Sermon: Expecting Change. Scripture: Luke 2:22-40 Preacher: Rev. Michael Bodger Location: First Presbyterian Church, DeLand Date: December 31, 2017 Christ has come, born into the world and the world has entered into a new time. Just as society is about to enter into a new year! Just as we as a church are about to enter into a new phase of ministry. What will it all bring? What hopes, desires, aspirations, fears, concerns do we bring with us as the world celebrates entering into 2018. Do we need to make changes, to make new year resolutions, do things that we put off from last year – continue on from where we are? The world would make the turning of the yearly calendar into a jumping off point for change. Suggestions abound about doing a self audit, set goals, set targets, all because the year is about to become new. We are on the threshold of 2018, what will it bring? The reality is, that the calendar turning over into a new year is a false, invented, meaningless moment in time, other than the fact that the date changes, but then the date changes every day, just not the year. Researchers tell us that New Year resolutions ultimately fail. There is no substance to them, just a theme or idea picked out of nowhere, encouraged by a marketing campaign, shamed upon us by society. Yes they may align in some way with a concern we have or a direction we want to go in, but it is not a deep seated desire to bring about change. According to statistic brain.com In 2017, Some 41% of people made a new years resolution. That’s a pretty big number. Of them, only 9.2% claim they succeed (Forbes would claim it was only 8%). 48.4% say they have infrequent success. 42.4% say they never succeed and fail on their resolution. What do think the resolutions look like? Can you guess? Losing weight/healthy eating 21.4% Life/self improvements 12.3% Better financial decisions 8.3% Quit smoking 7.5% It’s change that may well be needed, but it is change that is not sustained. Our text today takes us to Luke’s Gospel and to the time just after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph take him to the temple. They do so, because it is what is expected of them. Yet by doing so, they allow for the notice to be made, that NOW is a time of change for all. Change has entered into the world and as amazing as that entrance was, it is but a foreshadowing of what is to come. Our text today is only to be found in Luke’s Gospel and it brings to an end Luke’s birth narrative. As it brings that to an end, it opens up everything else. A time for expecting change has indeed begun. So lets open our bibles today to Luke’s Gospel 2:22-40, and listen to what the Spirit is telling the church today. Read Luke 2:22-40 Did you catch all the references anchoring what is going on from the perspective of Jewish tradition? It’s the starting point, the people of Israel are the foundation and they are also the launching point for what is to come. We open with the obedience of Mary and Joseph to the requirements of the law. The law of Moses, the law of the Lord. Reference to the law is made some 5 times in this passage. We find ourselves in the temple, mentioned twice, in Jerusalem, mentioned three times, Israel is mentioned three times, God’s promise of salvation, is mentioned three times. We also have the movement of the Holy Spirit clearly guiding Simeon, as well as the opening up of God’s plan to the Gentile’s. It’s all here together, the old and the new. The foundation in place is necessary for what happens next. Mary and Joseph, what a journey they have been on. From Nazareth to Bethlehem and now Jerusalem. We are told in Matthew’s Gospel, Mary’s husband Joseph, being a righteous man. Joseph was righteous and so it is no surprise then that Mary and Joseph make their way to the temple in Jerusalem in obedience to the law. Doing what was expected of them, despite the arduous journey that they have been on, keeping the faith. It is here in Jerusalem at the temple that the unveiling of what this all means continues to unfold. The first thing that happens is that Mary and Joseph encounter Simeon. A righteous and devout man, who we are told was looking forward to the consolation of Israel. The word consolation conveys the messianic salvation that was hoped for, the comforting of Israel that was long awaited. Simeon too has been waiting a long time and not only that, we are also told that the Holy Spirit rested upon him. Simeon is not just some happenstance person. Yet he is also not a person of authority, as the world knows authority. He held no rank, no position, but he was righteous and devout, a man of God and it was Simeon who was informed that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah, God’s promise unfolding. After all the time that has passed for the people of Israel, waiting and wondering when the Messiah would come, Simeon knew that before he died the Messiah would be revealed to him. The waiting would be over in his lifetime. Can you imagine then, on this particular day, when the Spirit guided Simeon to go into the temple, just what he might have been thinking? Is it today, will I see the Messiah today? Will my purpose be fulfilled? It is no different for us, each and every time we come into this body of Christ, here at First Deland – we too are drawn by the Holy Spirit. Drawn for a purpose which might elude us initially, but we are to strive to understand just what that purpose is – for the body has many parts and we are each a part of the body and we are drawn here for a purpose. J B Phillips, biblical scholar and translator said, ‘Every time we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.’ Amen So if we are drawn by the Holy Spirit, as a community, as individuals, what are we here for? Simeon, wondering why the Spirit had moved him to be there this particular day, wondered no longer once Mary and Joseph entered with Jesus. Can you imagine the shock on Mary and Joseph’s face! They walk into the temple and immediately this person who they did not know, takes Jesus up in his arms and praises God. There was no lament on Simeon’s behalf, no, Oh this means I am about to die, instead he lives into the truth of what he has been told and praises God. “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.” Simeon may have had his expectation of what the Messiah would look like or be, but none of that mattered, because he knew instantly that Jesus was the Messiah. This babe in arms was/is the salvation, the means by which God was stepping into the world, and that’s all that mattered. God was at work and Simeon was the one to identify who it would be through. One prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light to disclose the truth to the Gentiles had come into the world – “here he is” said Simeon. Change is coming, live expecting change for the Messiah has come. Yet, notice Simeon’s conversation is with God and Joseph and Mary alone. He goes on to say to Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” In his commentary on this text, James Howell states, Just a child—but hardly safe and harmless. “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many.” This child provokes a crisis, a decision, for Simeon, for Anna, for all people of every generation. How we respond to this one person decides everything. The stakes are not trivial. It is not that, if we go with Jesus, our lives are 17 percent better, our happiness 14 percent higher, our marriages 16 percent healthier. It’s all or nothing. You fall. Or you rise. Notice the order. In the world, it’s rise and fall. The rise and fall of the Third Reich, the rise and fall of the business tycoon, the rise and fall of a movie star. But with Jesus it’s fall and rise. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Anna fasts “night and day,” not “day and night.” Jesus did not fly directly up into heaven once danger flared. He suffered and died, and then was raised to glory. Our text tells us, This child, Jesus, brought here today by Mary and Joseph, This child Simeon recognizes is the Messiah – the order of the world is about to be turned upside down, and so now is the time for expecting change. But who else knows? 36There 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 seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. How long had this lady been residing at the temple? Even if she got married as late as her mid twenties, it meant she would have been there at the temple for 50 years or more. Devoting her life to fasting and prayer night and day and today was the culmination of it all. Simeon was there to establish the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, Anna was there to proclaim it to all who would listen. They both had different roles to play that day, like each of us have different roles to play here in his body of Christ. 38At that moment she, Anna came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The redemption of Jerusalem. The delivering of Jerusalem from being under the penalty of sin, to freedom in the Messiah. Listen everyone, cried Anna, have I got news for you. We are not told if anyone listened, if anyone even cared. As readers, we are simply left anticipating what was to come, because it was coming. The world was prepped to be expecting change. This child was here, so listen up. 39When 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 favor of God was upon him. As much as we like to live life with everything orderly and in place, secure in the knowledge of what is to come, we are also to live life expecting change, for change will happen. Do we expect it or not? Can we adapt or not? Do we grow stronger as a result? Building on the foundation of what has been put in place, do we become more like we ought to be in Christ? Poet and activist, Maya Angelou reflects, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Expecting change helps us in the process of accepting it and becoming more like the butterfly we are intended to be, both individually and together as a community. Those who thought they understood what it meant for the Messiah to come felt secure in the knowledge that they had. Simeon and Anna had a different story to tell, one that embodied expecting change. Like Simeon and Anna, we all have roles to play and they are different and yet at one and the same time they are the same. Different in that what we do or what we say can vary, our experiences make us different, as can the circumstances we find ourselves in, which are varied and applicable to where we are in life. Having embraced Christ, we find ourselves in our own Galilee, in our own town of Nazareth, here in Volusia, in Deland, at work, at play and we get on with life, yet we are drawn by the Spirit to First Deland. If we are drawn by the Holy Spirit, as a community, as individuals, what are we here for? All for the same roles, in different places. Wherever we are, we are like Simeon, to establish that the Messiah has come into our lives and made a difference. God knows that and we know that, but do others know that. We are the same in that we are not to keep that to ourselves, but like Anna we are to let all, let everyone know that God’s promises are true, for we do not know who might be searching, looking for the real meaning of life and we might open a door for the Holy Spirit by telling of the promises of God. We are not to pick and choose who that might be, but to let all know Christ has come, is in our lives, and as we do, we grow, we become strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God is upon us, and all of God’s people said, Amen. Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720 © 2017 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.  (https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/)  David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (2008-06-11). Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Locations 6000-6007). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.