Endings and Beginnings
Life is full of them – some are exciting, some are downright painful. Some bring much joy and some misery. Regardless, we often find ourselves somewhere in the cycle of it all. This is the last Sunday of 2020. What a year it has been. While difficult, it has also been a year filled with unexpected joys and triumphs. There are nuggets of goodness that have filled the pockets of despair. We were not without God at any point. We were never left alone in our sorrows, although sometimes it may have felt a lot like it. It is an ending to a year, but also the prospect of a new year, filled with possibilities and struggles of its own. It really is all about how we choose to look at it.
We are in the middle of Christmas. I do understand many have begun to take down the Christmas trees and are moving on past the holiday. But Christmas actually begins on December 25th and so we find ourselves in the middle of it all, at least in the church year. It is not over yet. Yes, Jesus is born. Yes, Jesus came for redemption and salvation. But he also came as a baby. He came as a helpless child born to loving parents who would do their best to protect and love their first born child. This was a whole new beginning for them – one that would take them running for the life of their child and ultimately with Mary sitting at the feet of her boy as he dies. It is the beginning, not the ending for Mary and Joseph. It is the ending for Anna and Simeon – but in a good way.
2:22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),
2:24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.
2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
2:27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,
2:28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
2:29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
2:30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
2:31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
2:32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
2:33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
2:34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed
2:35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
2:36 There 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,
2:37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.
2:38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
2:39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
2:40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
It was the beginning for Mary and Joseph, indeed. But for Anna and Simeon, this is what they had waited their whole lives to see. For Simeon to put his arms and bless the Messiah was the ultimate gift. He had been promised this time. He had been given direction this day would come. They spoke prophesy. Their hearts were filled with joy and hope. They had seen all they had come to see and their time was complete. It was the ending, but oh what a beautiful ending it was for Anna and Simeon. They had been able to experience this incredible gift. They would likely not see him grow. They probably wouldn’t hear him teach or even watch him as he learned a trade. They were given a glimpse in time – a nugget of excitement. They were fulfilled.
Endings always seem difficult. We don’t want them to happen sometimes. We want to hold on to all that is familiar and constant. We know what we know and want to keep that close. But if we do not let go, we often do not realize all that is ahead. We don’t get to experience the joys of all that is to come when we hold tight to what is. Endings allow for new beginnings.
As you know, this is my last Sunday at Trinity. This is, in a sense, an ending. It is a new beginning for Trinity. There are new opportunities as you approach the year ahead. There are new people to serve and more people to love.
I would challenge you to find God in it all. God is with us. God has not left us. God is still at work, even (and most especially) in our trying times. God has amazing plans for his church when we obey and follow him.
Remember this…God’s table is big and it is long and there is a handcrafted magnificent chair at this table just for you. All we could ever need is provided, not because we have earned it and certainly not because we deserve it. God’s table is filled with those who have wandered, just like us. His table has places for those who we may have counted out and dismissed. There are people from different places who speak different languages at this table. There are those at the table we might not would invite to our own – but God invited them. There is room for strangers and friends, enemies and relatives, young and old. God’s table is big and long and is filled with his children. Anna and Simeon were able to experience the Salvation to come in a little baby. Mary and Joseph nurtured Redemption as he grew into a man. 12 disciples left everything to follow him on a journey they would not have chosen. And this One…this Jesus…who we celebrate today…is still calling. He slung open the doors wide to welcome in the stranger and expects us to do the same. He tore down the barriers of race and social status with a mighty blow and did not want us to build those back up – but to continue demolition. He came as a mighty unstoppable force of love. This is the love which carried him all the way to the cross – where he would die for you and for me. He did this so we could have a place at the table. So come join me, my friends – and bring many along with you. The table is big and it is long and I look forward to dining with you at God’s house.
Thank you for the privilege to serve with you over these past nearly 6 years. You welcomed me with a complete vote and you have allowed me to challenge you and push you beyond your boundaries. I know it has at times been uncomfortable. My prayer is that you continue to push those boundaries and live this way. Always ask why. Always want to dig deeper and hear the “yes, and” in it all. There is more to discover. It may take you to places you were not ready to go – but you also just might meet Jesus there.
From Numbers 6:
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.