Posted by on Dec 26, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Are we listening?

The gospel reading for this first Sunday after Christmas is from Luke 2:22-40. I have always liked this section and did not want to ignore it…even if we don’t have “in house” church this coming Sunday. As we consider this section, we learn even more about the promised Son that Mary gave birth to.

This story is based in the city of Jerusalem, which is about 60 miles from Nazareth. Jews traveled to this city many times to celebrate various religious ceremonies in the temple there. Mary and Joseph’s travelling there also indicated they were faithful followers of the Torah as they wanted to have their son, Jesus, circumcised and named as required by the Jewish law. The law states, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.” (v.23)

When a family brought their son to the temple for this act, they were to bring a lamb to present to the temple in a form of payment for the action. We note that Joseph and Mary did not bring a lamb. They brought a pair of turtle doves, which was accepted by the leaders. This couple did not have a lamb as they did not have land on which to raise a lamb. They were not a wealthy couple.

While Mary and Joseph were still in the temple, they met a couple of people who were in the temple a lot. These two people confirmed the identity of Jesus. Please notice that Luke includes the woman, Anna, in these verses, as she was a prophet and she was elderly. She had been working in the church many years. Luke includes her as a woman who had been speaking to the people for God. Luke continues to be inclusive of all who serve the Lord God.

The first encounter was with Simeon. This elderly man was often seen in the temple. He went there to pray many times. He was looking forward to the freeing of Israel and being released from the occupation by Rome. He listened to God in his prayers constantly. God has also promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had guided Simeon to the temple this day.

Simeon immediately realized that this child was the fulfillment of the promise of salvation for all people…Jews and Gentiles. Simeon took the child, Jesus in his arms and offered a prayer of praise to God for the gift he had given all people. The verses from 29 through 32 are the prayer that Simeon offered in praise to God for this gift. It is also in our hymnal on page 225, listed as the “Nunc Dimittis” which means Simeon’s first words. All of the listening this man had been doing to the words spoken in the temple as well as to the guidance from God and the Holy Spirit helped him realize what he had been waiting for.

Simeon also blessed Mary and Joseph and told Mary what the future would hold for her son. It was more of a warning that life for this baby would be a challenge to Israel and would be a sorrow to Mary. I cannot imagine how Mary felt hearing this. How would you feel if you heard this?

The second person the family meets is that of Anna. She is a prophetess and was at the temple every day. She was concerned about meeting the Messiah, but also wanted the option to tell
others about this Messiah. Anna is elderly. Luke tells us that her age was 84. This fact, for Wesley, underlined the importance of people serving God no matter what their age may be and to continue to serve regardless of age. In one of his writings, Wesley made the comment that those with gray hairs are like a crown of glory for those working for God.

Anna, too, recognized that this child who had just been circumcised and named was the promised Messiah and she immediately began to tell everyone what she had seen and that the child who would redeem Jerusalem had arrived. She was fulfilling the work she had been given by God.

The very last verse reflects that Luke was the only gospel writer who tells of Jesus’ boyhood.. Verse 40 states that Jesus grew, became strong, was filled with wisdom and had the favor of God on him.

So, what can we take from this story? How about considering the listening that Simeon did every time he came to the temple. He listened every time he was outside the temple to the people around him. He listened to what God had to say to him. One scholar points out that the name “Simeon” means “heard”. He was born to listen. He was born to listen to what would bring peace and light. He went to the temple to listen to the words of the prophets as well as the prayers. He listened to the Holy Spirit that told him to go to the temple that day.

Anna, too, listened. She spent every day in the temple in prayer and not only listening to God, but to other people. She didn’t leave her position as prophetess just because she was elderly. She continued to serve the God that promised what she would one day see. This also can say something to us who begin to wonder if we really have a place in working for God because we are aging.

Do we listen to people? Are we more ready to offer our own opinions and not really hear what God is saying? What people around us are really saying? Can we listen to them with our ears, our hearts and our heads and still communicate the love God has for them. Can we listen to God when His “still, small voice” encourages us to talk to a certain person and minister to a person who needs to know God’s love?

Through our listening, we can be the sign that God is with us and with all the people we meet and interact with.

Dear Lord…be with us as we listen to your words to us. We want your guidance in our times right now as well as your comfort. Forgive us if we try to put our own thoughts over yours. Thank you for not giving up on us and for giving us the words and actions to reflect that we are your people…working for you.



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