Summary: A fairly short sermon asking the congregation to pray for parents, to praise God for Jesus, to be open to prophesy, to be regular in prayer and to be patient.
Luke 2: 22 to 40
This is such a lovely all-age event in the life of Jesus. We’ve got a baby (Jesus 2:21), parents (Mary and Joseph 2:22), a man of faith (Simeon 2:25), and a very prayerful and faithful widow (Anna 2:36).
The whole event is a reminder to us that children are a gift from God. I was at St John’s School here in Billericay two weeks ago with our Youth Worker Mark Pape speaking with a group from Year 11 (15 year olds). Towards the end of the lesson the teacher said to the class: “Do you know that you young people are a blessing from God to your parents?” Of course, some of the faces were covered with disbelief, and yet some seemed to appreciate that it was true.
Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem to make an offering to God as recognition of the fact that Jesus was a gift to them from God. The Law required a Lamb and a Pigeon to be offered.
You’ll forgive me if I feel a little uncomfortable at this point! (My surname is Pidgeon) If the couple could not afford a Lamb then an extra Pigeon was deemed to be sufficient, and it was a pair of Pigeons which were brought (2: 24) by Mary and Joseph; and it’s for this reason that we know Mary and Joseph were very ordinary people in the financial sense. They were not well-off when it came to money, but God had chosen them to be the Parents of Jesus.
If you are a parent, I believe God wants to remind you that you are the God given and God appointed parent of your child or children. Regardless of their attitude towards you, or their attitude towards God, you are their parent, and God wants to encourage you in that.
You will find that over the next few minutes I am going to mention several other words starting with ‘P’; and so we could perhaps view them as the P’s of the Lord (and may the P’s of the Lord be always with you)!
P is for parent, and P is also for Praise and Prophecy. There was a man in Jerusalem (2:25) who was righteous and devout. Moved by the Holy Spirit (2:27) he was in the Temple Courts at the same time as Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms.
What a moment this must have been! Luke tells us (2:26) that the Spirit of God had made it clear to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ; and as Simeon takes the Lord Jesus Christ in his arms (2:28) he speaks some of the most famous words of praise and thanks to God – words traditionally known in Latin as the ‘Nunc Dimitis’.
What a sight it must have been as Simeon spoke these words of praise and prophecy. He was giving praise to God for Jesus, and he was also speaking words of prophecy concerning Jesus; concerning Jesus’ role as “a light …to the Gentiles” (2:32).
Since Gentile was the name given to a Non-Jew, Simeon was prophesying that through Jesus the whole of the non-Jewish world would get to know about God’s salvation.
I wonder what situations God might call us into.
In the Bible St. Paul (Ephesians 4:11) says that some of us are called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers. The mistake we sometimes make is to think that the Vicar or the Lay Reader is the apostle, and the prophet, and the evangelist, and the pastor and the teacher! The truth is that some of us are called to be prophets, bringing God’s words of encouragement and hope and challenge to situations. Perhaps some amongst us here will speak words of prophecy from God into the question of Fair Trade, or the question of Work amongst young people in Billericay, or the issue of Racism, or Discrimination etc. etc.
Simeon knew God. He listened to the still small voice of His Lord and he responded to God’s leading with his words and with his deeds.
So we’ve had 3 P’s so far. Parents: Let’s pray for parents, that they might honour God in their parenting. Praise: Let’s be people who give thanks to God for bringing us into a relationship with the Lord Jesus; and Prophecy: Let’s be open to the situations that God by His Spirit is calling us to speak in to.
Only two to go! The fourth P is for prayer. Our relationship with God and our knowledge of God is built up through prayer. In our Bible reading we heard that Anna never left the Temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying (2:37). Am I saying that we should all be like Anna and never leave the Church building? No I am not! It is her life of prayer that is important. Anna had dedicated her life to God. Perhaps God is reminding us to be regular in prayer.