2021 December 26

One Day in the Temple

I conducted the worship service today. Them we came home, ate chicken noodle soup, and went to bed.

©2021 Thomas E Williams

Sermon One Day In the Temple

Let us Pray

I pray that, as the Lord guided Simeon by his spirit to seek out Jesus, the Messiah, he will guide us also.

Grant us also the same spirit that drove Anna to praise you and to speak about Jesus to all who are needing redemption. Amen.

Wow! There is a lot of things going on in our gospel teaching.

Perhaps it will help to understand why Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple on that day.

Now one of the reasons NOT mentioned in the scriptures was the same reason WE bring OUR newborns to church. To show off this precious child, more beautiful than any other baby. Right mom? Right Grandma?

Fortunately for me, my two boys and two girls looked EXACTLY the same … in the face … as newborns, because — well because you can’t improve on perfection.

So I’m sure that this was also in the minds of the Holy Family as they came to present the child.

But they were also obeying the law of Moses. It was after the time for their purification.

This is the teaching portion of the sermon. There might by a test at the end, so pay attention.

Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day. 

I just saw a “cringe” on the faces of several men in the sanctuary.

The purpose of the ceremony of circumcision, which is an offering of blood, is to seal the covenant with the Almighty in the flesh so that it may never be violated. 

So sacred is this act that the child is not counted an Israelite until after the ceremony. It is during the ceremony that he is officially given his name.

Much like, through the sacrament of baptism, God’s Spirit initiates us into Christ’s holy church,

And the pastor invites the congregation to welcome the newly baptized by name.

Now concerning Mary.

The Law of Moses found in Leviticus 12:2-4

If a woman gives birth to a son, she will be unclean for seven days. For thirty-three days the mother will be in a state of blood purification. She must not touch anything holy or enter the sacred area until her time of purification is completed. 

I warned you that there might be a test.

Question one is a math problem. If she is unclean for 7 days and then in a state of purification for 33, how long did the holy family have to wait before coming to the Temple?

Answer: at least 41. It had to be after the 40th day.

It is customary for the mother to come to the synagogue on the Sabbath after her 40 days when she has regained her strength. 

So now we understand why it was said, when the fullness of time had come.

There was still one more ceremony to be observed. Jesus, the redeemer, had to be redeemed. This was the reason they were in the temple that day.

As a sign and remembrance of the Passover in Egypt when the lives of all Egyptian first born males died and the first born males of the Israelites were spared by the sprinkling of blood on the door posts. 

Since that time, all first born males belong to God. 

You will remember, in the old testament, Hannah brought Samuel, once he was weened to the LORD’S temple to be dedicated to the LORD … for his whole life.

The parents could redeem, that is “buy back” their sons by an offering of silver coins to the temple. 

If a family, like Joseph and Mary, could not afford the silver, (the Magi had not yet arrived with myrrh, frankincense, and gold) anyway, for the poor, an offering of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons was made.

Do you now understand how important this trip to the temple was to Joseph and Mary? 

Now, to see if you are listening.

Q. Why were they in the temple that day?

To redeem Jesus. I would also have given a ½ point for, to show off the baby.

They, as faithful Jews, expected and had made plans for the redemption of their first born Son.

In the last 40 days they had assumedly found a home (perhaps with relatives) in Bethlehem. Performed the circumcision on the 8th day. And Mary had gone through the purification required.

They had brought the sacrificial doves to redeem their son. 

Everything was going as expected.

And then — and then along came Simeon, who grabbed the baby from their hands and started a prophetic message.

You parents out there, do you remember how fragile your first born child seemed? Imagine some stranger taking that baby and saying, “Now, Lord, you are allowing your servant to leave in peace as you promised.”

I can imagine Joseph saying, “Now hold on, bub, you’re not leaving with my baby.”

Then Simeon might have said, “Joe, you have to understand that the Lord told me that in my lifetime the Messiah would be born, and your son is the salvation for everyone, for every nation, even a light of revelation to the Gentiles! I have waited a long time to see him with my own eyes.”

And then ,,,

And then Anna, a prophetess of advanced age, (now why did they have to say that – right ladys?)

And then Anna, a prophetess of advanced age, at that moment, came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Wow, things sure took a dramatic turn into the unexpected. I can almost hear Rod Sterling’s voice, “You are traveling through another dimension, your next stop, the Twilight Zone!” Do do dodo dodo dodo!

I know some of you are way too young to remember the old tv show, “The Twilight Zone.” 

But each episode began with, “This is a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.”

So I want you to use your imagination.

Here is the Life Application part of the message

Imagine with me for a moment, that you are in that time and that place. You are Mary or Joseph. What is going through your mind as you are confronted by these strangers? And strange they must have seemed.

