Long Awaited GiftPosted: December 28, 2014
Long Awaited Gift
SLIDE 3: SOME THINGS I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO SEE
There are some things I will not live long enough to see – the Cubs winning the World Series, Rush Limbaugh acknowledging the reality of climate change, World Peace. I have reconciled myself to the idea that some things just won’t happen before I die. Some long awaited gifts will just have to wait a little while longer.
SLIDE 4: HOW MANY CHRISTMASES?
I am entering a stage of life, when I wonder, how many more Christmases will I celebrate? Thirty years ago, that would have seemed a morbid thought, today it just seems realistic. Especially this year, since I cannot get on the ladder to bring down the Christmas Tree – never an easy task but impossible this year.
SLIDE 5: LUKE FROM NAZARETH TO BETHLEHEM
Our scripture this morning emphasizes the theme of long awaited gifts. According to Luke, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. They made the journey to Bethlehem to satisfy a census, though this story was almost certainly a fiction to explain why Jesus of Nazareth was born in the City of David. According to Luke after the baby was born his parents stopped in Jerusalem to dedicate him in the Temple before returning to Nazareth. Luke emphasizes the poverty of Joseph and Mary by having them offer two turtle doves instead of a lamb as the offering of redemption on behalf of the child.
SLIDE 6: MATTHEW FLEE TO EGYPT
Matthew’s story makes different assumptions. Mary and Joseph were living in Bethlehem, they fled to Egypt because Herod the King wanted to destroy the child. Then when they returned to Israel they settled in Nazareth, because the unstable son of Herod, Archelaus, was ruling Judea. Both gospel writers provide fictions so the birth of Jesus corresponds with Old Testament prophecy.
SLIDE 7: PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE
Luke’s story successfully captured the long held First Century Jewish expectation of the coming of a Messiah. Upon entering the Temple the Holy family was greeted by two legendary figures Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, a widow who lived in the Temple. She slept under the shelter of Solomon’s Portico, and people brought her bread to eat and asked her to pray for them. She was widely believed to be a prophetess. The other character was Simeon, a man so old, that rumor had it he was not supposed to die until the Messiah appeared in Israel. According to Luke when Simeon beheld the Christ Child he was moved to say, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; I have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, (an important theme in the Prophet Isaiah) and for glory to your people Israel.”
SLIDE 8: LIVE LONG ENOUGH FOR A SPECIAL EVENT
The truth of our scripture this morning is that people often want to live long enough to see something before they die, and sometimes people do hang on long enough for an event to occur before they finally offer up their lives. Maybe it is a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation, the birth of a grandchild or great-grandchild. Sometimes people wait for someone to come home in order to die. Sometimes people want to be alone and wait for everyone to go to dinner or some other errand before they die.
SLIDE 9: INCREDIBLE TECHNILOGICAL CHANGE
When I was pastoring in Monee, I buried a number of elderly people who had been born into a world without automobiles, airplanes, telephones, electric lights or indoor plumbing. Many of them lived to see all of those modern inventions as well as landing people on the moon. Since then personal computers have become common place. Our cell phones are more technologically sophisticated than the computers that guided the lunar landers to a soft landing on the moon.
So the question I ask myself this morning and invite you to consider is there something you would like to see before you die? Is there some event, or invention, or person so you could finally say, “ah now I can depart in peace?”
If you are waiting to be able to witness technological innovations, you might be interested in some of these newest inventions.
SLIDE 10: STROLLER SCOOTER
SLIDE 11: FULL BODY UMBRELLA
Or you probably didn’t know the full body umbrella has been introduced. No need to get wet, and if you can combine the full body umbrella with the stroller scooter you can remain dry will walking your child.
SLIDE 12: PIZZA SCISSORS
And this next one I’m sure you wish I had used in a sermon before Christmas, because surely you know someone who needs a pair of pizza scissors. Perfect slices of pizza for the person on your shopping list who has everything. Well, maybe next year.
SLIDE 13: DOG UMBRELLA
Or maybe you didn’t know about the dog umbrella. No need for our pampered pets to get wet, when we take them for a walk. Now if they can just combine this with the full body umbrella I can walk Banner and Scout in the rain without anyone getting wet.
SLIDE 14: NIGHT-LITE SLIPPERS
And finally, a special invention for those of us who have trouble finding our way in the dark, night-lite slippers. Ah now surely I can depart in peace. I would like to be around to witness further human exploration of the solar system. But I don’t think technology or inventions is what is keeping me here.
SLIDE 15: SOCIAL PROGRESS
Sometimes social progress seems agonizingly slow, but our world is very different than fifty years ago. If I can survive another twenty years, I suspect the world may change as much in the next twenty years as it did in the previous 50 years. Prejudices may linger for a time, but much of it may begin to melt away. Also, I imagine the church will be profoundly different in another twenty years, and some days I don’t have a clue what that will look like.
SLIDE 16: WONDER ABOUT MY CHILDREN
As I look forward, like many other parents, I also wonder what the future will hold for my children and grandchildren. I guess in a way these are selfish thoughts, but still natural. Realistically most of what will happen is absolutely out of my control, but still I wonder. Will their careers work out? Will they find suitable life partners? Will they have children? I remember one of my father’s regrets was that Elizabeth was too young to get to know him. He would have liked to have had more time to have some impact on her life. Since I do not want to outlive any of my children, grieving for parents and potentially a spouse for me is enough, at some point I will need to be able to say, O.K. they have made it this far, my family members will have to make it the rest of the way without me. Lord let thy servant depart in peace.
SLIDE 17: A LEGACY
Sometimes as I gaze into the future I wonder if anything I have done will have any lasting impact – a legacy. But legacies can usually only be seen in hindsight, and in all humility perhaps we should hope that whatever impact we have made doesn’t have our name written all over it. In the end it is the work that is important not us.
SLIDE 18: AURA OF GOODNESS
This fall as I was researching Great Uncle Julian G. Bruce I learned that he left behind an aura of goodness in the community he served for almost 50 years. Someday people may completely forget why that State Park is named the Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park, but somehow I believe that aura of goodness will go on. Maybe that is the best any of us can hope for.
SLIDE 19: LIVE BY FAITH
No matter how long we live in the end we have to live by faith understanding that we are not in control, and the universe is in God’s hands. We have to trust that no matter what the future may bring God is still present in the creation. The Messiah has come and gone, and God still waits for us. God waits for us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirst, to set at liberty all those who are oppressed, to work toward preserving a livable environment for ourselves and our posterity. To work and pray for that day when Shalom the peace of God will reign in all our hearts.
I not only believe that God waits for us collectively, God waits for each one of us individually to do our best to bring forth the purpose within us. And when we lay this life down God waits for us to come home. So no matter when we die, we will be able to say with trust and faith, Lord let your servants depart in peace, for we have seen your salvation and it is good.