A sermon preached at Niles Discovery Church, Fremont, California,
on Sunday, December 28, 2014, by the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer.
Scriptures: Luke 2:22-40
Copyright © 2014 by Jeffrey S. Spencer

“When [the shepherds] saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

When we hear these verses from the second chapter of Luke’s gospel, we think we’ve heard the end of the Christmas story. I hear them and imagine my grandfather closing the book he’s been reading out of. It’s a sweet ending to a sweet story. Except it’s not the end of the story. It’s only the beginning of the beginning of the story.

In Luke’s gospel, Mary and Joseph get the baby born, and then there’s more to do. They have obligations as good Jews. When he’s seven days old, they need to have the baby circumcised. And there is the obligation to offer a sacrifice in place of the first-born son. And there is a purification obligation. So Mary, Joseph, and their newborn go to Jerusalem, to the Temple. Like thousands of other families that year, Mary and Joseph present their child at the Temple, they offer sacrifices, and they go through purification rituals. But this is no ordinary family, and their kid is no ordinary baby.

I imagine that Simeon and Anna have come over to see all of the babies brought to the Temple. Temple regulars were probably used to these two elderly people oo-ing and ah-ing over babies, but never seeming to be fully satisfied with what they see. But this time, something is different. This time, when they look at the baby, they know that they are in a kairos moment, they are at a turning point. Everything is changing.

Simeon offers his blessing of the child and a caution to the mother; and then offers a prayer of thanksgiving that he has lived to see this moment of change, of transformation. And Anna, the first to tell the good news of Jesus in Luke’s gospel, starts telling the people who have been waiting for the redemption of Israel all about the child.

We, too, are at a kairos moment, a moment of change. This is our final Sunday as a worshiping community at 255 H Street. Everything is changing for our faith community today. So, it is a time to offer our thanks and our blessing.

In your bulletin, you will find a postcard with a picture of this building on it and you will find a 3×5 card. Here’s the invitation.

I invite you to write a note of thanksgiving on the postcard. Your note of thanksgiving can be addressed to God or to the building. The idea is to write down some words of thanksgiving for how this facility has served you and your faith journey. I encourage you to put this postcard into the offering plate at the offering. My hope is that we will create a new time capsule in the coming year and that we can include these offerings of thanks in that time capsule.

I invite you to write up to six words on the 3×5 card. The limit of 6 words comes from that challenge that was supposedly made to Hemingway: tell us a story in six words. Hemingway’s response was a story of hope and loss and sadness: “For sale: children’s shoe, never worn.” Rather than telling a story in six words, I’m inviting you to write up to six words of blessing – blessing this facility as we leave it, blessing our community in this time of transition.

In four minutes, we will have a time of sharing. Some of you will decide to share your six words. So let’s take five minutes to write a note of thanks on the postcards and/or 6 words of blessing on the 3×5 cards.

 

If you feel moved to share your 6 words of blessing, I invite you to come forward. You will likely feel an urge to expound on your 6 words. Resist that urge. Resisting that urge will allow more people to join in the sharing. Let the six words you chose stand on their own as your blessing.

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