1st Sunday after Christmas B
The seven days in the weak
There was a married couple who had to wait 16 years before their first child was born. Over those years, nothing weakened their hope or anticipation of this joyous event. You can imagine how they radiated joy when they held their long-awaited child in their arms for the first time.
Sometimes it seems we are just waiting around in life. But what are we still waiting for to happen in our lives? Are we looking for fame, security or prosperity? Or are we still longing for our lives to be transformed by God’s presence?
Some people think that they can experience God just as easily on a golf course, or walking around a lake, as in church. And in truth God is truly with us where ever we are, but sometimes the problem for us that we get distracted in these environments and don’t actually worship but sought of hang about and while it is true that just attending church worship is not essential for salvation, it is the place, the Lord’s house-where we are sure to find His encouraging and motivating presence because here, in our little church through the Word of God and Holy Communion we hear of our unmerited forgiveness, strengthened in faith through receiving the gifts God has provided and in response to such overwhelming grace received by us flawed but saved people, then challenged to no longer live for ourselves, but for our Saviour Jesus Christ and our neighbours and fellow-church members that He loves so dearly.
The Christmas story concludes with women and men in the temple, where God can impact on their lives. As soon as possible, Jesus was brought to the temple, to be in His Father’s House. There Jesus is met by two people who have waited all their lives for this moment, Simeon and Anna. Anna had never missed a Service. She was from the least, lost tribe of Israel and was a well-known figure at the temple. Anna is called a prophetess, a title of rare distinction, given to only seven other women in the Bible. She used the tragedy of her young husband’s death as an opportunity to grow closer to God. She filled the vacuum in her life with praying for others and living for the day when Jesus would come to the temple.
In God’s service, there’s no age limit. St. John wrote our fourth Gospel while in his 80s. Now in her 80s, Anna becomes an exuberant witness to our Saviour’s coming. She knew sorrow, but had not grown bitter. Anna hadn’t grown old with the sense of dejection and dependency that afflicts many older men and women today. Anna served God with heroic fidelity. She knew God doesn’t let His faithful servants shed a needless tear.
After wrestling with God in prayer for many years, Anna now sees God’s likeness in the face of His Son, Jesus. Any pastor can tell you of elderly Christian widows aglow with the joy of salvation. Anna cannot restrain her joy at seeing our Saviour. Bubbling over with joy and gratitude, she shares with everyone she meets the arrival of salvation from fear and guilt, from sin and death, in the Son of Mary. Years later, many people remembered what Anna, with a youthful exuberance, had told them about the greatest day of her life. It’s as if being in her Saviour’s presence has made her feel young again and given her new energy to sing our Saviour’s praises.
The gift of salvation is worth singing about, worthy of a full-bodied celebration, as Simeon shows. His joy too knows no bounds as he sees for the first time the whole reason for his existence. In an unforgettable picture, Simeon takes the Christ-child in his arms and sings a hymn of praise to God for the precious gift of Jesus. Simeon’s song is one of the treasures of our Holy Communion liturgy. What a moving overture and personal expression of thanksgiving this post-Christmas hymn is. Simeon was given a greater promise than he’d asked for. He confesses more than is visible to human eyes.
Simeon’s song contains no narrow reference to just himself. He sees the good news of Christ extending to every nation, over all the earth. In fact, he mentions the Gentiles (all non-Jewish nations) before his fellow-countrymen. What a magnificent, universal vision so soon after Christmas Eve! Having reached the highpoint of his life, the zenith of his existence, he savours the fulfilment of his fondest dreams. There’s nothing secretive about our Saviour’s existence. His death for all people was a public event and not something for some super-spiritual elite.
Light is a symbol of security. Jesus is a Light to the Gentiles because only in Christ can all people find a safe and secure future before and after death. Although our salvation came at great personal cost to Him, our Saviour Jesus believes we are worth saving. Instead of employing force, Jesus surrendered His life to save us from all that would ruin us in this life, or in the life to come after death. Jesus brings us salvation now from distress and despair, defeat and disappointment. The New Testament speaks frequently of salvation in the present tense. Salvation is a present experience of our Saviour’s help and companionship, love and protection. Salvation is our Lord’s sovereign act of rescue that can be tasted here and now and fully enjoyed in the life to come. Jesus saves us from the corrupting influences around us in our community, so that our lives are shaped week by week by His transforming presence.
Simeon can depart in peace because salvation brings peace with God, peace like nothing on earth. His peace fills us with a cheerful contentment, because it alone meets the deepest longings of our hearts. To taste Christ’s gift of salvation is to experience His goodness and grace in our lives, week by week. It is knowing that all you do for your Lord is never in vain. Simeon shared St. Paul’s motto: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is more of Christ.” In the presence of Christ, the Lord of life, death loses its terror.
The Lord’s Supper is called a “Means of Salvation”, because in this priceless sacrament, we receive the blessings of salvation now. Simeon’s song is part of our Holy Communion liturgy, to remind us that we receive the benefits of the birth, life and suffering of our Saviour in this life-giving, life-enriching sacrament. In Holy Communion, we receive the same Saviour whom Simeon held in his arms. Christ’s presence in the bread and wine is as real to us as it was in Simeon’s arms.
The work of Christmas continues in the Lord’s Supper. Holy Communion enables us to face the future free of fear, because of the pledge and assurance of our salvation this sacrament so boldly bestows on us. For hundreds of millions of Christians throughout the world today, receiving Holy Communion will be a privilege they receive with trembling joy and gratitude. Why? Because although so hard to comprehend and in deed that which can be only comprehended through the miracle and gift of faith, today when you come to the alter and receive Holy Communion you as forgiven sinners and brothers of Christ and Son’s and daughters of the Father receive “a foretaste of the feast to come.”
A promise from our Lord, thus a truth and a fact that we take with us from this House of God forged in forgiveness in Christ to the far reaches of our everyday existence.
Our salvation that we sing of today in joyful songs and hymns of praise to which the melody of what we have received in Christ sees us through the next seven days that should we become weak in spirit or service, we need not endure a week to forget of needless earthly imprisonment of being caught up in the musts of great fame, riches and security, but live the week fully in every action be it in times of hurt or times of great elation in the richness and security of our Lord and Saviour who hung on a cross for the whole world to see and for you to know, that you are His. Amen.