There are two sermons on this page.
After preaching the most recent one I realised in a moment that was almost serendipidous that a theme running through this passage is redemption. The redemption of Jesus, Mary & Joseph buying him back from God with two birds, and the redemption that this baby would bring.
Year B - Presentation of Christ/Candlemas
1/2/09 Luke 2:22-40
2:22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord" ), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 33 The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
Here is the news...
A local Swiss government plans to outlaw naked hikers. A naked hiker was detained last autumn, but could not be prosecuted as naked rambling was not outlawed.
Happy cows produce more milk, according to researchers at Newcastle University. Cattle that are named and treated with a "more personal touch" can increase milk yields by up to 500 pints a year. The study found farmers who named their cows gained a higher yield than the 54% that did not give their cattle names.
There is an organisation called the Apostrophe Protection Society. Birmingham City Council has been criticised by it after announcing apostrophes should not feature on its road signs. It said it would cost too much to change signs referring to areas such as Kings Norton, Druids Heath and St Pauls Square. But it was accused of "dumbing down" by the Apostrophe Protection Society.
The big news for Simeon and Anna was that God had sent this baby to save all people. Today's gospel centres on the revelation of Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit. This involved the Holy Spirit revealing at least three things to Simeon about this baby who was brought to the temple.
1) Jesus challenging people v35a, reflect upon how if we are truly following him and his teaching then this will result in a challenge to our lifestyle and that of others.
E.g. Sermon on the mount : - turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love your enemies, give to the needy, fast in secret, do not worry, do not judge others, don't trust in money or possessions, build you life on Jesus' teaching.
2) Involving opposition v34, Jesus life and teaching caused such offence to the religious leaders that they went against their moral code and murdered him. Jesus told his disciples that they, too should expect opposition. This should lead them to rejoice because it showed they were on the right track and this way leads to heaven.
Matthew 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We live in a culture where the measure of success is the answer to the question, "Is it popular?". But Jesus warned that following him will not be popular, Matt. 7:13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Perhaps if the anwer to the question to "Is it popular?" Is "Yes". The next question should be, "Is it leading to ;life, or destruction?"
3) This revelation is for all people i.e. Gentiles and Jews v32.
God has revealed himself to people in Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit.
If you don't truly, deeply have a deep personal relationship with Jesus pray to God to send His Holy Spirit to help you. God the Holy Spirit has been transforming people for two thousand years. He transformed the lives of Simeon and Anna. He transformed the lives of the disciples on the first day on Pentecost. Since 1990 I have had the privilege of seeing God transforming people week by week in small groups such as Alpha and Christianity Explored. Transforming, for example, people who were quiet and timid to have confidence in Jesus and who would speak up for him and serve him.
For those who have received the revelation of Jesus through the Spirit he invites us on this journey of discovery and growth. Discovering more of God's love for us and more of how he wants us to respond. Our lives are to be a response of worship, showing how much Jesus means to us. This worship includes our worship together on a Sunday but is not to be limited to this.
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
1/2/04 10 a.m. Luke 2:22-40
It is wonderful to be here in Knebworth after our move. We are truly grateful to all the people who have helped to make the move easier by helping to decorate the Rectory, the gifts of provisions and the welcome and offers of help we have received. Does anyone here read 'Country Life' magazine? In March 2003 Hertfordshire and Staffordshire were voted the worst places to live in a Country Life survey. We have just moved from Staffordshire to Hertfordshire! The survey looked at all aspects of quality of life - from the number of birds in the trees to the standard of binmen. On a scale of 100, Hertfordshire and Staffordshire hit rock bottom by scoring just 30 each. From the welcome we have received I am sure Knebworth doesn't deserve 30%!
Have you ever arranged to meet someone you did not know in a busy place ? It's the scenario that you might find in an old situation comedy. A person is waiting to be met by someone with a pink carnation wearing a straw hat at a railway station. It just happens that the person coming to meet them is unavoidably delayed and another person answering that description turns up and hilarious misunderstandings occur...
Maybe Simeon and Anna felt a bit like a person waiting at a busy railway station. Wondering if they would recognise the Messiah amongst all the crowds. What would he look like ? Rich or poor ? Old , young, or middle aged ?
Simeon knew because he was led by God's Holy Spirit, verse 27. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
Joseph, Mary and Jesus were there because the Jewish Law required it. Jesus had been circumcised on the eighth day as required by the law. This was the fortieth day and two things happened at the same time in the Temple. The mother was deemed to be ceremonially unclean until the fortieth day and was then required to offer a sacrifice of a lamb or, if she was poor, 2 doves or 2 young pigeons. The fact that Mary offered the latter shows that Jesus was not born into a rich family. God was born into a poor family!
Earlier Luke has shown in his gospel that Jesus identified with those who would be considered outcasts by the religious leaders. Luke did this by recording the visit of the shepherds who were ceremonially unclean, because of their job, and considered so untrustworthy that their testimony was not valid in the courts.
Here we see Jesus identifying with the poorer people. Joseph and Mary were probably not that poor, a carpenters job was a middle-class type of job. But we have here a glimpse of Jesus upbringing. One that was by parents who had a trust in God and who obeyed the Old Testament Laws. An upbringing that was unexpected for the Messiah. In a normal family and living in the North of the country in a place that was despised by many, yet hid Jesus identity.
