First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
First Sunday after Christmas Day
Sunday, December 31, 2017 – 10:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Gathering Music “Joyful Dance” Margaret R. Tucker
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Announcements Assisting Elder
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship “Prince of Peace” Arr. by Bill Ingram
As you hear the music and the introit, you may fill out a prayer request card.
Call to Worship: John 1:14
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
full of grace and truth.
We have beheld his glory. Alleluia!
Time with Children
During the singing of the hymn, please pass prayer requests to the center aisle.
*Hymn 147 “The First Nowell”
Prayers of Confession
If anyone sins, we have someone who pleads with the God on our behalf— Jesus Christ, the righteous one. And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. Let us confess our sins before God and one another:
God of grace and truth, in Jesus Christ you came among us as light shining in darkness. We confess that we have not welcomed the light, or trusted good news to be good. We have closed our eyes to glory in our midst, expecting little, and hoping for less. Forgive our doubt, and renew our hope, so that we may receive the fullness of your grace, and live in the truth of Christ our Savior. Amen.
Assurance of Grace John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. People of God, hear the good news:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
*Response of Praise, No. 581
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen, Amen!
Hearing the Word
Anthem “What Child is This?” Arr. by Derek K Hakes
Hebrew Bible Reading: Isaiah 61:10-62:3 Blue O.T.
10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. 62:1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. 3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Epistle Reading: Galatians 4:4-7 Blue N.T.
4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40
22When 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”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25Now 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. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided 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, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then 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 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed— and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 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. 38At 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. 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.
Sermon Rev. David Ashby
Betcha you thought we were done with waiting now that it’s the Sunday after Christmas, huh? Nope! There is more to the story. And it’s not those magi still wending their way following the star. Actually, Joseph and Mary weren’t waiting on them, since they wouldn’t have even known the searching astronomers were on their way. Nope, the ones who were waiting are those two kinda obscure older figures waiting at the temple that day when Joseph and Mary brought their baby up for the prescribed rituals. Given that this passage is usually eclipsed by either new year’s sermons or the observance of Epiphany (which we will get to next week, actually), they don’t get their due attention. Because of the way the secular calendar and the lectionary interact, Simeon and Anna rarely meet us. But they are rather interesting, and I feel bad how rarely I have preached about what they tell us about Jesus as the Messiah. They are among the most explicit connections between the birth of Jesus and the ancient prophecies of the Hebrew Bible.
Luke has been weaving quite a few scriptural references into the Gospel all along in his effort to show that Jesus’ birth fulfilled the prophecies of the messiah. Matthew does that also, but with slightly different emphases. Early readers would have gotten the point, caught the clues, that this particular infant was the culmination of many, many ancient predictions of the awaited heir of King David, the Messiah who would rescue and redeem Israel, the chosen people, not just from their captivity, but from their sins. Millenniums of Christians reading the Bible since then would likewise catch those subtle and not-so-subtle references. Ah, Jesus fulfills this and that scripture.
But my guess is that although the early readers and those of us reading it today see those connections, that particular day in the temple courtyard must have been a total confusion to the overwhelmed and baffled parents! They were just doing the religious stuff you did after a first baby boy. And an old man and an older woman rush over to them, getting all religious on them! So who were these people and what were they talking about?
One little aside: Luke gives us Simeon and Anna as named individuals, which might mean they are traceable back to real, specific people known to the very earliest traditions of the gospels, sort of like Simon the Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross on Good Friday or Joseph of Aramathea or Nicodemus. If so, they function as really “real” connections to the birth stories binding what could be a set of stories to real history and real people, syncing up with ordinary believers in addition to Herod and Quirinius, governor of Syria, and the Emperor Augustus, the big names. Simeon, as well, is a direct connection, an at-that-point-living-connection between the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures with the nativity. The Holy Spirit reveals to him that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Yes, that Messiah, the same one Luke connects to Isaiah and King David; Simeon will intersect with the Messiah. And on that morning, the Holy Spirit nudges him to the Temple. He was probably expecting to see some impressive, prophetic, regal, scholarly figure standing at the Temple, maybe with a shaft of sunlight illuminating him from on high. Nope, he is drawn to a plain-looking couple bringing their firstborn son to be blessed. And yet Simeon recognizes that this child is the self-same Messiah he had been waiting for. His decades of waiting have come to this. And he knows he can die happy! Again, notice that he, too, begins to prophesy about Jesus, confirming in real time that he is the Messiah. And in a couple of sentences, Luke has made the connection from the past of Israel to the present of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Messiah. The Messiah. “28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29’Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’ 33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.” Simeon functions for us even today as the confirmation that the baby is the Messiah, attested according to God’s word, a light for the world and the savior of Israel. There is that odd, dissonant aside to Mary, one that probably seemed totally weird and more than a bit morbid, that a sword will pierce her heart, too. Ok, that won’t make sense until the final week of Jesus’ life, but Mary and Luke will remember it for us. All the waiting of Israel is wrapped up in this baby. All Simeon’s waiting comes to this moment. God’s servant has seen his savior and has said his lines, and he can depart now that Jesus has arrived.
