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Message for Sunday 27 December 2020: “Great Expectations”

Today’s message from Luke 2:22-40 is a story of Anna and Simeon’s great expectations as they adored the baby Jesus.

Speaking of Great Expectations, that’s the title of Charles Dickens’ 1861 novel, whose central character is an orphan child named “Pip.” Jesus and Pip have something in common, including an adventurous life amid many colorful characters and situations. Similarly, Anna and Simeon are a reminder of how wonderful can be the great expectations of God’s blessings, which bring joy to faithful people of all ages (and despite the hardships of age and fragility).

Anna and Simeon met Jesus during his initiation at the Jerusalem Temple. As Jesus’ parents Mary and Joseph entered the scene, Simeon cried with joy as he witnessed God’s living promise in the Christ child. Imagine the tears of relief as that man saw Jesus’ sweet face. Simeon had been promised not to see death until he had held “the consolation of Israel,” whom Jesus represented. Do you feel consoled by God’s presence? You’re never too old or too young to experience the embrace of the Almighty.

The next visitor to celebrate the baby Jesus was an elderly woman named Anna, who is described as a prophetess. This is highly unusual in any form of Judaism, that a woman would carry such a noble title. Like Simeon, Anna lived an exemplary life of holiness and was rewarded by God. Anna exclaimed over the wondrous glories of the Christ child. She realized the majesty and promise of the little Jesus, whose significance many of her younger contemporaries failed to grasp.

A lesson from Simeon and Anna’s encounter is how they both were rewarded for their spiritual maturity. God blessed them to witness Jesus, whom they perceived as the Messiah and redeemer of all generations. Although Simeon and Anna were of advanced age, they knew how God’s prophecy was being fulfilled.

An additional lesson from Simeon’s and Anna’s encounter is that age isn’t a barrier to God’s promises. Fast-forward almost two-thousand years and you can cultivate a similar sense of wonder at God’s redemptive plan. Simeon and Anna’s attitude reveal that you, I, and other people of faith are the trustees of God’s work on earth. Therefore we all can encourage and welcome a new generation of believers with exuberance. Such a mission is ageless and timeless. Moreover, you can derive purpose and meaning as you nurture a younger cadre who will carry the banner of faith into the future.

Jesus was at the center of Simeon and Anna’s joy. Both young and seasoned, God’s people form a complete faith family, spiritually united in receiving and sharing God’s love and truth. Recall St. John’s ministry rubric of “Both/And,” which reveals that God ministers to everyone, Both established And new, regardless of how old or young. There’s a special privilege and responsibility for the seasoned members of God’s Kingdom in that we are challenged to make sacrifices for a new generation. As we do so, God blesses us with a reassuring peace.

What promise and possibility does Christ hold for you in 2021? Will you welcome the New Year with great expectations? Let us encourage one another to discern God’s highest and best in the coming year. Hunker-down and get to those new projects, those rejuvenating attitudes and behaviors that will make 2021 the best year yet. Happy soon-to-be New Year!

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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