The Long Wait

By Barry Pollard

(Based on Luke 2:22-40)

The theme that sprung out in reading Luke’s account of the presentation of Jesus at the temple was “anticipation”.  Reading deeper and dwelling upon the narrative, I realised it was a little more than that – more like “patient waiting”.

Any child, and any of us young at heart, will be able to tell about anticipation. Growing up, the excitement  of Christmas began to build from the time we changed out of our winter school uniforms and we changed to our summer sports. That meant we were nearly finished with school and it would soon be Christmas. Holidays, swimming, roaming free, summer antics, then presents! This prolonged anticipation was a very pleasant and motivated state indeed. The build-up was relentless and the childhood excitement exponential!

Having just celebrated Christmas, we probably all remember, or experienced again, some of those childhood anticipatory elements. In a sense the season of Christmas has had its climax and we are sliding gently out the other end of it. That was how I was approaching this reflection until I started my research and in-depth reflective reading.

Jesus had been born in humble circumstances in Bethlehem. His parents, Mary and Joseph, took him to the temple on the eighth day to be circumcised, as was expected under Mosaic law, and was the custom. At this time he was named Jesus, the name given to Mary by the angel before she conceived.

Now, in keeping with other laws, the couple showed up at the temple to complete the purification rites expected forty days after the birth. The purification included the presentation of a boy child at the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. Sacrifice was required to accompany the dedication and, depending on wealth, a range of animals could be offered, from a one-year old lamb to turtle-doves and pigeons. Joseph and Mary offered a pair of birds, speaking to the humble life into which Jesus had been born.

And in the story of Luke’s Gospel today, this is where I got hooked. In the background, perhaps lurking, was an old man. He was a constant temple inhabitant, known for his righteousness and devotion, showing up daily to wait. For a very long time this man, Simeon, had been waiting to see the Messiah born. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would live until he had witnessed this event. So, day after day he watched and waited, looking upon each child presented at the temple with expectation and anticipation.

To get a sense of the level of anticipation I expect Simeon to have experienced, we may be helped by this: According to tradition in the Orthodox Churches, Simeon had been one of the seventy-two translators of the Greek Old Testament. At one point he hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 (“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”) and was going to alter it to “woman will conceive”. An angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke, and therefore miraculously long-lived.

The point of this is that Simeon was very old and had been waiting in anticipation for a very long time!

Consider this: Simeon had been promised that he would see the Messiah, the Christ, and that promise had been made many, many years before it was fulfilled. Simeon must have lived those days, years, decades perhaps even centuries with hope, trust, expectation, and anticipation. Every day for weeks, months, years, decades, yes even centuries, Simeon would have been left waiting and wondering. “Is this the day? Is this the day I will see salvation? Is this the day I will experience the fulfilment of the promise?”

I can’t see Simeon pondering the negative. I don’t think he doubted the angel’s revelation.

Simeon’s life was one of expectation, anticipation, and waiting. And most of us have had times in our lives characterised by expectation, anticipation, and waiting, in the same way. We’ve likely all stood in that place waiting for and needing something to happen, living in expectation and hope, anticipating the future, and wondering if today was the day.

Our stories may differ from Simeon’s at this point: It may have been that we, too, got up each morning but then had to decide whether we still believed in God’s future or whether we would give up.

We all know what it’s like to wait:  waiting for life to change, for the grief to go away, for a prayer to be answered, for joy to return, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for clarity about a decision, for meaning and purpose, for healing and new life. And this is what our family is waiting on today – our expected grandson is being induced tomorrow due to intrauterine health complications. We wait and hope for all sorts of things.

We have all sorts of hopes and expectations for what God is doing in our lives and our world. I think we are all here with some hope, some need, some expectation. We come trusting and anticipating the promise that God is present and working in our lives even if we can’t see or clearly understand what that might be. So we show up and we wait for the answers. Just like Simeon did.

For all those years Simeon continued to show up. He continued to be vigilant and attentive. He continued to trust the promise. He continued to wait with hope and expectation. He never despaired. He never walked away from the promise. I see the miracle for Simeon, and for us, is in the showing up.

Sometimes showing up is the most difficult work we do and it takes all we have to just show up. But it’s always the question before us. Will we continue to show up? Will we be awake and vigilant? Will we live with hope and trust? Showing up is the means through which God fulfils the promise to us and to Simeon.

Simeon thought he was waiting for the child to show up, but what if it was really the other way round, Jesus waiting for Simeon to show up? Simeon thought he was presenting the child to God, but what if it was really the child presenting the old man to God? Every day that Simeon showed up, the child Jesus was seeing and upholding Simeon.

So, it should be, perhaps, that no matter what, we continue to show up. This might let Jesus see us and uphold us!

Amen

Good News in a Messy World

by Sharon Marr

(Based on Luke 2:1-20)

A Christmas day reflection for the young and not so young.

