Before we begin, I have one small, clerical matter to attend to:
As you may have noticed, the passage that was read this morning is different than the passage noted in your bulletins.
well, I was going to do a sermon on the angels coming and proclaiming Jesus’ birth to the shepherds,
and last week I had the whole thing written,
I was gonna talk about the shepherds being interrupted during their night watch,
and about how the shepherds’ socio-economic status was indicative of Jesus coming to save everyone,
and then last Sunday I came to church,
and I heard an excellent sermon about the angels coming and proclaiming Jesus’ birth to the shepherds,
about the shepherds being interrupted during their night watch,
and about how the shepherds’ socio-economic status was indicative of Jesus coming to save everyone.
My guess is that many of you heard that sermon as well.
So I went back into build mode,
and tried to cook up a little something that’d be a little less repetitive.
And to be honest,
I know what was in the other sermon, and Deb’s was better.
I didn’t have anything half as good as the thing with Linus and his blanket.
This sermon’s better than that one too, by the way,
so the whole thing was actually quite fortunate.
Anyway, we pick up the story with Jesus making his debut into Jewish religious society.
As part of the rituals of Levitical law,
a woman who had given birth was considered to be unclean,
as was her baby,
for religious purposes for a period of 40 days (80 if she had a girl, I don’t know why it’s different).
At the end of that period,
the woman and the baby present themselves in the temple to be declared ritually pure,
at which point they can be involved in religious ceremonies again.
As you might expect,
knowing what had happened in Jesus’ life so far,
a heavenly host of angels telling shepherds that the Son of God had been born,
this particular purification brought with it a lot more commotion than most did.
During their visit, the holy family comes across two prophets.
Now, I’ll pick up the story in a minute,
but first I have some news,
I have some good news, and some bad news.
I’ll give you the good news first and then the bad news because,
well because the whole thing here, it just really flows a lot better that way…
The good news is, we all made it.
We’ve made it through the hectic shopping season,
we’ve made it through all of the Christmas parties,
we’ve made it through all of the herding children and grandparents from far off places to spend the holidays together.
We’ve made it through all the baking,
we’ve made it through all the mailing of the Christmas cards,
we’ve made it through all the wrapping of the presents,
and through all of the cleaning up of the wrapping paper that gets left strewn out all over the floor.
We’ve made it through the holidays.
I turned 30 this year,
people tell me that makes me old,
and now that I’m a crotchety old man I’m starting to have a different perspective on various things.
When you’re a kid,
you never really think about the holidays as something to “get through”,
right, the last couple weeks of school is what you get through so you can get to the holidays,
but Christmas itself?
Nah man, that’s something you want to savor,
make it last forever.
But as an adult, the advent season has become so hectic for so many of us,
that a lot of the people that I talk to during this time, they just can’t wait until they can make it to Christmas evening, or even to Boxing Day, when they can celebrate all the craziness of the month of December coming to an end.
Now, there’s a lot of things about that that are problematic,
what with the birth of Christ getting overrun with rampant commercialism,
the original intent of remembering how the people were waiting for the birth of the Christ being drowned out by an all-encompassing countdown of “shopping days until Christmas”.
I mean really, how many of us even have time for waiting during advent season anymore, what with the business Christmas parties, the family Christmas parties, the friend Christmas parties, the pageants all the pageants, and I mean you have to go because your uncle’s college roommate’s cousin-twice-removed’s ex-girlfriend’s daughter has a solo, am I right?
It really is no wonder that we’re all just trying to make it through Christmas,
when all the madness ends.
And to be fair, Christmas does signify the end of something.
It is the end of Advent,
the end of the waiting.
And we can see this ending of the period of waiting within the stories of the two prophets who see Jesus.
Simeon has been living out his own personal Advent season,
and not just for four weeks, but for…
well… it doesn’t really say for how long, but the inflection in the print makes it feel like it’s been a long time,
don’t you agree?
He has been waiting for the coming of the salvation of the Lord,
something God has told him he will see before he dies,
and it kind of sounds like he’s ready to go.
she’s been waiting,
spending all her days in worship, praying, fasting, waiting, not leaving the temple,
waiting for the day when she would see the glory of the Lord present among us.
And for both these people,
their season of waiting has come to an end.
But it’s not the end of the story,
and here’s where I have to share that bad news I was telling you about earlier.
We tend to look forward to this time,
after Christmas, after Advent.
Because now all the hectic insanity that has become associated with Christmas is over,
and we think we can finally get some rest.
or not sadly what am I talking about?
