Emanuel United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"

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Dear Friends -

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.’

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....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. (Luke 2:22-32, 36-37a,38)

Advent is the season of waiting – and while we will be reading about the aged Simeon and Anna on the first Sunday after Christmas, they truly embody the spirit of Advent. They waited their entire lives – their entire very long lives – to meet the Christ child. And we must remember that the Holy Family were just one more exhausted, bedraggled family among the countless faithful at the Temple that day. But we’re told that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that “he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s messiah”. In the same way, Anna, whom we’re told was a prophetess and was always at the Temple, was guided by the Spirit so that she crossed paths with the Holy Family. Simeon’s response to seeing the Messiah is recorded in what is known as the Nunc Dimittis: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation…….” The words of Anna’s response are not recorded – given the patriarchal attitudes of the time, it’s a miracle Luke mentioned her by name at all – but we’re told she “began to praise God and speak of the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Sagrada Familia Cathedral, located in Barcelona, Spain, is dedicated by name to the Holy Family. It was designed by Spain’s premier architect, Antonio Gaudi. Gaudi began construction in 1882, and the church was only partially finished at the time of his death in 1926. Indeed, nearly a century later, Sagrada Familia still remains unfinished. Four towers, representing the four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, have only just been completed, and it is said that the cathedral will be completed in its entirety in 2026, a century after Gaudi’s passing.

What are the unfinished holy spaces in your life? For what have you waited your whole life? For what do you yearn so much that, like Simeon and Anna, if only you can see or experience it, your life will be complete? For what fulfillment in your life do you pray for God to grant in the year to come? May we, like Simeon and Anna, be surprised by joy at the presence of Christ in our lives.

Blessings for Advent, Christmas, and the New Year! – Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave

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