This has been a very different, very messy and very hard year, Covid 19 sweeping through and changing our world, for adults and children alike.   So scary … we didn’t see it coming.   So many people throughout the world have died, so many families now without work.  All this frightens a lot of us doesn’t it?   Part of us takes comfort that we live in New Zealand, far away from trouble spots, but deep down we realize just how fragile this bubble we find ourselves in is. There is nowhere to hide from this deadly disease. The news seems all bad. But is it really?

Here we are today, in spite of all this turmoil; we pause, and come together, to celebrate Christmas? What draws us? Is it the Christmas tree with its blinking lights, or maybe it’s the beautiful music, or perhaps it’s Christmas dinner with all the yummy treats. Maybe it’s the parties or visiting with family and friends. For many people the best thing about Christmas is the presents — both the ones we give and the ones we receive.

You know, sometimes we get so drawn into all of the decorations, lights, parties, and presents that we might miss the real Christmas.

We can get so caught up thinking about ourselves we almost miss out on the most wonderful, precious, extravagant gift of love from God to us, his son Jesus.

In our Gospel reading today, remember, the angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people!  To you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord”.

And what a surprise to find that the Saviour of the world was a tiny baby, lying in a bed of straw!  A lot of folk then were expecting a warrior king, a superman, a super hero to save them from the Romans who had invaded their country and were making their lives hard and sad.  Just as the world today awaits for a vaccination to rid us of coronavirus.  But, no.  No superhero.  Instead, the good news was that God sent his son, the baby Jesus, for us all; that is, for all those people two thousand years ago, even the Romans, and everyone who has ever lived since, everyone alive now and even those yet to be born.  Jesus came to show us a way to live, the best way to live, loving God, loving everyone, loving ourselves.  Jesus came bringing love. Love that can conquer both tyranny and disease, when we demand justice and mercy for all.

It is that love that draws us here today, to offer our thanks and praise  and worship to God who loves us so much.  The shepherds’ lives were changed forever on that night.  And unless the Christmas story changes our lives too, we have missed its real meaning and purpose. 

So let us take the hope, the peace, the joy and the love, the gifts of God that fill our hearts this day, to our families, into our community, into this troubled, hurting, messy world, and be the good news to all. Just as the shepherds did 2000 years ago.   Amen.

Fiji Relief

We are accepting donations to assist the relief efforts in Fiji after the recent cyclone. With crops and trees destroyed there’s a long term food need as well as reconstruction of their housing. 

Please give generously, all donations will be sent on to the Anglican Missions Board who are already part of the relief work partnering with the Australian Anglican missions and Tearfund in Vanua Levu and Taveuni .

The best way to make your donation is by Internet banking into the St Francis account 

Tairua Anglican Church       03 1577 0435222 00 

Please put your name and/or your giving number, plus ‘Fiji’ in the Reference box. 

If cash is your best way, please include the same details on an envelope and bring to church or give to Albie Marr.

We give thanks for all who are working to restore the living conditions and bring hope to our sisters and brothers in the Pacific after this destructive weather event.

Christmas Diminished

Christmas spirit!

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … (Gal 4:4).

What can be the Christian stance on Christmas?

The mystery of Christmas and the dead centre focus of the Christmas celebration is that God became human.  Not just human, but a baby human.  God – creator of the universe (and by extension, bigger than the universe) – consented to becoming so small that he fit in a hay trough – a manger.  Let that sink in for a moment …

Not just fancy or fairy tale, this is spelled out in John 1 and explicated conceptually in multiple other Scriptural passages.  Eg, “For surely it is not angels [Jesus] helps, but [humans]. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that …” (Heb 2:16, 17)

“In order that …”  There isn’t space here to complete the purpose of why He came, a new-born, but it behoves us all to find out why.

But, grasp the weight of this, and compare it to our western Christmas counterfeit.  Rudolph, Frosty, tinsel and baubles, frenzied spending and eating, and an over-fed, Coca Cola-invented man (only in the 1930s) whose name is an anagram of Satan.  The contrast could not be starker.

Christmas spirit!

Actually, I could embrace most of that if Christ was accommodated at the centre of the Mass.  The celebrations would be worth it, and far more.  But our culture has gutted the feast.  It’s become an illusion, designed, I say, designed, to deceive people who need to per-ceive.  Is it possible to over-state this?  Driven by shameless marketing and media, we strive to capture “the season” with cards and sleigh bells and Santa hats and boxes of liquor.  What can we do?

I say, find small and simple ways both to avoid the offal, and spread the spirit.  Try to find creative ways to share the true love and the peace-and-goodwill, whilst side-stepping the media version of Christmas spirit. 

Bruce is visiting the pub to share on Christmas Eve.  I’m baking today, something to share around the neighbourhood.

Ken F