Your mind races back to the angel visiting you, Mary. Or the Lord visiting you, Joseph, in a dream. 

The two of you sitting down and discussing among yourselves these strange and wonderful visitations. What does it all mean? 

As usual, the Lord does not fill in all the details for you. You must go forward in faith and wait for your questions to be answered in God’s time.

Over the next eight or nine months, your mind revisits those moments, but they seem to grow a little dimmer as you busy yourself with the things of everyday life, earning a living, preparing the house for the coming child, and then the command of the Roman occupiers of your land that you are required to make a 90 mile trek to Bethlehem, because some emperor in a far off land demands it. 

Grumble, grumble, explicative, explicative!!!

You arrive in Bethlehem, which is already overcrowded with other unhappy and weary travelers who also are venting their frustration and anger over this census and the already heavy taxes.

You are not terribly surprised to find that the Motel 6, Travel Lodge, and Marriott are filled with people, some even sleeping on couches in the lobby. But in the stable behind the Budget Inn you find a corner with some relatively clean straw.

And the baby comes: no hospital, no doctor, and no midwife. Just two first time parents who are feeling completely lost, confused, and inexperienced. 

But they make it through the birth and cleanup as best you can. At last they can rest.

Nope! Not just yet. Enter a crowd of shepherds. 

If the atmosphere in the stable was not – um – fragrant enough, with animals, 2 hot sweaty humans and the odors associated with birth, here arrive dirty unshaven men reeking of sheep.

They are so excited and talking over each other trying to tell of being visited by an army of angels.

The angels tell that the … long awaited … savior had been born … at last!

But those months have past …

 and here you are in the temple with Simeon and Anna making amazing declarations and predictions about their child.

This is the congregational participation portion of the sermon.

Put yourself in the sandals of Simeon or Anna. Many long years ago you had prayed that you would live to see the coming if the messiah.  That you would be present when Isaiah’s prophecy that “Blind people would see again, lame people would be walking, those with skin diseases could be made clean, deaf people could hear again, dead people would be brought back to life, and poor people hear the Good News.” (Matthew 11:5)

You were young with keen eyesight and a full head of dark hair. Now you are old. Not just old but very old. Your eyesight is weak your hearing minimal and your once glorious hair is thin and white. 

And still you hold out hope that your prayer will be answered.

Now, look into your own heart, are there unanswered prayers there? Are you continuing to hope, to pray, and to patiently wait for the answer? Be honest with yourself. Have you given up hope because the prayer wasn’t answered on your schedule?

Okay, moving on to Mary and Joseph

What are you parents feeling? Confused, excited, overwhelmed?

Remember, Mary and Joe don’t yet know about the coming visit of the wisemen or running for their lives to Egypt. They can’t see the future that leads to the cross … and beyond. 

That’s probably a good thing. It’s probably a good thing that God doesn’t gift us with the ability to see our future or our children’s.

Take a deep breath and think, were Joseph and Mary’s lives really that much different than your own? 

Sure, you are not tasked with raising the Christ child, but haven’t you, aren’t you, or won’t you be raising each child without knowing what terrifying, wonderful, and amazing thing is going to happen next? 

Aren’t all of our lives filled with work, worry, stress, and anxiety?

Not so surprisingly, parent or not a parent you have those same unknowns. 

As I told the children, when we pray, God will answer. The answer maybe Yes, it may be No, and hardest of all is when we are asked to Wait.

3 POINTS WHILE WE WAIT

  1. Keep praying and believing
  2. Keep expecting and watching for the answer
  3. Don’t overlook the answer when it comes, it may not look like you expected.

We aren’t given the road map of our lives. We move forward one fearful, hesitant, brave, joyful, and faithful step at a time.

Hymn writer: Ira F. Stanphill expressed it this way

 🎶Many things about tomorrow

I don’t seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow

And I know who holds my hand🎶 – 

If you have believed in your heart and declared with your lips that Jesus is Lord of your life, then you know the destination even if you can’t see behind the curtains of time to where that next step will take you. You must wait for it to be revealed.

God has many mansions, one of them has a mail box with your name on it. 

So rest assured that Jesus knows the way home,

and he holds your hands.

There is a sign post up ahead. Your next stop the kingdom of God.

Before we close this service, we’re going to pray for your concerns, join in praise for your joys, and sing a song of invitation. 

During that song, if you feel the spirit whispering that NOW is the time for YOU to accept Jesus as your guide through life, maybe for the first time or perhaps to rededicate your life, to get back on that path toward home, please come forward during the singing of the last verse.

If you are already a child of God and would like to make Cross Tracks your Church home come forward then also. Or if you just need someone to pray with you, I’ll be glad to do that also.

Here ends the lesson.

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