In Christ a Glad New Year
There it was on the morning after Christmas, sitting on the curb. It was a Christmas tree with lights and ornaments pulled off, tinsel blowing in the wind, waiting for garbage collectors to come haul it away. The family living there apparently decided Christmas was over. They started packing it all up within a few hours after the big day. Whatever Christmas may have meant to them did not seem to linger too much.
Other people experience a big “let down” after Christmas. It may have been a welcome diversion for them to have the house brightly lighted, the smell of roast turkey in the air, and the gathering of loved ones and friends. Once it passes, however, some of them find it tough to return to the regular demands of life The time after Christmas means you face quite a long stretch of short, dark days and cold, biting winds. Business as usual, with all the burdens at work and sometimes with sorrows at home, may make it hard to get too excited about the New Year.
The Gospel for this day took place when Joseph and Mary carried their baby son Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to perform sacrifices prescribed in their law. That was a very dark time, too.. But this little Christ brought real light and gladness to some people who met Him that day. This Christ is coming to you, too.. He’s ready to send light and gladness with you who may feel burdens, and maybe even some fears, going into the New Year.
It’s fair to say that there is plenty to be upset about these days. We keep hearing about a new flu threat spreading across the world faster than countries can vaccinate against it.. Terrorists who are sworn enemies of the West keep carrying out unspeakable acts against innocent people. They don’t always do that just on the other side of the world either, but even very close to home, sometimes without any apparent warning at all.
Our world’s sorrows run deeper than that, don’t they? There’s something inside people just as troubling as any news flash. The affluence around us seems to have made men and women, and even boys and girls, very self-centered at times, as if the primary goal in life is just to meet my needs and to keep me happy. There’s a roughness out there these days, a pushiness that often has no time for courtesy and consideration. Saddest of all, big segments of our world seem to be drifting away from the God who made people and loves them deeply.
Old Simeon understood things like that, even though his world wasn’t exactly like ours. Things were dark in his time. A foreign army had invaded his country. Religious leaders seemed more concerned with their own position than with conscientiously teaching people God’s Word. As a result, Simeon also understood what it was like to be surrounded by folks who seemed to be drifting away from the Lord, even though some of them still went through all the motions of religious life.
Somehow God had let Simeon know that he wouldn’t die until he got to see the promised Savior. He had been waiting a long, long time. The wait must have made him weary. You’re not Simeon, of course. But you may feel a weariness of your own as the New Year comes again.
Maybe there are times when the workload you carry, the burdens in your family, or even some personal struggle raging inside you – something that just won’t let up – may make you worry about your ability to cope with whatever it is. Yes, read the news. Look around a little bit. Take stock of yourself. There’s plenty to be upset about.
Then it happened! On that day in the temple, God’s Spirit nudged Simeon toward a young father and mother holding their baby boy. When Simeon saw that Child, he knew: My wait is over. Relief is here! “Sovereign Lord,” he sang, “As You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation.” Your rescue!
God sent His Gift right through the door that day! That Gift is not a law. It’s not some self-help strategy you and I can use to fix what’s wrong with us and with the world on our own power. That Gift is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s Gift, His rescue, His relief. He is not just an idea or a program that God puts on our shoulders while He keeps His distance far away in heaven somewhere. Jesus Christ is God’s rescue come right down here into our world where people could see Him. He was born in a town you can still find on the map. He was laid on straw. Shepherds from the surrounding area visited His family. They really saw Him, as old man Simeon saw Him a few weeks later. That baby boy really grew up, living under His parents, learning to work with wood, feeling happiness, but also feeling more than His share of pain when people would not listen and pushed Him away. When He was a Man in the prime of His life, His hands were stretched out wide and nailed to a cross, where this Jesus died for the sins of the world.
God’s rescue came right through the door to the world where we are. He came right in, even though you and I didn’t deserve it. He came in unexpectedly, in a time and place most people were not paying attention to. His coming was a mighty love letter from on high. When Simeon saw Him, all he could do was sing: “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 glory to Your people Israel.”
