Christmas 1 B 2020
This past week, like many of you, Phyllis, Bob, and I wanted to observe the Christmas Star that we were told would be the greatest “Great Conjunction” the world has seen in nearly 800 years. So, we climbed into my pickup and drove out past the airport so we could get a good look at the horizon without the lights of the city disrupting our view.
Unfortunately, the sky was cloudy, and we were a bit concerned about our chances of observing the Christmas Star. Even so, as the sun went down, we kept our eyes focused on the southwest horizon and waited for the star to appear.
As the sun disappeared in the west, a dim light began to appear in the southwest, half hidden behind the clouds. Phyllis, Bob, and I all agreed that the light must be the Christmas Star because it was the only light in the night sky besides the moon which was fading in and out due to the clouds in the night sky.
As the sky became darker, the light from the only star visible in the sky became brighter, and it appeared to move slightly higher in the sky.
I assumed the star was rising because of the rotation of the earth. Even so, as the star rose ever so slightly, the light became brighter and brighter. And we all became excited because what we were seeing was a once in a life-time event.
As the star became brighter, the star appeared to be moving faster, and we marveled at the wonder of it all. But then, something did not seem right. The light looked like it was getting closer to us. And the light appeared to be blinking also.
This is strange, we all thought. What kind of star would do this? Well, it did not take long to discover why “the star” looked so strange. As the light came closer and closer, we discovered that the light was not a star at all, but a small plane traveling straight at us at a low rate of speed.
We did not get to observe the Christmas star that night. I guess we will need to remove “observing the Christmas Star” from our bucket list.
The days that follow Christmas Day and lead up to New Year’s Day are a time of the year when many of us make a list of things to do in the upcoming year, and this year I have heard people describe what they would like to include in their “bucket list.”
And why not? With all the doom and gloom associated with the corona virus, it is no wonder that people are putting together a bucket list of things that they would like to do before they “kick the bucket.”
Yes, I know that this is a rather crude way of looking at our eventual demise, but it does call us to focus on living and not on dying. With all the social distancing and cancelled events this year, it is a good thing to have something in our bucket list for which we look forward.
As I read the Gospel text for today, Simeon, too, had a bucket list. And I think you would agree with me when I say that it was a very unusual bucket list. Scripture informs us that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that He would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Just as Phyllis, Bob, and I eagerly looked up in the night sky to catch a glimpse of the “Christmas Star,” Simeon eagerly awaited the day when he would meet the Christ Child. I can picture in my mind Simeon waiting and watching each day as parents brought their children to the Temple for the Rites of Purification, hoping that maybe that would be the day when he would see the Lord.
And then one day, the day arrived. When Mary and Joseph set foot in the Temple, Simeon knew that this child was the One child that would fulfill his bucket list.
Overcome with joy and thanksgiving, Simeon took the child 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.” Luke 2:29-32
Simeon had seen the Lord’s Salvation and now his life was full. Unfortunately, Simeon’s encounter with the Messiah has been trivialized over the centuries. And the text has become the “I will die Happy if such and such happens”.
One hears this philosophy when someone states “I will die happy if I get that job.” Or “I will die happy if she will marry me.”
There have even been books written about this very subject. One book is entitled “Die happy: 499 Things A Guy Gotta Do While He Still Can.” As the book explains “Face it. There are some things in life that come with an expiration date.”
But the text today is not just about peace in dying. And meeting Jesus is not just another thing to check off the bucket list. The text today is about living in the promises of God fulfilled in Christ and what He has done for us on the cross.
And being “dismissed” is not just a synonym for death. It means we have been released from all that separates us from God. God has kept His promise. Sin does not have the last word. And now, having seen the salvation of God, we have a peace within us that frees us from all the powers that threaten to devour our spirits.
My friends, peace does not come when we have our dreams fulfilled.
And thankfully, God’s grace is not given to us when we check off all the items on our bucket list. No… Peace comes to us when we see God’s promises lived out before our eyes.
And how is this possible? We see God’s promises when we hear God’s Word and receive the Sacraments. We witness God’s promises when we hear God’s promise of forgiveness and His Words to “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.”
Yes. The Lord is with us. We do not live our lives without hope. Because of what Christ has done for us, the favor of the Lord is upon us. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, you have made yourself known in your Son, Jesus, Redeemer of the world. We pray that His birth as a human child will set us free from the old slavery of our sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.