SUNDAY 31ST DECEMBER 2023
OPENING SENTENCE OF SCRIPTURE –
Praise O Praise the Name of the Lord
Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
COLLECT FOR PURITY
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind
and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
God is love and we are God’s children. There is no room for fear in love. We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father,
we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
GLORIA sung by Sue Turner
O God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance
of the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as Saviour,
so we may with confidence
behold him as he comes to be our Judge;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD
FIRST READING: Isaiah 61:10-62:3 read by Gill Swales
I 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. For 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. For 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. The 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. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
SECOND READING Galatians 4:4-7 read by David Kerr
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
GRADUAL HYMN O Thou who camest from above
GOSPEL READING Luke 2: 22-40 read by Rev James Clark Maxwell
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 2 beginning at verse 22
Glory to Christ our Saviour
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 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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, Simeon took him 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.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 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 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
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, 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. 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.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord.
Waiting. We all do it. We spend half our life waiting. We have waiting rooms, and waiting queues. We wait to be seated, and we wait on the phone to speak to the operator. Sometimes it seems that all we do is wait. Our life is one mad rush to get from one wait to another, from one queue to another. A report from a few years ago said that on average, we spend six months sitting at traffic lights—and over 5 years waiting in queues. Five years of your life—waiting in queues! And there are sayings which we have all heard: “Good things come to those who wait” and “Some things are worth waiting for.” If good things come to those who wait, is there anything you would be willing to wait your entire life for? It would have to be something really good, wouldn’t it? Today we meet Simeon who waited his entire life for something – he waited for the coming of the Messiah.
Simeon waited his entire life in anticipation of the coming Messiah. His wait was in Jerusalem, which was the political and religious centre of Israel, where all the action took place. There was nothing special about Simeon that qualified him to take up the Christ child in his arms and bless Him. To our knowledge he was not an ordained religious leader, and he had no credentials or special authority. He was simply a “just and devout” man who had a close walk with God, a layman in today’s terms. He was devoted, pious and humble of heart in his duties to God, and he was just and fair in his conduct to his fellow man. Simeon, whose name means “God hears,” is an example of how God honours those who engage in quiet prayer and constant watchfulness.
It was the hope and prayer of every Jew that the Messiah would come, and bring peace and comfort to the people of Israel. And Simeon was like all other Jews in this regard. For we see in verse 25, that Simeon was waiting for the Consolation of Israel. The Consolation of Israel is a reference for Jesus and is a frequent theme found in Isaiah. Isaiah says the Messiah would come and so Simeon was waiting for him.
Sometimes, that’s what God calls us to do. To wait. It’s not a glamorous task. It’s not one that gets anyone a lot of attention. But sometimes, all God wants for us to do…is wait. In fact, I think that a part of every Christian’s maturing process is a period of waiting. We know God has gifted us and called us to do something great, but it doesn’t seem like anything is happening in that direction. That might be because God is calling you to wait. It is God teaching you patience. And all too often, if you do not wait, if you try to step out and do what you want, or even what you know God wants for you, but you don’t wait for His timing, you will fall flat on our face. You know, these times of waiting can be incredibly fruitful times for you.
Simeon was waiting and watching but he was not alone in that task. He was working with God’s Holy Spirit. We are told that the Holy Spirit was upon him. This is significant because at this time in God’s history, not all believers had the Holy Spirit upon them. The Holy Spirit could come upon a person for a while, and then could leave later. Prior to Pentecost not all believers had the Holy Spirit. He only came upon a few, and sometimes, only for a short while.
But now, today, in the church age, the Holy Spirit dwells within all believers. Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit only came upon certain individuals for certain tasks and responsibilities. Now, after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is within all believers permanently. Simeon, however, was one of those privileged saints prior to Pentecost who had the Holy Spirit. Simeon was sensitive and intuitive to the Spirit’s leading. How else would he have known that this child in the temple amongst so many was the Christ child? Having God’s Holy Spirit in those days meant that Simeon was specially chosen by God to do a specific task for God. There is a clue to this task in Luke verse 26 – it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord Jesus Christ. His task was not only waiting, watching and working with God’s Holy Spirit but it was a task of witnessing the arrival of the world’s Saviour.
Simeon had been told by God that he would not die until Jesus Christ came. This is quite a promise of God to Simeon! We don’t know exactly how old Simeon was here; tradition says he was 113 years old, but that is only tradition. So Simeon had been waiting for God for much of his life, and he knows that he will see Christ before he dies. The question though is, why would God tell Simeon this? Why did God think it was important that someone be there to see Jesus Christ? Why is it so important for Simeon to spend his whole life waiting, just to see the Messiah? That’s incredible, but what’s the point?
The point is found in Deuteronomy where we read that on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a matter be confirmed. Simeon was one of three witnesses that God used to confirm that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had come to Israel in the flesh. The shepherds were the first, Simeon is the second, and Anna is the third. Simeon needs to do his witnessing. Witnesses speak what they have seen and heard, and Simeon needs to speak. So this is what he does in the temple. The wait, watching is over and the work and witness begin. God has called upon Simeon to speak, and Simeon, though he has been on the sidelines for so long, steps forward to be a witness. His witnessing is about two things. Firstly, he thanks God for sending the Messiah and secondly he blesses the Holy Family.