Jesus Christ brings God’s rescue in a way that really opens people’s eyes. A great many Gentiles back in Simeon’s time were living in thick darkness. They did not know God’s Word. They groped around without understanding where real life comes from. Jesus Christ was willing to touch those people. In the words He spoke and the wonders He performed, He opened people’s eyes to see that He is the answer to many things that never made sense before. A Roman soldier who watched the way Jesus died on His cross had his eyes opened like that. He said that day, “Surely this was the Son of God.” When the liberating message of Jesus Christ began being sounded in the world, a great many Gentile people who had lived their lives far from God had their eyes opened. They saw in Jesus Christ what God is yearning to give: forgiveness, life, and rescue. So, Simeon’s song about this little Baby kept coming true. He really is “a light for revelation to the gentiles.”
This encounter in the temple soon after the first Christmas changed everything for Simeon. Oh, yes, the problems in his country were still all there, still just as perplexing as before. Yes, people and their leaders kept making the old mistakes. But this Child and the rescue He brings somehow began making those burdens bearable.
For Simeon, the relief was coming very, very quickly. He had been told that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ. Now, with his own eyes, he was looking at God’s rescue, God’s help with arms and legs on it. Having this Christ, Simeon had everything he had been waiting for. Now he was ready to go. He said that, “Sovereign Lord… You dismiss your servant in peace.” Despite all the trouble in the land, despite all the twisted stuff going on in the lives of individual people, the Christ Child brought peace to this hopeful old man – not easy solutions, not some make-believe, but peace.
Very soon you and I will be writing “2020” on checks and letters and application forms. Despite all the partying that’s being planned and all the champagne soon to be uncorked, maybe the New Year isn’t something you have been looking forward to. Even if the news of flu threats, or terrorism, doesn’t get you down, the decay happening in human lives may be doing it to you. Something’s wrong, isn’t there, when civic leaders seem more interested in out-arguing their political opponents and making them look bad than to really accomplish something worthwhile for the society they are meant to serve. Something’s wrong, isn’t there, when otherwise decent men and women get so preoccupied with making a living, improving their homes and traveling that they don’t bother too much with a lonely, aging loved one, or take the time to really support a friend in trouble?
And, you may not need to look that far to find things to get you down. It may be happening in your own heart if your work has become too demanding to keep up with, or if you’ve got conflicts with co-workers you are powerless to fix. It may be happening if a child has become estranged from you and won’t listen to a thing you say.. It may be happening because you’ve just endured another Christmas that felt empty because of some sweet person you loved – and lost.
Don’t pack Christmas away too fast.. God on high is trying to nudge you over to that little Child who has come in the door. He’s the same One who brought gladness to old Simeon long ago. He has come in the door, even though you don’t deserve His coming. He has come in, even if you ignored Him for a long time and wasted far too many Christmases in years gone by. He wants you because He loves you. He came down here from heaven above to grow and to live. He came to do the Father’s will that you and I often trampled on. He came to bleed and to die to heal the break between God and people. When God’s words and promises bring this little Christ-Child close to you, you are seeing God’s heart, God’s help, God’s rescue. That rescue, by the way, has your name written all over it.
The New Year coming soon is not going to be a fairy tale. The problems which cause so much tension and discord in our society, are not going to magically disappear just because you’re a Christian. Likewise, the personal heartaches you’re enduring in your family or at work may still make the New Year a struggle for you sometimes. The world in Simeon’s time did not immediately straighten up right after the first Christmas.
But God’s rescue, His Jesus Christ, was there in that mixed-up world. God’s great Christmas Gift, His Jesus Christ, is there for you today. He makes the New Year glad, not by closing your eyes to the trouble. He makes the New Year glad because He is in it with you. He forgives your wrongs. He accepts your prayers. He holds you together especially in moments when you don’t know how you could ever do it yourself.
“To all who received Him,” wrote St. John in the Bible, “to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.” He does not always give you an easy way. He does give you the right to be God’s own child. Jesus gives Himself to you. He helps to carry the load. He is the Light who still shines this winter with warmth and cheer even in the darkness, and sometimes especially in the darkness.
Please, take Him with you into all the days of 2020, and all the days you get after that! Please, take Him with you, and you’ll have what God wants to give: in Christ, a glad New Year. Amen.
This message from Rev Robert Bugbee is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, CA