Advent may be over, but in many ways Advent is really just the prologue, now is when the real story begins,
now is when the real adventures begin,
the real work.
This is the story of Jesus going to the temple of the first time,
through the purification ceremony he is beginning life within the context of Jewish religion and society in earnest,
this is the mark of the beginning of his real journey,
the journey that will see him baptized by John,
the journey of his three years of ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem,
and the journey that will eventually take him to the cross on Calvary,
and in this story, we get a little taste of what is to come.
Simeon prophesies for the holy family,
he tells them a little bit about what is ahead for the little baby Jesus.
“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the thoughts of many will be revealed--
and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Now, prophecies can sometimes be a little opaque,
but that sure doesn’t sound like rest to me.
This story marks the beginning of the life and in some ways the ministry of Jesus,
and it can be seen as marking the beginning of our taking part with Jesus in that life in ministry.
We are called to live like Jesus right?
Well this is where that living starts.
We can see this in the reaction that the prophetess Anna has when she first comes in contact with Jesus.
She had spent all that time waiting,
in the temple all of her days,
but when the Savior came the waiting came to an end,
and she leaves the temple and goes out amongst the people,
praising God, and spreading the good news,
just as the angels in last week’s sermon did.
It is at this point,
that for the first time in many years,
Anna began to truly start living again.
The advent season is great,
I believe that,
waiting is all well and good,
but if we are not careful, then we will start to become consumed by that waiting.
It’s like Morgan Freeman says in The Shawshank Redemption,
you either get busy living, or get busy dying.
I’m not saying that Anna wasn’t a devout woman,
or that her intentions weren’t good,
or that her actions weren’t good,
fasting? i mean, i’ve never tried it, but good,
being in the temple, or church? good.
But it seems to me that she might have fallen into the trap,
that she’s become so consumed by waiting,
she spends all her time waiting,
that she has forgotten to really live until now.
Then the thing that she has been waiting for finally happens,
and she is finally free to live life to the fullest,
and she does live life fully.
She no longer has her eyes fixed on the future,
all the while life passing her by,
at long last she can start to live the life that God has intended her to live all along.
It’s like a great man…puppet…whatever…once said,
“long this one have I watched,
always his mind on the future,
never focused on where he was,
What he was doing.”
God doesn’t want us to spend so much time waiting on something that happens in the future that we miss all the wonderful things that are happening in the present.
A jedi craves not these things,
and neither should we.
And again, I truly appreciate the season of Advent,
I just wanna make that clear.
I believe in the value in taking some time to sit and wait for the coming of the Lord,
but at the same time,
I believe in and can sense the excitement of this season,
the season when the time for work,
the time for us to be a part of God’s kingdom,
whether that means getting in a Bible Study or a small group,
or volunteering for Operation Nightwatch or the Ballard Food Bank,
or something that you’re uniquely qualified to think of and put into action,
now’s the time for that,
for when we can start to focus on our lives in Christ again.
You know this Advent season has been particularly special for me.
Not only does it mark the period where we contemplating waiting for Jesus’ birth, and awaiting the day when he comes back again like every year,
but it also marks the end of another period of waiting for me,
a day that I have been waiting for,
with equal parts excitement and trepidation,
for a long long time.
Specifically since October 30, 2012.
I am speaking, of course, of the opening of Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens, in theaters across the country.
And I was so excited,
It just so happens I had never seen a real Star Wars movie in theaters before,
because, and let me be absolutely clear on this,
nothing that George Lucas has done since 1989 counts.
No, Greedo never shot first,
no, there was never a gungun named Jar-Jar Binks,
and no, no no, Indiana Jones never,
came into contact with aliens.
I digress, I’ve spent years hoping that J.J. Abrams was going to do the three, THAT’S THREE, canonical films justice,
I spent months avoiding spoilers,
I bought my tickets weeks ago,
and last weekend it was time.
I went to the theater, and sat in my little seat, with my big bucket of popcorn,
and sat through the little entertainment thing they play before the movies,
and the previews before the film,
see even then it was more waiting.
But then the lights went out,
and that little Lucasfilm studio card went up on the screen,
and then that majestic John Williams score, you know the one, filled the room,
and the waiting was over,
but the movie, the adventure, the excitement was just beginning.
And while I enjoyed the waiting, the anticipation, the build-up,
I am so glad, that now the experience has started.
Pray with me:
Thank you for giving us the Advent season to sit and wait on you,
but thank you as well that Advent is over,
and the season to take part in your work in this world has started.
I pray that you would be with all of us,
and guide us as we take part in the experience.