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Purification, Dec. 31, 2023

Luke 2.21-40, Christmas 1B,

Theme: Preparation

Among the wonderful Gospel accounts of Jesus’ childhood, this is one of the most precious. It is when Mary and Joseph come to the Temple to offer two turtle doves as a proper sacrifice of purification and redemption. This ritual was performed when the child was 40 days old.

When Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple, they were greeted by two very special people – Simeon and Anna. Simeon was an elderly man who was well respected among the faithful at the temple. God had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. When he saw the couple and the child, he recognized who Jesus was at once. Jesus received a blessing from him.

Anna was a prophet spending all her time in the temple praying. When she saw who the child was, she proclaimed him as the Chosen One.

Simeon and Anna represent a rare but revered group of people. In every church in which I have served over the last 50 years, there have been Simeon’s and Anna’s present whose lives were/are completely immersed in God’s congregational life. They are ever present and directly involved in the life of their congregation. They demonstrate the sense of belonging in family – a caring acceptance of each person – an embracing love oozing with comfort and security. The two people in the scripture account represent what church life should always be.

When he realized what this child represented “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ’Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”

He realized the revolutionary changes which were coming because of this child. What he didn’t speak of was the pain this God/man would endure as a result. But we know. We know the transformation of humanity’s society when Jesus revealed how compassion and love are embraced.

This event in the life of Simeon, Anna, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus reveals in such a precious way the essential essence of what the Gospels give us. Let’s endeavor to emanate this essence in every part of our congregational life.

Join us this last day of 2023 as we look to a future where we see the promise of Jesus the Messiah in a renewed light. Help us to see the vision Simion and Anna had for a promising future.

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