Steadfast Faith!

Steadfast Faith!

Isaiah 61:10–62:3
Psalm 148 
Galatians 4:4-7 
Luke 2:22-40 

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. Luke 2:30–32

Holy and eternal God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us to learn from the simple trust of children; give us pure hearts and steadfast faith to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’ Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon 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.’ And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Today is the first Sunday after Christmas. As we move quickly towards the New Year, our gospel from Luke tells us about Jesus being presented at the temple to Simeon and Anna. If you ever needed a good story about, “Good things come to those who wait”? Then, the story of Simeon, Anna and the baby Jesus is a good example and it will also make you and I consider where we want to be as we enter the new year.

Simeon and Anna waited for years for the coming of the Messiah. The centre of Simeon’s joy was the privilege of being God’s servant, and in return, God let him see the salvation of the world as it dawned. Simeon saw the baby Jesus as the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people. In the Old Testament, God promised Moses that a prophet would come who would be unlike any other prophet. God promised David a son who would reign forever. God told Isaiah that a son would be born of a virgin and he would be called Emmanuel-God with us. The Prophet Micah predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Anna was an eighty-year-old widow who stayed close to the temple and served God through fasting and praying. In return, God blessed her by allowing her to see the Saviour of the world as a newborn baby. God fulfilled the promise made to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. When God fulfilled that promise, Simeon uttered the words that are part of the funeral liturgy in the Anglican Church: the ‘Song of Simeon’, also known as the Nunc Dimittis-“O Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which hath been since the world began”.

Simeon and Anna have always been symbolic but also excellent examples for us to follow. The world has never been without people like them, people with a future vision that burned with great hope, with freedom in their souls and the light of knowledge in their eyes. Living in hope and expectation that a great day was coming when everything would be corrected, when justice would be done, when God would bring salvation to humanity. I was fortunate enough to grow up among my elders who held the same faith as Simeon and Anna. There are examples, past and present, in our church who carry the same burning faith today! Two nights ago or one night over two thousand years ago, the Word became flesh in a baby born in Bethlehem. One day, it will become flesh again when Christ returns to set up his kingdom here on earth.

Simeon also told Mary of the suffering and death Jesus would have to endure for all of his people. Most people thought of the redemption of Jerusalem and God’s people in terms of freedom from Roman rule, but some had a vision of an even greater redemption. A vision of spiritual renewal. God’s salvation is for all of us, but not all of us will accept it, just like some people did not accept Christ and his teachings and salvation. God’s salvation doesn’t mean that we will never suffer troubles, illness, rejection or death. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Mary. It will happen to us, but if we endure hardships with faith, we will have an awesome future. It takes faith to know a blessing from God. It is the joy of celebrating God’s goodness in the midst of our chaotic lives and our suffering world.

As life passes us by, how do we grow old in such a way to end well and finish awaiting Christ’s message, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? You see, we are never too old, weak or sick to make a difference. Our attitude and behaviour will always make a difference. God will guide us to share the story of Jesus with everyone we meet. We have also been told of the coming Christ. Like Simeon and Anna, we are heirs of a promise. We are prompted by the same Spirit. In other words, we long to see the same face. To do so successfully, we must wait patiently and vigilantly. When we look at Jesus’ face, we will know that it is time for us to repent and come home to God, just like Simeon knew it was time for him to go to his heavenly home when he saw the face of the baby Jesus.

We have just come through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, and during those seasons we, like Simeon and Anna, had to wait and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. God works in a time zone where a day is as a thousand years. For those who have walked the long road of faith and felt all of it’s pain and suffering but also found it comforting and peaceful, for all those who have waited on the Lord while holding on for their lives, they have received the reward of joy.

When our dreams don’t come true in a day, we, like Simeon and Anna, need to keep in mind that God is still at work. God is still preparing the gift to fit our needs. We need to pray, not just for the gift, but also for patience to wait for God’s unveiling. As we practice our faith, hope, commitment and patience, we see the Christ child. We see the love of God.  Like Simeon, our eyes have seen God’s salvation. Having been saved, we glorify God and depart in peace to share Christ’s salvation throughout the world. Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu
Photo: 2019 First Sunday after Christmas Day