Out from the portico steps Anna. She too has been waiting, waiting for this day, although she didn’t know that anymore than Simeon. If Simeon was making the connection with the thoughts of the prophets, Anna seems to me to be speaking from the heart. She lives a life of piety and presence and patience in the temple. The way Luke gives us those details about having been widowed eighty-four years before, after seven years of marriage, and that she was of the tribe of Asher and her father was Phanuel reinforces that this gentle soul may very well have been known to people Luke knew. As I mentioned about Simeon, she syncs holy history to secular history as closely as the link to Herod and Augustus, only with regular, ordinary, faithful people. We might not notice that if we read this passage too quickly, but it is a remarkable, very human detail. This Messiah, Jesus? He’s one of us. Like Simeon, Anna has been waiting. Isaiah 40 says more famously, “Those who wait upon the Lord will rise up on wings of eagles.” And, like our common use of that word, in Hebrew you wait on the Lord both in the sense of marking time, letting days or hours pass, “waiting” and in the sense of serving God. We might sit in a doctor’s office waiting room or we might have a job waiting on tables. Anna was, in a way, doing both: both spending eighty-four years in the temple, one day at a time, until the moment when God would fulfil her patience with the sign above all other signs, and in the sense of serving God through her work for the Temple, her helping out, her being there night and day as a servant for God and Temple, and her keeping vigil, praying, always being on spiritual duty. While others went about their more ordinary days, she kept watch and kept the faith, being sure that someone was always praying and representing all the other faithful believers— particularly it would seem, faithful women and older women— in the presence of God. After thinking so much about Anna’s days of waiting, the soft, quiet thought that slipped into my consciousness was that she was, to use our more modern vernacular, truly, truly living in the presence of God… in the present tense of being in the presence of God. I was sort of thrown by the eighty-four years staying in the temple, but really, for her, each day was but a moment in the presence of her God. She continually was totally devoted— totally centered— on just being there with God and for God. I doubt time meant much to her; she was waiting spiritually on God. Every moment. I think of her sort of like that wonderful diner waitress who keeps an eye out for when you need your coffee topped up, who’s taking care of you so behind the scenes you nearly forget, or sort of like the sentries keeping their post at the Tomb of the Unknowns no matter the weather, or sort of like those old world grandmothers saying the rosary every morning in a city cathedral, never letting the candles go out or the prayers stop. There have been literally generations of kind, faithful, enduring souls who have waited on God, spiritually and literally; they are Anna’s sisters. And, until their deaths… and beyond…. until their resurrections at the end of time… they are waiting on God, God in Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was born that week long ago, whose parents smiled shyly as an old prophet and an old woman welcomed him to their hearts.
There is something about this day of the year, New Year’s Eve, that gets us all agitated about what’s coming next and the future and moving on and moving forward. But maybe we shouldn’t buy into that so totally; maybe there is a moment to pause, to reflect, to review, to pause, to wait. There is a moment to settle our hearts before our minds and bodies go rushing around. Simeon connects us to the past and prophecies as he waited on his Messiah. Anna connects us to each instant of the present, being in the presence of God. In their own, super-quiet, super faithful ways, they offer us a great gift on this day of the year. May their spirits welcome ours into the new year.
*Hymn 132 “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”
Responding to the Word
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace: we praise your many names, and celebrate your presence in Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary and Son of God. O Jesus, be born among us again, today, in the words of our Scriptures and hymns, and in the prayers from our hearts.
We give thanks for this holy season. We are grateful for our Christmas celebrations and the joy they have brought us. As we look forward toward the beginning of a new year, we give thanks for your grace revealed to us this past year. O God, how generous you are!
You’ve given us the greatest gift of all – your son, Jesus – that’s truly over the top. You keep surprising us, gracious God. Just when we’re comfortably settled into our routines, you offer us transforming birth. While we are focused on greatness, you appear in humble circumstances among ordinary people, in hole-in-the-wall places. Amid the noise of our busyness, the angel song suddenly pierces our senses; and we are compelled to listen again. O God, keep our ears and our minds open – lest we miss the opportunity to hear your good news that is meant for us and for all people.
Be born in our church community through the fellowship and challenges we share with each other, and through our callings to serve you beyond these walls. Touch us with your presence, we pray. We humbly pray for this church – its members, its leaders, and the search committee, as they progress into the next steps in the search for a new minister. We pray too for the faithful witness of the Dundee Presbyterian Church, for the saints who lived your gospel there for a century and a half, for the lives changed, the good works shared, and, yes for the sadness they feel this day of memory and farewell.
We pray for those who are traveling, that their time away is restorative, and that they arrive at their destinations safely. We raise to you those people and circumstances we have mentioned: …….
Sadly, we must continue to pray that no person has to go to bed hungry, and that everyone has a safe place to call home. We ask that you keep showing us how we can help.
Holy One, the extent of your generosity is dizzying; teach us the ways of generous living, too. Guide us to be your willing helpers, to work toward justice, equity, and unabashed love for all humanity, as we pray together, saying….
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Offertory “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by Leon Jessel, Arr. by Michael Ryan
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
*Prayer of Dedication
O God, most merciful and gracious, of whose bounty we have all received, accept, we pray, this offering of your people. Remember in your love those who have brought it and those for whom it is given; and so follow it with your blessing that it may promote peace and goodwill among all people and advance the realm of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
*Hymn 136 “Go Tell It on the Mountain”
*Charge and Benediction –William Sloane Coffin
May the Lord Bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May God give you grace not to sell yourselves short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.
May God take your minds and think through them.
May God take your lips and speak through them.
May God take your hands and work through them.
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
*Postlude “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Arr. by Susan E Geschke