The Cliffhanger

Advent: Coming Soon  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:03
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It is Over!

The Holiday frenzy is over — the preparation — the waiting — the anticipation — the excitement of the big day — so much went into it!
How many of you were able to attend our Christmas Eve services — live or online?
It was amazing — the candles — the music — the spirit in the air and hearts of everyone — the guy giving the message could have done a better job (LOL)
It was wonderful because it was Christmas Eve — there is so much expectation, anticipation and hope for what is about to come — Christmas Day
Let’s all admit it — there is a different spirit in the air after Christmas than before — We feel a little different today than we did Christmas Eve — Right?
What we feel now is the holiday hangover — Everyone has ripped through the gifts — all that is left are empty boxes — piles of wadded up wrapping paper and bowstrash cans overflowing — sugar headaches — and some regret for that "one more” plate holiday food
Today marks the end of the Christmas season for many of us
For many of us we are feeling a little blue — the lights, trees and decorations will begin to come downTomorrow is business as usual — for many of us we resume our normal rhythms — our normal schedulesback to work we go — back to the factoryofficeworking onlineschool (soon) — kids activitiesappointments — the mundane and grind of every day life
Christmas — when Jesus is born in Bethlehem — is the grand intrusion of God into our lives — the great interruption with angels in the sky
But today — the first Sunday after Christmas — we stand at the threshold of what we can call the “great resumption”

I think we might call the Christmas season a “cliffhanger” of a story

The Christmas story is one of old prophecies coming truemiraclesanticipationexpectationstrange charactersplots and plot twists — a story where you cannot wait to see what happens
But then it just sort of ends with Mary and Joseph going homereally? We want to see what happens but it leaves us sort of hanging…a cliffhanger.
A cliffhanger is a story, novel, a movie which ends in suspense in order to excite and interest you in what comes next
Our story of the Messiah’s birth has ended and there doesn’t seem to be closure — there seems to be loose ends
The story should have created in us a yearning to see what comes next — we want to see the sequel — we should be on this Sunday asking ourselves — “Now what?”
My favorite — but frustrating cliffhangers were the Lord of the Rings movies — in the first movie the “fellowship of the ring”, Frodo along with his fellow ring bearers set out on a journey to destroy the ring — for the next few hours there are all sorts of ups and downs — excitement and plot twist and then the end of the movie but no resolve — they did not reach their destination — the ring still exists — will they ever achieve the objective of their journey — you don’t know — you have to wait in hope to see the next movie — it would take 3 movies to get to the end of the journey they started in movie number 1 — the first two were cliffhangers — but I could not wait till the next movie to come out — yearning for what might happen next


The Christmas season is over — God has put on flesh — the miracle of the incarnation — the God has come into the world — but now what?
We are in that Christian calendar time that we call the “in-between” timeChristmas is over and the new year has yet to come — Now what? What do we do with this new baby king?
Luke gives us a clue toward the end of chapter 2 — in the next part of the story we see Mary and Joseph doing something you might not expect — they go back back to life as normal but with a different view of what is to come
Probably a really good thing God chose Joseph and not me to be Jesus’ father — I mean after all that happened in the last year — I would have been to Mary — Hey let’s go to Jerusalem — to the temple and hold Jesus up and declare this new religion — who needs circumcision and cleansing rituals — who needs to try to keep the law anymore — when you got this — then I would hold God in the flesh up for all to see — to worship — let me get this baby walking and talking and potty trained — then we can see what this baby can really do!
But that is not what happened — Joseph gathered his wife and new baby and he did what was required of him...


