“A Light for Reveletion to the World”

Rev. Emily Wilmesherr

Sharing Christ’s Love Worship Series

Decatur Presbyerian Church

December 31, 2023

Luke 2: 22-240

 

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 2 verses 22-40

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 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn
male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 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.”

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. 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. 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, 28 Simeon took him
in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word, 30 for my
eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32
a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 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 35 so that the inner thoughts of
many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

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, 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. 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.

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the
favor of God was upon him.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

*****

The story of Anna and Simeon is only found in the gospel of Luke giving us a glimpse of Jesus’ childhood. There are so few stories about Jesus’ young life that when we come to one, it should signal us to pay attention. We see through Anna and Simeon’s stories the value of showing up, expectant of what God is doing, showing up for one another and we see the importance of an intergenerational web of support.

Jesus is given two young earthly parents to provide and care for him. Mary and Joseph didn’t have a lot of money, were not yet married, and knew very little about how they were going to raise the Son of God, however, they trusted God and remained faithful. They continued to participate in the Jewish rituals and through the act of showing up, began to realize the web of support for their young child and for themselves.

Simeon was an older man of great faith in Jerusalem. He was promised long ago that he would
not die without seeing the Messiah. He was led by the Holy Spirit to show up at the temple the
day Mary and Joseph brought Jesus. He had been waiting years to see God’s promise fulfilled
and he never stopped seeking. As Mary and Joseph entered, Simeon reached out and took
Jesus in his arms and gave thanks to God for keeping his promise. He tells the young parents
that Jesus would be the salvation and light of the world.

The last person we meet is Anna and don’t know a lot about her. We do know that she is the only named female prophet in the New Testament, she has had many years of life, is a widow, and that she spends most of her life in the temple praying to and worshiping God. She lost her husband after only 7 years of marriage and instead of becoming bitter, spent her life showing up to worship God. She, like Simeon, has been waiting years for the redemption of Israel and goes out to tell anyone who will listen what God has and is doing through the birth of this little baby. I love how we see a multitude of ages of people who became a part of Jesus’ early life. This is one of the unique gifts that the church offers, intergenerational community. A community made up of little ones opening their eyes for the first time, young ones filled with curiosity, teenagers exploring their impact on the world, and older ones who have had a multitude of life experiences.

Our society and even the church at times, tends to separate people by ages. There are times
due to human development that age specific programs and events are necessary. However, we
are called to show up in our community of faith as one body. To worship, serve, and learn
alongside and from each other, at every age. This kind of community is not easy to create but is
necessary. And the benefits far outweigh the challenges when it comes to intentionally creating
opportunities for children, youth, and adults to be in relationship with one another.

Research has shown that when people are engaged in intergenerational relationships, it boosts their self esteem, builds a stronger community, provides opportunities for both people to learn new skills, and keeps stories and history alive. Being in relationships with people of multiple generations is such a gift. There are places all over the country where nursing homes and daycare centers have been built next to one another and develop a relationship. Teachers take children over to the nursing homes to play games with the residents, residents read the children stories, and friendships are formed. Children and adults benefit greatly from simply showing up. Growing up, I was blessed to have a wide web of intergenerational support. My maternal grandmother encouraged me to connect with others of her generation through attending Presbyterian Women’s circle meetings with her starting when I was 3 years old. There I interacted with many women of all ages. They welcomed me to the meetings and engaged me in conversations. From a young age I learned the value and gift of intergenerational relationships.

One of the special relationships for me was with Bob and Lois. They were the age of my grandparents and while I had known them a long time, our relationship really deepened in my college years. Bob was one of my education teachers in my first semester of college. I was terrified of this stage of life and while I was in pursuit of my dream to become a teacher, I was unsure of whether I was going to be good enough. Bob had been an educator for decades and was in his last year as a college professor before retirement. He could have thrown in the towel and just made it through, instead he showed up for each class and for each student.

He followed my educational journey closely beyond his introduction class, checking in with me
every Sunday to see how classes and internships were going and he made sure I knew that if I
ever needed anything he was there. He continued to send me cards and check in on my journey
through my parents when I moved to Georgia. I was a little worried to tell him that I was feeling
a call towards the church rather than the classroom. He had invested so much time and energy
in helping me pursue classroom teaching. But his first response was a huge smile and the words, “I knew it! I’m glad you know now too.” Apparently he had seen my call to ministry for quite some time, this came at no surprise to him. As he aged, coming to worship became harder and harder, but anytime I came back to teach or preach, he was there, supporting me simply by showing up.

We need people like Bob, Simeon, and Anna in our lives. People who are so connected with God that they help others around them recognize what God is doing. People who will tell you the truth, embrace you, and show up for you. Likewise we need to be these people for others. When we show up with and for one another, we feel just a little less alone. We are reminded of the support God has given us and we share that support with others who need it. Anna and Simeon were not going to get to see Jesus grow in his ministry to which he was called, but that did not keep them from showing up to worship and pray each day. It took years for the promise from God to be fulfilled and they kept showing up. When the moment finally arrived they were not passive participants. Simeon embraced Jesus and his parents, speaking truth and love to them. And Anna took what she had experienced and told others. She shared her encounter with the Holy One because that is something to be shared. We might not get to see the investments in relationships we make fully bloom, but that should not keep us from working towards a beloved intergenerational community.

You are a compassionate and generous congregation, who knows how to show up for each other. You show up in worship and faith formation opportunities. You show up for visits with those who are homebound, sick and grieving. You welcome people into the church for worship and fellowship. You sit with others at the dinner table and share stories. You invite others into this special community by showing up on the church lawn to serve hot chocolate, eat tacos, and pet animals at the live nativity. In 2024, how might you expand your relationships with those in other generations? How can you show up for one another? How can you learn from each other? How might you live with anticipation and hope of Christ’s movement here and now?

One small way to do this is by getting to know the names of 3 people in the church who are of a different generation. Spend 2024, investing in these relationships. See what the Spirit can and will do not just in those relationships but for the larger community. As Michelle Obama writes in her book “The Light we Carry” just like one candle feeds another so too can an engaged community ignite another.

May we all show up to grow in our own faith in 2024 and be fed by the Light of the World. Then share that light with all around us, igniting love and light in our wider community.

Amen.

Rev. Emily Wilmesherr

December 31, 2023

Decatur, Georgia