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1st Sunday after Christmas                         _          Luke 2:22-40                      December 31, 2017

Prayer: As you led Simeon to embrace the infant Jesus, guide us, Holy Spirit, by your gracious light that we may welcome your saving Word. Amen

On the front cover of your bulletin we have a painting that tells the two thousand year old story of Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the rite of purification.

As you can see we have the proud parents Mary and Joseph on the left hand side and then we have two other characters in the painting on the right.

The one holding the baby Jesus is Simeon a righteous and devout man who has been waiting and hoping for the arrival of the Messiah.

Right behind him we can see Anna, a prophetess who lived day and night in the temple, fasting and praying.
According to Luke’s account both Simeon and Anna broke into songs of praise when they laid eyes on Mary and Joshed and the baby Jesus.

This might not surprise you but you have to take into consideration that on any given day the temple in Jerusalem was a pretty busy place.

On any given day you would have people gathering to offer sacrifices, parents were having their children dedicated.
Judges were resolving arguments.
Rabbis are teaching scripture lessons.
It was a busy place filled with a lot of commotion.

And yet, in the midst of this Anna and Simeon pick out the arrival of the Messiah, the Savior.
Each of them had waited, prayed, hoped and prepared themselves for the day.
They have studied the scriptures, and sought to understand as best they can…so when the day came…when the Messiah does arrive—they are ready.

This often overlooked story is actually a very important story because I believe it lifts up two important things for us to consider as we enter a new year.

Here is the first point for us to consider:
This is a story of how Jesus is seeking to enter into the lives of those of us 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.

So here is a question to ponder:
How do we see Jesus 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.

The second point is similar:
God has given us a great gift.
As we have heard, Mary and Joseph take their baby to the temple to be purified, blessed and dedicated.
The old prophet Simeon has been waiting for the promised Messiah for many, many years.
There is a distinct possibility that a week-old baby from out in the countryside was not exactly what he had in mind. The picture in his mind could have been a warrior/king in the tradition of King David or a fiery prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah.

But it is unlikely he was looking for the insignificant offspring of obscure parents.
And yet, he recognized the gift for what it was and praised God for it:
“Master, now 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 glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Then, the prophet Anna spotted the baby Jesus:
Luke tells us “… to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 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 Israel” (Luke 2:37-38).

We have been given a great gift; a gift from the heart of God, a gift of God’s love, a gift of God’s light, a gift of God’s very self, walking around with us in our lives.

And the question arises: What will we do with this gift? Will we politely smile, and say “thank you,” and then put it aside and think of it no more.

What will we do with the gift of the Christ?

Will we, like Simeon and Anna, put aside our preconceived notions, our personal wants and desires, our individual likes and dislikes long enough to take a good look at what we have been given and recognize it as what we truly need?

We are invited this day to open our eyes to the wonder of the Christ-child in our midst, joining with Simeon and Anna, Isaiah and all the prophets, the Psalmist and all the poets and singers of all times and all places, lifting our voices in prayer and song, giving abundant and heart-felt thanks and praise to the Lord God Almighty, who has loved us enough to come and be one of us.

Let us pray:
Saving God, the prophet Anna and righteous Simeon sang your praises and proclaimed Jesus our Lord to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Let us who seek redemption in this day prepare our hearts, that we may believe the good news of Jesus, receive the light of salvation, and live according to your word.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Pastor Stephen Blenkush

Zion Lutheran Church
Milaca MN 56353

Love like Jesus!

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