Luke 2:21 TNIV
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
The miracle birth has happened and now we get a sense in the story that nothing will ever be the sameespecially for Mary and Joseph
Now they have a crying babyno sleeplate night feedingdirty diapersworry & anxiety — one more mouth to feed for a very poor family
Mary and Joseph got back to their normal — they did what every Hebrew family had done since Abraham — on the 8th day the circumcised the child — named the child
This holy family got back to the requirements — responsibilities — the grind of normal life for them
The mountain top experiences — like a virgin birth of God’s Son — often becomes the memories we need for when we are back in the valley of the normal grind of life
God draws us into these spiritual moments just to send us back into the world to live out the truth we see in the moment
What has God revealed to you this Advent season? About Himself — about you — about your place in the world?
There is good work to do even after Christmas
Christmas becomes a memory that gives us hope in the potential of what God can do through me in my normal routines of life
Luke 2:22–24 TNIV
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Yet another routine act on the holy families part
The law said there must be a ritual cleansing of the mother after birth of her first child and a dedication of the first born male to the Lord
But the two regulations cost the family something
The law required a lamb to be slain for the purification ritual and 5 shekels for the redeeming of the son — the dedication to the Lord
However, in hardship cases — the law provided an alternative to a lamb — two pigeons or doves could be sacrificed
I think Luke wants us to see something amazing here — he says nothing about the 5 shekels but he suggests the holy family could only give the hardship gift
After all they have been throughgiving their lives to God to raise His son — you might think the family of the lamb of God could get a lamb to sacrifice
As you are in-between Christmas and not yet New Years — as you begin to reflect and get resolutions for the new year
Remember this: something might never change
The Miracle of Christmas did nothing to change the families earthly status
They are still two young parentsPoor & insignificant to most of the worldstill living in Nazareth (non-place town) — Their life goes on with little changeexcept they have Jesus now
We worry too much about what God can do FOR us when he is actively working to do something THROUGH us
Then a strange thing happened in the Temple
An old man comes in and snatches baby Jesus out of the arms of Mary
There was an amber alertpolice were called — NO! (LOL)
Simeon was a devout — righteous old man who had been told by the Lord that he would not die until the Messiah comes into the world
Simeon was smart — as he waited for the promise he went to the Temple every daywhy? What does every Jewish family have to do when the first born son comes into the world — circumcision and cleansing rituals
Luke 2:29–33 TNIV
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
Then another old person — Anna of the tribe of Asher
Luke 2:36–37 TNIV
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Strange thing here is she was of the tribe of Asher
The tribe of Levi was set apart to be the priestly tribe who ministered in the Temple — her situation says a lot about the community — a widow given a place to stay where she worshiped God and prayed — a life
Pastor Bret did a good job in weekly video on this passage — good insights
Luke connects the new with the old — even the son of God is connected to a community with all its past, present and future memories, promises, rituals, and expectations
In this scene with Simeon and Anna — we see that God doing something new but not really new — the new is actually God keeping an old promise
Fred Craddock — a great preacher in his own right said,
Luke The Presentation of the Infant Jesus (2:22–40)

hope is always joined to memory

There in the “in-between” of the birth and the hope of what is yet to come — an old man and woman celebrate the promise kept and rest in the hope of the yet to come
So Mary and Joseph and Jesus — head home — back to the normal work, life, play, stress, hardship as they experienced before the birth — but this time I think they go into their normal with a different perspective
Luke 2:39–40 TNIV
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
MAIN POINT: We can have hope today for a better tomorrow because Jesus is yesterday’s promise kept


So…Christmas is over…not really

We are in that “in-between” time — between the excitement of Christmas and the unknown of a new year
This is the week we reflect as we make resolutions — last year was a difficult one for all of us in so many ways
But we Jesus people are a people who look to tomorrow with hope - why? because of Jesuswe know tomorrow can be better than yesterday
The gospel is powerful — it reaches every person — it is good news to the broken — the lost — the oppressed — the greatest sinner
Christmas is an old promise kept by God
Simeon and Anna got it — as he held that baby their hope for the future was strong — God had come to be with them and that makes all the difference
We can have hope today for a better tomorrow because Jesus is yesterday’s promise kept
You can say that this year is a “cliffhanger” — it definitely has created a desire in us for the sequel to come out — hoping it is better than the first
As you go into this new year — be strong — be courageous — be bold — be hopeful
Go in Jesus name
I can say that not every circumstance will change
But I also say with confidence that Jesus is building his kingdom the sequel is in production and he has invited you to be a part of this great story
You can be in the sequel to the Christmas Story — we are the main characters as he directs
Jesus said...
Luke 4:18–19 TNIV
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
What a great plot for our sequel — good news!
This is how we should spend our “in-between” time
Reflecting on God’s promise kept in the Christmas story while we resolve to follow Jesus — obey his call to go — with hope to the places where life frankly sucks for some and do what we can in Jesus’ name to help it suck a little less.
How is God calling you to partner with him in 2021?
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