At the same time as the purification of the mother a first born male would be presented to God and then bought back from God, or redeemed. The Old Testament law said that every first born male belonged to God and, therefore had to be bought back.
This reminds us of what Jesus has done for you and me. He has redeemed us. On the cross he paid the price for our sins so that we can be free. Free to love and live for God. We celebrate and proclaim that in this Holy Communion service today.
So this is why Joseph, Mary and Jesus were in the Temple. Simeon, guided by the Holy Spirit takes the baby Jesus in his arms and praises God. His praise is rooted in O.T. images : 29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
I don't know if you have ever set out to accomplish a task that has taken a long time? Perhaps making or building something ? The satisfaction when it is completed can be enormous. e.g. Joshua' TV motorised connex dinosaur. Simeon was old and had now fulfilled what had been promised to him by God. He had seen the Messiah, the one who would save God's people.
The Jews had a picture of a Messiah who would come and deliver them from the rule of Rome, and establish a victorious, prosperous kingdom like the one enjoyed under the rule of his ancestor, King David. Simeon was clearly in close contact with God the Holy Spirit. The understanding that he had of Jesus Messiahship was contrary to popular opinion.
Firstly, Jesus had come for everyone, not just the Jews. His salvation would be seen and known by people of all races, everywhere, always. His victory would not be limited to delivering one small race in a small corner of the Mediterranean for a few years.
In 1992 a lighthouse was built in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. This is one of the poorest areas in the world. The lighthouse was constructed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Colombus. 150,000 people were evicted from their homes in a shanty town to make room for it. The intensity of its light means that electricity is rationed throughout much of the city. The light that brings security for some brings discomfort for others.
Jesus is the light that brings revelation and security but also discomfort and suffering for himself and for others. This is the second point that Simeon makes about this Messiah that is different to the expectations of his day.
Jesus forces people to make a choice and is, therefore, uncomfortable. He made it so uncomfortable for the Jewish religious leaders that they spoke against him. Verse 34, Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against. But more than speaking against Jesus, the religious leaders crucified him. His person and his teaching reveal what people are really like in contrast to God's perfect will. They are the litmus test of where we are with God. Some people will fail that test.
H.G.Wells, in 'The Outline of History' wrote this about Jesus, 'He was like some terrible moral huntsman digging mankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived hitherto. In the white blaze of this kingdom of his there was to be no property, no privilege, no pride, no precedence; no motive indeed and no reward except love. Is it any wonder that men were dazzled and blinded and cried out against him ? Even his disciples cried out when he would not spare them the light... For to take him seriously was to enter a strange and alarming life, to abandon habits, to control instincts and impulses, to seek an incredible happiness.'
Jesus was not, and is not a comfortable person to have around. Yes, he brings us forgiveness, a right relationship with God, and joy. But he also shows us our shortcomings and calls us to live lives of self-sacrifice and obedience to God's perfect will. There is no place for sitting back in the Christian life and thinking that we have made it. That we have done our bit. That other things are more important. Jesus calls us to keep on going in our love, knowledge, service, devotion, and obedience. Jesus has done too much for us for us to give him the fag end of our lives. He went to the cross and endured the physical pain of crucifixion, and the spiritual torment of separation from God the Father as he took upon himself the punishment that you and I deserve for every sin we have committed.
Mary, Jesus' mother, would witness that pain and separation about thirty or so years later. Something that Simeon, inspired by the Holy Spirit refers to in verse 35. "And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
Anna, an old prophetess was also there. Perhaps she and Simeon had known each other for many years as they had met regularly in the Temple. Maybe they had talked about the hopes that they had for the Messiah and of what God had promised Simeon.
A prophet or prophetess speak the words of God into a situation. This may or may not involve foretelling what is to happen. Simeon had been prophesying when he uttered his words of praise in verses 29 -32 and when he addressed Mary in verse 34. Anna prophesies too, although we do not know exactly what she said other than this involved the redemption of Jerusalem, verse 38.
After this the family return North to their home in Nazareth. Verse 40 : "And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. "
I don't know what picture you have of Jesus? We must not forget that he was 100% man and 100% God. Here we read that Jesus grew up in a human family with all the blessings and frustrations that this brings. His home town was unspectacular, unpopular even. He has been through the human experiences that we go through and can, therefore, identify with us today. As we read in our Epistle ( Hebrews 2:14-18 ), because he has been tempted he can help us when we are tempted.
The incarnation also shows the humility of our Lord, that he was prepared to leave the glory of heaven to come to earth to be born in a stable, to grow up in a despised town, live in a normal family, to die in pain and humiliation on a cross. As we read in Hebrews this frees us from fear of death and has destroyed the power of the devil. So we are free. Free from fear, free from the devil, free to know, worship and serve God through Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Suggested songs :
Come Thou long expected Jesus
For this purpose Christ was revealed
God sent His Son
Jesus, we celebrate your victory
King of glory King of peace
My redeemer lives
O Happy day !
Open our eyes Lord we want to see Jesus
Praise him, praise him , Jesus our blessed redeemer.
Restore O Lord
Shine Jesus shine
Sing we the King who is coming to reign
Tell out my soul
The light of Christ has come into the world
We have a gospel to proclaim