Sunday Sermon 27th December- The meeting in the Temple
The chosen hymns for this week, Joy to the World and Mary’s Boy Child can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
The meeting in the Temple
Luke 2: 22-38
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 27th December.
Christmas has just past, all the preparations, all the frustrations, all the wonder seems to have passed as well.
And there is the feeling of ‘What now?’
To this day I can remember my first daughters pregnancy, all the fear and wonder of the birth of that child, then she was born and the sudden realisation that the birth wasn’t the end of the process, it was the beginning.
And now I had a lifetime ahead of me of work.
And I hadn’t the foggiest what to do or what was ahead of me.
I had to protect this child from all the dangers of the world, but I didn’t know what dangers or when they would strike.
I imagine that was the same for Mary and Joseph, everything led up to that amazing birth, but then what?
Amanda will be leading us in our prayers and readings that reflect that feeling of ‘What now?’
Amanda: Reading Luke 2: 22-38
So how tired are we?
We have had a year that is nearly impossible to describe.
A world wide pandemic, being in lockdown and only being allowed out for an hour of exercise.
Panic buying of toilet roll and flour.
Every day a reminder of how many new cases, how many deaths due to COVID-19.
Getting back to a different type of normality.
But the truth is that so much has changed, businesses having to close, some closing forever.
And the realisation that churches are not immune to this change in the world.
Over the next year there will be readjustment of churches throughout the world.
Some churches will close, others will amalgamate. One of the bestselling Christian books in America just now is a book that seeks to teach churches how to amalgamate. Often young vibrant churches that have been unable to meet in the public buildings they rented taking over older congregations that have building but their congregations have disappeared during the pandemic.
And there is that feeling in our own lives that we have been leading up to Christmas, we have put all our effort and mental drive into trying to make this Christmas the best Christmas we could, and now it is past and the question rises up, ‘What now?’
I am sure that was what was going through Marty and Joseph’s mind after the birth of Christ.
All that effort to get Mary to Bethlehem safely.
All the fear that maybe she would die during pregnancy, but she survives, as does the baby.
But now what?
And at this point the Bible gives us an incident at the Temple.
Simeon and Anna.
Both of them have been waiting all their life for the Messiah to be born, and all they are looking for is that sign that God is with them.
And as Mary and Joseph enter the temple with the baby they see in that child the sign they have been looking for.
And myself, being myself, read that passage and thought to myself, ‘What if they had missed it?’
What if that was the day that Simeon and Anna hadn’t been in the Temple.
Because isn’t that a fear we have?
We all want to walk the path of God, we all want to see God in our lives, we all want guidance and direction...but what if we miss it?
What if God makes his will know to the manse one day and that happens to be the moment I am playing squash in Bridge of Allan?
What if I give the most important message that you need to hear and that is the day you have friends up from England and you decide that making lunch for them is more important?
What if God needed you to go round to your neighbour because they were struggling, and the moment that you are meant to hear that message you are off at the shops gabbing to a friend and you don’t hear it?
How do we get round that fear that God wants to speak to us, but we are not listening?
That the most important moment in our lives may have passed us by?
There is a philosophy that may help us.
The philosophy of the ‘wee frees’ determination to ‘keep the Sabbath holy’. There was a reason they were so zealous about that commandment. It was not that the Sabbath was different from the rest of the week. It was that the Sabbath reminded them that it was the same as every other day of the week.
If the Sabbath didn’t matter then Sunday became like every other day, a day of shopping and a day of work and a day of effort and a day of chasing money. We lived life on a treadmill that never ended.
But if they treated the Sabbath as special, then that reminded them that throughout all their days they didn’t need to spend their effort chasing the false dreams of the world.
If on the Sabbath they were reminded that there was a God that created the world and had a path of us, if they were reminded that same God deeply loved them and cared for them, then that could remind them that every day that God was there loving and caring and seeking to direct their lives for good.
Or the Jewish story of someone visiting a rabbi and asking how he could guarantee getting into heaven. And the rabbi says, ‘The only way to guarantee getting into heaven is to fully repent from all the wrongs you have done the day before you die.’
Then the visitor asked, ‘But how will I know what day that is?’
And the rabbi said, ‘Treat every day as if it were the day before your last day.’
The trick to hearing God speak to us, is always to be listening for him.
There are things we can do to help.
We can create moments in each day that are Sabbath moments.
I have a prayer diary when most days I would write a short prayer to God.
I know of some people that have a thankfulness diary. And either at the end of the day they write five things that they want to be thankful for, or at the start of the day they write something of the day before that they want to be thankful for.
Weirdly secular society is taking these things on board. They recommend this for our general mental wellbeing.
It trains the mind to be open to the blessings of the day, or starts each person’s day with a feeling of hope.
There are daily bible study notes that we can use to help build up our resilience. I don’t know how many times people have come to me and said that they use the USB Bible study notes and the message of that day was the message that they needed to hear.
We can decide that each chance encounter that we have in the day is an opportunity to make that person we meet feel a bit better or a bit more supported in life.
A couple of weeks ago I went to do one visit. I have been limiting how many visits I do to keep people and myself safe.
I left the house at 1pm. At 3.30pm I finally got to the house, I ‘bumped’ into three different sets of folk and was just there for them. The irony was the person I went to see wasn’t in. But was that a lost day? I don’t think so.
Trust me, in COVID, everyone you meet is struggling, you spend five minutes talking to someone wishing them well and asking how they are getting on and they will probably go home and tell their family that your meeting was the highlight of their day.
So what next?
Well for Simeon and Anna they knew God would touch their lives, they were always open to seeing how God was touching their lives, so it was easy for them to see God in their lives.
I suspect that was a lesson that Mary and Joseph were beginning to understand and to learn. And a lesson they needed to teach their Son, that each moment was a moment that God was in his life. And to be fair Jesus took it to heart.
Wherever Jesus was, was where he and others meet God; in the Temple, in the street, in their homes, by the fire on the beach, in the market places, on the roads travelling to places, beside the tomb of a friend, in times of fear, in times of joy, in times of hope, in times of uncertainty, even on a cross.
And that is our lesson for today.
Well let’s see where God takes us?
Let us pray
It has been a horrendous year, and yet through your support and strength, through your blessing both seen and unseen, we have got through it.
Thank you for not giving up on us.
Thank you that though whatever we faced, that you were with us.
And we give thanks that for some people we were there for them; that the blessings that you gave us touched others as well.
We don’t know what is waiting for us in the year ahead, but we know that we have a choice to seek your will throughout it, to trust that you will be with us and be there with us no matter what we have to face.
May this be our hope and joy, our strength and consolation.
This we ask in Jesus name.
Reminder that next week Jan 3rd there will only be one service and the church will not be open for prayer until the week after.
May you rejoice in the Father today more than ever before
May you know Jesus today more than ever before.
May you rest in the wisdom of the Spirit today more than ever before.