By Rev. Sue Bennetch
A Facebook friend of mine has four children, the youngest is six. Throughout the year I follow the comings and goings of a family of six. Humor and love are the main ingredients. Their night before Christmas was no different!
Her older three have learned that on Christmas morning, they can wake up and find that Santa was there and under the tree are the gifts that he left for them during his trip across the globe. Her youngest child has always been more precocious; and he has the audience to enjoy his sunny nature.
On Christmas Eve by 6:00 he was ready for bed. He had his Christmas pajamas on, teeth brushed. He tried to watch the movie the family chose earlier in the day, and his mom could see that his interest and concentration were not there. At about 7 p.m., he yawned and stretched and announce that he was going to bed. Off he went to dream of sugarplums.
At 4:15 the next morning JoeJoe was standing at her bed. “Mom,” he whispered, “I heard a noise downstairs. I think Santa was here.” As mom adjusted to what was happening she looked at the time. An expert at motherhood, she told her lastborn that she too had heard and then she went downstairs to see if in fact Santa had visited.
But when she turned the lights on, there were no gifts under the tree. She coaxed him back to bed and was grateful that he agreed to sleep at least until 6:30. There was no way he was going to sleep any longer, so the family of six excitedly went downstairs to see what Santa had left for them.
I tell this story because it is a great example of patience. The patience of a six-year-old had held out as long as he could. Mom’s patience is honed like a fine-tuned piano. Patience is an acquired skill; and we all know it takes work in order to master the art of patience. Some of us are very successful at it and have learned how to wait. Some of us are still working at it and still have a long way to go.
The scripture lesson this morning tells about a man who showed great patience. Simeon, who Luke describes as being a man of deep and devout faith, daily went to the temple to pray. On one of those occasions the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. We are not told how long before Christ’s birth this news was told to him, but we do know that, through the Holy Spirit, Simeon knew as soon as he saw the child that the time had come.
Simeon took the child into his arms and praised God saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon blessed the parents and their newborn son. Then he spoke to Mary. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising in many of Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Many years later, Mary would understand and be witness to this prophesy.
Another servant of God, Anna, who was at the temple all day and night affirmed Simeon’s prophesy. She too proclaimed that this child was for all those looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
So much took place at the time of Jesus’s birth. It begins with the announcement to Joseph and Mary that they would be the parents of the Savior of the world. Troubled at first, their faithfulness in God made them ready to hear the good news. Mary humbly responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” This young man and woman continued to trust God with their lives.
In Mary’s late stages of pregnancy, they travelled to Bethlehem to register for the census that was taking place. Upon arriving in Bethlehem they found that the only place that could possibly give them shelter was a stable.
It was there that Jesus was born.
In the midst of these miracles we can easily identify their love of God, their obedience to God and their willingness to trust God with their lives and now the life of their child.
The news spread quickly, first to shepherds keeping watch over their sheep. This spectacular sight can only be imagined. Angels filling the dark sky, telling of the events that took place in Bethlehem that night. The shepherds hurried off at once, and arriving at the stable they found Mary and Joseph and the Christ child just as they had been told. So filled with the Holy Spirit, they told everyone they saw and all who heard the news were amazed.
According to the Law, a male child must be presented to be circumcised. Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem. It is there that he was named Jesus, the name given by the angel, before Jesus was conceived. And it was there that they met Simeon and Anna. They witnessed the deeper symbolism of the circumcision and knew that this child was being dedicated to God.
When we baptize a child here at the church, it too is a sign that the child enters into a covenant with God, and join God’s family of believers. That is why during the service, together, parents, ministers and congregation promise to nurture the child to grow up as a Christian and never know himself as being anything else. The covenant is sealed in the community of believers but also reminds those present of their own baptisms and the forgiveness of sin, or as St. Augustine calls it “a visible form of an invisible grace”. We are bound to God forever.
The Christmas story is about faith.
Waiting, patience, faith, belief, grace, miracles. These are the words that drive this story. These are the gifts that God wants us to receive this day and forever. Are we ready to receive them? Are we ready to use them? I think so. Because the rest of the story, written for us in this book tells us how to do so.
My prayer for us today, is that the Holy Spirit guide us in all we do; and through the Spirit’s guidance, we too will grow, become stronger, filled with wisdom and the favor of God upon us. May it be so.