” has become a very popular topic of conversation.
For those who may not know the term, an individual makes a list of things that he or she would like to see, do, or accomplish before the end of their life.
I know one person who has achieved eight out of ten items on her list, so she is well on her way to accomplishing her goal.
Now, finishing your list doesn’t mean it does mean that most people would have a sense of great accomplishment and satisfaction in having done so.
Simeon, in our Gospel for today, didn’t have a bucket list that we know of; but, he had been promised by God that his life would not end without his having seen the Messiah that had been long-promised by God.
Thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Simeon was in the right place at the right time when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple to be designate as holy to God.
He must have been destined by God to be there, because he was allowed to take the infant in his arms and praised God:
“Master, you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for 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 the glory of your people Israel.”
Many of you will recognize similar words as these having been sung by the congregation as a post-communion hymn a number of years ago.
Simeon’s words indicate that God had revealed to him the importance of this child that he was holding.
He knew that he, not only was holding the promise of salvation for Israel and the entire world, but he was holding salvation itself in this baby.
Mary and Joseph had traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and now back to Jerusalem in a 40-day period.
They were tired, emotionally, and physically exhausted. But there they were, right where they were supposed to be to fulfill the law of the Torah.
Since the first Passover, all first born males, both animal and human were declared to be God’s own.
The animals were sacrificed, and the sons were ritually bought back, or redeemed by God with the sacrifice of a lamb on their behalf.
Those who were poor and unable to afford a lamb were allow to purchase two turtle doves or pigeons instead; so, we have an idea of Joseph and Mary’s financial and social position.
Simeon and Anna were both elderly and spent a lot of time in the temple expecting that their days were numbered, but the promise that God had made to him that he would live long enough to greet the Messiah kept him alert and prepared.
The Holy Spirit blessed him with the insight to know that Jesus was the one.
But Simeon’s insight went much further than his recognizing and singing Jesus’ praises.
He also knew what Jesus was destined for and what it would ultimately lead to.
And this caused him to show great concern for and empathy for Mary’s plight as the mother of the Messiah.
Simeon hit the nail on the head.
Jesus was brought to the holy temple to be identified as the sacrificial lamb who would die for the salvation of the whole world.
And that salvation would cost Jesus’ earthly family much grief and consternation as he grew into manhood and took on the mission that he was sent to accomplish.
Laurie Miller writes:
“The Life of Jesus was redeemed in the temple so that our lives can be redeemed by his death, and this redemption makes a difference for us as we stand on the threshold of a new year.
Do we ‘wear’ our salvation on a daily basis?
Do we shine the light of Christ for all to see?
Do others know that our joy and hope about our future in God offers peace in the face of death?”
Peace – that is what Simeon saw in that child in the temple.
Peace for a world that can’t find it in any other way than through the incarnation of God who is the only one who can bring perfect peace.
You and I are heirs of that peace as God’s adopted children through our baptism in the name of the Triune God.
St. Paul made this connection in his letter to the Galatians:
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, cry; Abba! Father!
So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.”
Abba is the Jewish term of endearment for father – equivalent to our term, daddy, or Dad, which means that we are restored to God’s family through Christ in a very personal and intimate way.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, God wants to be known to us as our Abba; he wants to relate with us, not as some distant deity, but as one who is among us, who loves us, and who has our best interests at heart.
On the eve of a new year, it seems appropriate to resolve to be fully engaged in God’s family, not only in worship, but in the ways that we encourage, support,and sustain one another through good times and difficult ones.
Seven days ago we were celebrating the anniversary of Christ’s birth through joyous music, the singing of carols, and lighting glow sticks or candles to signify that we will carry the light of Christ into our homes and into our communities.
On this seventh day of Christmas let us not lose that enthusiasm for celebrating Christ; rather, let us intensify it through prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and by committing ourselves to being more deliberate in the ways that we share our love of Christ with and for one another.
Of course, it is pretty easy to share the love of Christ with our church family, with It is more difficult to be deliberate in sharing that love with those whom we have to seek out, those who don’t have a lot to celebrate in their lives, and those who harbor resentments because of the way that they have been treated in life.
But that is what Christ is calling us to do, because he wants to offer his salvation, even to those with whom we may find it difficult to relate.
I coached my daughter Jennifer’s soccer team for a number of years.
I watched the players really go after the opposing team hard.
Both sides clearly wanted to win, so they pulled out all of the stops.
Sometimes things got a little too rough and penalties were called.
But after every game each team would line up, and those who won and those who lost the game would touch hands as they passed saying: “Good game; good game.”
No matter how testy things might get in our world, and no matter how many tense moments there may be between ourselves and our neighbors, it is important to recognize that we are all precious in God’s sight; therefore, we have a responsibility to and for one another.
Simeon’s song was very personal.
He made a connection with the baby Jesus, and he felt Jesus’ divinity as he held him in his arms.
As we come to the communion table this morning and hold the bread, the body of Christ in our hand, let us also feel that personal and intimate connection with our Lord so that the feeling and connection will remain, not just for today, but throughout the week as we encounter life’s challenges, struggles, and opportunities.
Now that we have seen and felt the presence of the Lord in a very personal way, let us make sure that we share that presence with one another throughout this coming new year and always.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.