Summary: The story of the holy family and their encounter with Simeon and Anna, demonstrates how we can keep the Spirit of Christmas vital in our lives throughout the year.
Luke 2: 22-40 “Destiny”
Christmas 2008 is quickly fading. The radio stations, which have been playing Christmas music since early November, have switched to their normal fare. The paper for all of those brightly wrapped gifts has found its way into the trash. Batteries have been installed in those items labeled, “batteries not included,” and most of the items marked “some assembly required,” have been assembled. Our attention has turned to New Years celebrations and thoughts about what the New Year might hold.
Mary and Joseph were faced with a similar situation. The shepherds had to get back to their flocks. The angels had other angelic duties to carry out. Like most spiritual experiences, the warm glow of that magnificent night when Jesus was born was cooling. There were religious rituals to be observed, and the long trip back to Nazareth.
We catch Mary and Joseph as they begin their journey. In this story, we see how they lived in the reality that the Word had been made flesh and dwelt among them, and a Savior had been born. They demonstrate to us how to live so that the truth of Christmas becomes more than a dim memory in the days and months ahead of us.
THE CENTRAL MESSAGE
Mary and Joseph go to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the laws requirements of offering a sacrifice for their first born. Luke notes that they offered the least expensive offering possible—not because they were cheap, but because they were poor. Luke wanted to emphasize the humble begins of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
While in the temple, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, encounter two prophets: Simeon and Anna. Both are old. Simeon was at the age when death could be expected and Anna was eighty-four years old. They had been waiting for the Messiah and the redemption of Israel all of their lives—a long time.
The Holy Spirit, though Luke, wants to highlight several truths to the readers of this gospel.
1. Jesus was in God’s plan. Jesus’ birth had been prophesized hundreds of years before the actual event. The sovereign Lord was moving to carry out his will.
2. God is faithful and keeps his promises. God is to be trusted.
3. Many times God’s promises are a long time in coming and it is necessary for God’s people to wait for God to fulfill his promises. This was especially important for the people to whom Luke was writing his gospel. His readers were experiencing persecution at the hands of the Romans. They were also trying to understand why Jesus didn’t return shortly after his death, as some of his words seem to indicate he would.
These are powerful messages for us to hear this morning, but there are still more lessons contained in this story.
RAISED IN THE FAITH
Many people assume that Jesus had all of his wisdom, understanding and knowledge from his birth. Jesus was an “old soul” in a sense, spiritually and mentally mature, waiting for his body to catch up so that he could carry out his mission. Though this may be a common belief, it is not supported by Scripture.
Joseph and Mary had been brought up to observe the Jewish faith and to live by its commandments and carry out its rituals. They were intent on following what they had been taught as they began life as a couple. As people of faith Joseph and Mary wanted to bring up Jesus in the faith.
There is some thought that Mary dedicated Jesus to the Lord in a similar way to Hannah, Samuel’s mother her son. Hannah brought him to the temple and then released Samuel to the priests to be raised by them so that he could serve the Lord. Jesus wasn’t raised in the Jerusalem temple, but he probably did receive special training.
Jesus was taught theology. He had to memorize Scripture. He probably was “forced” to go to religious feasts and observe religious rituals. The Holy Spirit didn’t just pour the knowledge of the universe into his head. Jesus had to study and learn just like everyone else.
The work of his human teachers, combined with the movement of the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus for his demanding ministry and enabled him to be the teacher and prophet that he was.
Joseph and Mary show us how important it is for children to be raised in the church. It is important that they learn, attend worship, and serve in age appropriate ways. When we say that the primary calling of all adults is to share their faith with the children and nurture the faith of the children we mean it.
ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE COMMUNITY
The angels’ message was short lived. The events of that first Christmas Day would be cherished by Mary for her life. When a person journeys in the valley, though, mountain top experiences quickly lose their power. Faith and commitment must be encouraged in other ways.