Sunday 27th December 2020

An act of worship at home

1st Sunday of Christmas

Reading          Luke 2: 22-40

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 turtle-doves 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 for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped 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.


In some ways the Christmas stories are out-of-this-world, there’s a fairy tale atmosphere about them. Wonderful things happen, there are angelic appearances and shepherds on a hillside are surprised by a strange light and a strange message about a baby in a manger, and are even more surprised by a heavenly choir; and at epiphany we’ll hear again about the wise men in pursuit of a mysterious star which finally stops over the very place where Jesus is lying. All this is spiritual, unearthly, supernatural. But there’s also another side to these stories: something very down-to-earth and realistic, the hard facts of human life intruding uncomfortably from time to time. In Matthew we have King Herod and the massacre of the innocents. In Luke we have the theme of rejection, of Jesus the outsider: ‘no room in the inn’, and the consequent birth in an outhouse. The contrast between the out-of-this-world and the down-to-earth, continues in the story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem. The angels aren’t there, but the Holy Spirit takes their place.

The Holy Spirit has told Simeon that before he dies he will see the long-awaited Messiah. So he comes to the temple at the crucial moment, just as the family arrive. Mary must have been shocked when Simeon suddenly snatched Jesus out of her arms and began praising God. Loudly he claimed to have seen the salvation God in the face of this infant. How wonderful, how spiritual! But then Simeon came down to earth with a prediction of the child’s future. Mary’s own heart would be pierced with sorrow.

It’s a combining of the spiritual and the earthly, of poetry and prose, that continues throughout the New Testament and I really believe that we need them both. Contrasts in understanding that, when combined, add depth to our knowledge of God.

Some find it easy to see Jesus as a human being, a ‘son of man’ in the ordinary sense of those words,

‘troubled, tempted, tried’ just as we are, and fighting his way painfully to faith. But others see Jesus as some sort of superhuman being, who came down to earth from heaven, possessing powers we don’t possess,

knowing God as we cannot know God, and never seriously afflicted with doubts or uncertainties. Neither of these contains the whole truth on their own.

Of course Jesus was a human being; but that’s not all there is to be said about him. Luke gets it right in his summary of the childhood of Jesus: ‘The child grew big and strong and full of wisdom; and God’s favour was upon him’. ‘The child grew.’ ‘Day by day like us he grew.’ But Jesus was different. I believe that God’s favour is upon all of us, that God touches every human life.

But unlike us, Jesus never lost the ability to be open to God in a way that many of us adults find so difficult.

Jesus really was different. As he grew in body, mind and spirit, so he came to know God and to reflect more and more the image of God, the character of God, in his daily life, as the reality, the truth within him shone out.

Looking at Jesus, this wonderful human being, we suddenly see God: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’.

And this isn’t just a story of things that happened once upon a time, far away and long ago. In the light of Jesus of Nazareth, we find that we too are surrounded by God’s love, that we can be upheld by God’s power, and that we may know God’s peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Loving God, we thank you for the great truth we celebrate at Christmas, the fact that, in Christ, your light shines in the darkness and that nothing has ever been able to overcome it.

Despite hostility and rejection, still the radiance of your love continues to reach out.

We thank you for the light that answered the prayers of Simeon and Anna.

You are always with us, leading us through the shadows.

We thank you for the light you brought through the life and ministry of Jesus – freedom for the captives,

sight to the blind, healing for the sick, comfort to the broken-hearted, peace after confusion, acceptance after condemnation, hope after despair, joy after sorrow.

We thank you for the light that illuminates our lives today and which leads us step by step on our journey through life – the lamp of your word, the beacon of prayer, the glow of fellowship, the fire of your Holy Spirit,

and the living reality of Jesus by our sides.

Loving God, you came to our world in Christ, bringing life and light for all.

Shine now in our hearts and may the flame of faith burn brightly within us, so that we, in turn, may bring light to others. Amen.


Silent night, holy night.

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight!

Glories stream from heaven afar;

Heavenly hosts sing Al-le-lu-ia!

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night

Son of God, oh, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth


May we take the light of Christ into the world. And may the love of God bless you and keep you; the peace of Jesus Christ take root in your hearts; and the Holy Spirit bring hopes and dreams to reality in your lives.


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