First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ December 31 2023)
Sermon Title – Destiny
1st Sunday After Christmas
Elder Russell Long
Christmas 2023 is quickly fading. The radio stations, which have been playing Christmas music since early November, have switched to their normal fare. The paper for all of those brightly wrapped gifts has found its way into the trash. Batteries have been installed in those items labeled, “batteries not included,” and most of the items marked “some assembly required,” have been assembled. Our attention has turned to New Years celebrations and thoughts about what the New Year might hold.
Mary and Joseph were faced with a similar situation. The shepherds had to get back to their flocks. The angels had other angelic duties to carry out. Like most spiritual experiences, the warm glow of that magnificent night when Jesus was born was cooling. There were religious rituals to be observed, and the long trip back to Nazareth.
We see Mary and Joseph as they begin their journey. In this story, we see how they lived in the reality that the Word had been made flesh and dwelt among them, and a Savior had been born. They demonstrate to us how to live so that the truth of Christmas becomes more than a dim memory in the days and months ahead of us.
THE CENTRAL MESSAGE
I want to give you a little background or context. The passage takes place on the Temple grounds about 40 days after Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary have gone to the Temple for a couple of reasons. First, it was customary for a family to dedicate their first born son to God’s service and then redeem him back with an offering of five shekels or a couple of pigeons. This buy back was designed to remind the Jewish people of their redemption from slavery to Egypt. The second reason they came to the Temple was so that Mary could make the required offering for her purification which took place 40 days after child birth.
Mary and Joseph go to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the laws requirements of offering a sacrifice for their first born. Luke notes that they offered the least expensive offering possible—not because they were cheap, but because they were poor. Luke wanted to emphasize the humble beginnings of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Also remember they have been here for more than 40 days, which meant joseph was away from his work and income. Also they had to pay for food and lodging for this period.
While in the temple, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, encounter two prophets: Simeon and Anna. Both are old. Simeon was at the age when death could be expected and Anna was eighty-four years old. They had been waiting for the Messiah and the redemption of Israel all of their lives—a long time.
Simeon was also looking for something significant to happen during his lifetime. Simeon, like many other Jews was looking for the Messiah. Every time the Jewish nation was under the domination of a foreign power the people looked for the Messiah to come. The Jews had been looking for their Messiah for centuries. Now, under Roman rule the Jews looked for a bright, handsome, courageous, and godly man to lead them back to God and God’s favor. The Jews were looking for someone who could make Israel into a godly powerhouse like it used to be when David was king. Simeon was looking for one who would rebuild and restore Israel to its rightful place among the nations. Simeon, a Jew, was looking for the one who would transform his life, the life of a nation, and the nations of the world. Simeon wanted to see Israel’s messiah.
The Holy Spirit, through Luke, wants to highlight several truths to the readers of this gospel.
1. Jesus was in God’s plan. Jesus’ birth had been prophesized hundreds of years before the actual event. The sovereign Lord was moving to carry out his will.
2. God is faithful and keeps his promises. God is to be trusted.
Bottom of Form
3. Many times God’s promises are a long time in coming and it is necessary for God’s people to wait for God to fulfill his promises. This was especially important for the people to whom Luke was writing his gospel. His readers were experiencing persecution at the hands of the Romans. They were also trying to understand why Jesus didn’t return shortly after his death, as some of his words seem to indicate he would.
Also notice verse 32- a Light to the gentiles. Luke wanted his gentile audience to know that Christ had come to save all would believe.
RAISED IN THE FAITH
Many people assume that Jesus had all of his wisdom, understanding and knowledge from his birth. Jesus was an “old soul” in a sense, spiritually and mentally mature, waiting for his body to catch up so that he could carry out his mission. Though this may be a common belief, it is not supported by Scripture.
Joseph and Mary had been brought up to observe the Jewish faith and to live by its commandments and carry out its rituals. They were intent on following what they had been taught as they began life as a couple. As people of faith Joseph and Mary wanted to bring up Jesus in the faith.
The work of his human teachers, combined with the movement of the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus for his demanding ministry and enabled him to be the teacher and prophet that he was.
Joseph and Mary show us how important it is for children to be raised in the church. It is important that they learn, attend worship, and serve in age appropriate ways. One of the primary calling of all adults is to share their faith with the children and nurture the faith of the children.
ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE COMMUNITY
The angels’ message was short lived. The events of that first Christmas Day would be cherished by Mary for her life. When a person journeys in the valley, though, mountain top experiences quickly lose their power. Faith and commitment must be encouraged in other ways.
Simeon and Anna served as encouragers to Joseph and Mary. Their path was not easy. They had already suffered and endured a lot in order to follow God’s calling. The road ahead of them did not look that easy. They needed the support and encouragement of others to carry out their mission.
Mary and Joseph’s need is reflective of our own. It is hard to be a Christian. Certainly we need the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but we also need the fellowship, support and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In order to keep the light of Christmas burning bright in our lives and in the lives of our children, it is vital that we live out our faith in the fellowship of other Christians, who will love us, support us, and encourage us.
In order to carry out mission and ministry that we have been called to, it is also necessary for us to live out our faith in the fellowship of other Christians, who we love us, support us, and encourage us.
We do this as we wait patiently for the coming of the Lord.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.