Simeon speaks of salvation that has been “prepared before the face of all peoples, and is a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” Simeon is showing that he understands that Christ is coming, not to deliver the Jews from their enemies, and place Israel at the head of the nations over all the Gentile nations, but instead, that this salvation is for all people and will bring revelation to the Gentiles.
You see, most Jews, when they thought of the Messiah, thought He was coming just for them, and just to crush the Gentiles under His feet. But in contrast to this, there were some in Israel who were known as “The Quiet in the Land.” They had no dreams of violence and of power or of armies and banners; they believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until the Messiah should come. All their lives they waited quietly and patiently upon God.
Simeon was one of these Jews called “The Quiet in the Land.” He understood from the Word of God what most Jews in that day had missed. He understood that Jesus came to be a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the Gentiles, to reveal himself to the Gentiles. And that He would do this through suffering as a servant, dying on the cross, and then raising from the dead. I believe that Simeon partially understood this purpose of Christ’s first coming, and he reveals it here by what he says in thanksgiving to God. But Simeon is not done. He next turns to bless the Christ child, and to bless Joseph and Mary.
Simeon’ heart is full of wonder at the sight of this child. He moves from watching and waiting, from working with God’s Spirit and witnessing to wonder. What a moment it must have been to hold the Christ child in your arms-this Christ child that you have waited for your whole life to see! What a privilege and honour! His heart is bursting with wonder, praise and thanksgiving.
Then he moves from wonder to a word of warning. This warning comes in the prophetic voice. “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” It would be the most tragic event in the life of Mary, and yet, at the same time, the greatest
Simeon knew what to wait for. He waited for and looked forward to Christ’s first coming. Similarly, we are to wait for Christ’s Second Coming. The New Testament tells us over and over that we should eagerly wait and anxiously look for the blessed appearing of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Living with this in mind, knowing that Jesus could come today, or tomorrow, causes us to live with the right priorities. It causes us to live with eternity in focus. It causes us to do things that will matter for eternity, rather than just for next week.
What can we learn from the life of Simeon? Simeon and Anna would be considered elderly by today’s standards, and yet neither one of them thought that being old meant that God was done with them. Sometimes, in our modern culture, those of us who are younger seem to think that those who are older have nothing to teach us, and sometimes, those of us who are older, believe it. Even in the church, there are hundreds of things that can be done by those who are older that younger people cannot and are not able to do. You see, I believe that “retirement” is often God’s way of releasing the believer from daily responsibilities in order to allow him or her to devote more time and effort to ministry.
Simeon was able to do just that and as we prepare to enter 2024 we are invited to take on some of the characteristics of Simeon. We are to be devout and just, trusting in God and in his promises.
We are called to wait and watch, (spending time in prayer and in reading scripture) to work with the Holy Spirit, (to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and be open to the Spirit’s insights and leading).
We are to be ready to witness to others about Jesus and to wonder in awe and thanksgiving at Jesus’ great love and compassion for us.
We are to warn others of the foolishness of the ways of the world and the futility of the world’s values. Amen
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Let us pray to the Lord
Lord come to your people
in your mercy set us free
watching their sheep through the long dark nights,
he comes with the glory of the angel’s song
and in the humility of the manger.
Loving God we pray for our community here in Dumfries
in the midst of our everyday lives,
surprise us with glimpses of your glorious, humble love,
at the heart of existence.
Lord come to your people
in your mercy set us free.
To the wise and powerful
star-led to Bethlehem seeking a king
he comes, child of Mary
crowned with meekness
worthy of every gift.
Loving God, we pray for the leaders of the world.
With wars in Ukraine & Russia and Israel and Palestine
we ask that you would guide the leaders of the world
with your light and vision
and fill them with courage to do what is right.
Lord come to your people.
In your mercy set us free.
To Anna and Simeon,
whose days are lived in faithful expectation,
he comes, a new life to the old,
a living prophecy of hope.
Loving God, we pray for the Church in all the world.
Unite us by your Spirit
and make us faithful witnesses to the hope we have in you.
Lord come to your people.
In your mercy set us free.
To men and women, girls and boys
crying out in the darkness, pain and loneliness,
he comes, at one with us,
our Saviour, healer and friend.
Loving God we pray for those whose lives are hard and painful,
or whose existence is sorrowful, bitter, or empty.
In their need, may they know your healing touch,
reaching out to comfort, strengthen and restore.
Lord come to your people.
In your mercy set us free.
Unlooked for and not searched for
Longed for and prayed for,
Loving God, you come to us now
as you have come to your people in every age.
We thank you for all who have reflected the light of Christ.
Help us to follow their example
and bring us to eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those+
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
Christ the Son of God gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
HYMN God rest you merry, gentlemen
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen