While the Advent journey takes us through an emotional rollercoaster of joy, fear, humility, and anticipation, there is no other emotion to guide the days after Christmas than pure celebration.
Each of the readings for this time of Christmas call us to take a deep breath of relief, to look around at the beauty of what God has done, and to simply enjoy it.
We have waited patiently for four weeks in this season of Advent and in these fast paced days, a month may seem like an eternity.
But our scriptures from Luke for this Sunday tell us of two people who had been waiting their whole lifetimes for the birth of Christ and then who absolutely couldn’t keep silent when they encountered the Christ-child.
First of all, a little background about why Mary and Joseph and the newly born Jesus find themselves in Jerusalem in our gospel reading this morning.
This probably would have been the second trip that the trio would have made into the holy city – first in order to name their child and to have him circumcised eight days after his birth, and then this second trip – in order for Mary to be purified after the birth according to the law.
In the book of Leviticus, the law proclaims that any woman who has given birth would be ceremonially unclean – or unable to worship at the temple or to touch holy things, for 33 days if the child born was a boy, or 66 days if the newly born baby was a girl.
While this may seem to be strange – it was actually probably a welcome time of rest and a chance for the new mother and child to bond in peace and quiet.
But then after that time, the family would come to the temple to make the required offering.
Families who could afford to do so would bring a lamb, but there were allowances made for those who were less fortunate. Scripture tells us that Mary and Joseph were only able to bring a pair of small birds as their gift to God.
These trips back and forth, all of this pomp and ceremony, were actually very normal, really, expected parts of what it meant to have a baby. Mothers and fathers and infants would have been a common sight around the temple as they marked this important time of their lives in God’s presence.
But in the midst of other mothers and fathers and babies – Luke tells us that two wise old saints- Anna and Simeon – picked this particular trio out of the crowd and knew that they were something special.
Perhaps it was the fact that Anna and Simeon had been waiting for such a long time to see the Messiah.
Perhaps they were just more in tune with the power of the Holy Spirit after lifetimes of faithful service to God.
Or maybe they just allowed themselves to be overcome by the joy of the moment and couldn’t help but be silent.
In any case, both Anna and Simeon rushed to the new parents and their infant son, God-in-the-flesh, and gave praise to God.
Who are these people? And why does Luke record their reactions?
Simeon was a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit, and long ago a promise was made to him that he would not see death until the Messiah had come.
Most people were looking for a leader to rise above the people – a powerful and spiritual figure. But Simeon was led by God to see that this infant child that crossed his path was something more… and he knew that his promise had been fulfilled.
He understood that this child would grow to become not just a light of revelation to his Jewish brothers and sisters, but would be the light of salvation to the entire world. And the Holy Spirit helped him to understand that this path to salvation would be a heart-breaking journey for Mary and Joseph, but also for God.
Now that he had seen the Messiah, he could pass from this world in peace.
Anna was a prophetess, a woman of God who spent her life worshipping God through fasting and prayer in the temple.
It is likely that she had served God in this capacity for nearly sixty years of her lifetime!
In those sixty years, surely many babies had passed before her eyes.
And while we don’t know of anything particularly special about the way the infant Christ looked, something about this month old child caught Anna’s eye.
Her heart was filled with joy and Luke writes that she began to tell the story of this amazing child to everyone that was looking for redemption and hope in the city of Jerusalem.
Hope has come! Light has entered our midst! was likely her cry.
She may have been eighty-four years old, but she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from sharing what she had experienced.
Maybe she thought in the back of her mind of our text from Isaiah today: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.”
Her years of prayerful anticipation had been answered, and now she simply couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
My question for all of you this afternoon is simple. If an eighty-four year old woman and a dying old man can share the joy of this birth with all of those around her—why shouldn’t we?
I want to encourage each and every single one of you to go out from this time of worship and to share! To announce! To celebrate! How God has entered our midst in this Christmas season.
At dinner, tell a story of something that happened to you or your family this Christmas.
Find your neighbor later today and share the joy of Christmas with a hug or a word of encouragement.
Call your children and tell them about something you are thankful for.
Talk with the staff here at Wesley Acres and let them know you are still praying for them this Christmas season.
God has entered our midst!!! And as we continue to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, let each one of us continue to proclaim good tidings of great joy…