Today’s Sermon – Preceded by the Gospel Reading
I’m not sure about anyone else here, but I feel like Christmas can be quite tiring. I can easily succumb to the temptation to say come Boxing Day – well that was a good Christmas…Let’s pack it all in till next year. That said, I choose not to do that. Catherinanne and I have always waited Advent 3 at least to put up a tree and we keep it up till Old Christmas Day – Epiphany – January 6. Truth be told, sometimes it is up even later… just depends how life happens. So I stand here today to remind us that Christmas is NOT over. Not yet for another 9 days. What is more critical to say, is that I believe the work of Christmas will not be over even on January 6th. The work of the incarnation is far from complete.
The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman (1926)
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
The work of Christmas has just begun —
In today’s scripture we hear the powerful story of Simeon and Anna and we hear about their willingness to listen well to the music of the heart. Simeon was overwhelmed by the encounter he had with the child Jesus. His powerful song is a reflection of the devotion, obedience and hard work that these servants had lived
Simeon and Anna were near the end of their earthy journeys. With that in mind they sang – Simeon sang of being able to depart in peace. Anna gave praise and become the first to tell others about Jesus… and according to this account – she told everyone she could find. Are you looking for redemption? Have I got a story to tell you! It’s good news about a child.
While Simeon seems to declare that meeting the child Jesus marks the end of the journey for him, Anna at the tender age of 84 sets out to evangelize. And yet, Simeon gets all the press. Perhaps it is connected to his beautiful song of praise, perhaps it was a function of the woman’s role being diminished – either way – we can look at the text today and see clearly that Anna was a great voice for redemption and freedom and was among the first to set out to tell others about Jesus. In saying that I am not trying to diminish Simeon’s role. Not at all! His song – known as the Nunc Dimittis – has been sung throughout the centuries – often the other bookend of evening prayer – the other of course being the Magnificat. These two longtime faithful servants are given hope in the child. Anna seems to be given renewal and Simeon also is renewed in a sense as well – the music of his heart declared as much. Their encounter with the Christ Child is the scriptural declaring that work of Christmas has begun. For Simeon that work spilled out as a song of peace and justice. For Anna the work began with her willingness to take her wearied, prayer soaked self into the world to tell others about a peace bringer, nation rebuilder, a feeder of the hungry, a release to the captives, a seeker of the lost.
Life could not have been long however for these two – and we know that many more took up the strain of doing the work of Christmas. One of the tremendous strengths of the People of God rests in the generational nature of the Body of Christ. Simeon and Anna may have been near the end of their sojourn, but there were others to take up the singing. To sing the songs of peace, justice, of healing, of feeding, of seeking!
Each week, before we leave here we remind ourselves that we are a part of a long lineage that moves from one generation to the next.
Glory to God,
Whose power working in us can do
infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation
in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever – Amen
There is much work to be done. The Christmas work has just begun. Make no mistake – I know it seems daunting.
The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart.
We look at the state of the world around us and are tempted to drop our shoulder…and exhale in defeat…a sentiment captured by Longfellow
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Last month people around the world celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And while the eruption of that monument took most of the world by surprise, it is important to remember that it had been preceded for several months by the peaceful protests of the citizens of Leipzig. Gathering on Monday evenings by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas – they would sing. And in over two months their numbers grew from fewer than a thousand voices to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world.
Like Simeon – Like Anna we need to make music in the heart and of the heart. Sometimes it’s only the song that will change the world. The gift God has given us this Christmas is an abiding presence with us. God now wills for the work to begin in earnest.
The Last verse of Longfellow’s great song Christmas Bells is a reminder of what Christmas really truly declares…
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
The work of Christmas begins…
Let’s get to work!