New Start for a New Year

It is only days since we celebrated Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Now, as we read Luke 2:22-40, Luke quickly moves us on, away from the wonderous events surrounding Jesusí birth, to the more mundane and ordinary things of everyday life. Today, we find the young family with other worshippers at the temple in Jerusalem.

Itís amazing how life changed so quickly for them; then again, sometimes lives do change both dramatically and suddenly.

This time last year we were looking forward to the start of 2020 and making plans about what we might do in the new year and what we hoped to achieve.

Unfortunately, within only a few months, lives were turned upside down when a global pandemic arrived on our doorstep.

For everyone, life became very different; for many it is tough. But donít let us forget, Jesus was also born into a harsh world where life for most people was difficult; Mary and Joseph were no exception.

In this passage that Luke records, Jesus is probably about six weeks old and the young family had gone to the Temple in Jerusalem for two important ceremonies.

One was an act of consecration where every first-born son was dedicated to God; it was giving thanks to God. The other was an act of purification following the birth of a child.

It was while they were in Jerusalem that they met Simeon, a devout, religious man who had waited patiently and prayerfully on God for the coming of the Messiah.

When his eyes fall on the young couple and the child Mary is cradling, realisation dawns on the old man. This is what he has been waiting for all his life. Excitedly he breaks into praise and gives thanks to God.

Simeon speaks of events in the future when the baby has grown up, of the changes that he will bring; changes in our understanding of God and changes in our relationship with Him.

In the Temple at that time there was also someone else who had waited faithfully and patiently for the Messiah; this was Anna, the prophetess. Although well into her 80ís she had never given up hope that God would send His Messiah.

When she approaches the family, she too, sees in the baby that Godís promise of a Redeemer has become a reality.

Like Simeon, she too is overjoyed and gives thanks and praises God. Like Simeon, she also sees the changes that will come about through this child when he grows up.

Although we donít really know much about either Simeon or Anna, the role they play is crucial, because they both, independently, recognised that the baby Jesus is the Messiah.

They recognised in this infant the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in Godís relationship with humanity.

They both recognised in the Christ child, the opportunity that now existed for a new beginning for everyone.

This is the last Sunday of 2020. It has been a year which saw so many changes to everyday life. So, it is good to be reminded that amongst all the upheaval, there is stability with God.

The overriding message, the good news, is that at Bethlehem, God came to the world to live amongst us. In Jesusí birth, we are reminded that God came to us, offering hope. ďThey will call him Immanuel, which means,í God with usíĒ. (Matthew 1:23)

While we have just celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas, Luke reminds us that the child in the manger grew up. He changed from the infant in the stable to be the Saviour of the World.

The coming of Jesus started a journey that would touch everyone he encountered.Right from the beginning, life for both Simeon and Anna changed. Today, changes are still ongoing in the lives of those who continue to put their hope and trust in God.

We are approaching the beginning of a New Year with who knows what is in store. But what we do know, is that Christ is there for us.

He is with us throughout this life, and beyond. So, as we look to 2021, with all its possibilities, challenges and uncertainties, we can journey with Jesus into whatever lies ahead. With that hope we face the New Year with faith together.

ďThe child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon himĒ, (Luke 2:40). So too, let us grow in Christ and, together with him, become stronger in faith.

Let us pray.

Lord God, as Simeon and Anna rejoiced in recognising the infant Jesus as the Christ, so we pray that all will experience and recognise the presence of Christ in their lives today, and the peace, contentment and fulfilment he brings.

Renewing and re-creating God, lead us into 2021 trusting that you will comfort and strengthen us to bear the difficult times and the assurance that as we travel into the unknown months in front of us, you will love, guard and guide us.

Show us the opportunities to serve our neighbours in Jesusí name, telling them and our communities about the faithful God who stays beside us in trouble, loss and loneliness, believing that you are inviting us to be a church that builds, be-friends and helps others to believe.

Amen, and may we go into the new year holding Godís love in our lives.

Alan.