COUNTING THE DAYS
Isaiah 61: 10 – 62:3
LUKE 2: 22-40
Have you ever wondered just who this AULD LANG SYNE guy is? Perhaps Auld is not a man but a woman. And, just how old is Lang Syne? And, why are we taking a cup of kindness yet for this unknown person? Yet, every year … literally millions of people around the world are singing about AULD LANG SYNE as one year magically turns into the next year and the counting of days begins again.
As, 2017 fades into the dark just what does that mean to you? To your life’s journey? What adventures have you taken in 2017 that will hold memories that you can still remember when 2018 is ready to fade away and again you join the chorus singing “We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne?’
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote this treasured anthem of New Year’s Eve back in 1788 and I wonder if he is rolling in the grave every time someone butchers the lyrics and sings about some old land sign. If you are wondering the Scottish meaning for the song’s title is a double emphasis on THE PAST.
Auld A-U-L-D … no the first word in the song’s title is not spelled O-L-D but it means the same thing AULD is OLD in any variation of English apparently. Although the Irish use either SEAN or AOSTA when talking about old but then again the Irish really don’t want to claim any real close ties to the English.
LANG SYNE means “in the distant past” so when we sing AULD LANG SYNE we are singing about the OLD DISTANT PAST … The Old Distant Past is what I studied in college. I was a history major so I relished in discovering facts about what had happened before. If you look at my bookshelves they are filled with history books and for Christmas one of my gifts was again a book about AULD LANG SYNE, the Old Distant Past.
But, friends … do we live to recount the years? Do we focus on the long term both in our past and in our future? Yes, on our birthdays we count the years … as we pause to celebrate New Year’s Eve we focus on the past as we imagine what is new. We resolve to change in the next 365 but usually within weeks we have returned to the people we are and the habits that defines us.
But, I am here today to say we should be counting the days … the value of our lives can be found in our waking 24 hours because it is in those 24 hours that our own history will be created. God is not calling us to develop plans for our future years of faith connection nor are we to rest solemnly on our OLD DISTANT PAST when we once did something for church or God. God wants us counting our days and making our days count for God.
In these times when women are standing up for themselves once again bravely coming out of the shadows that have haunted their lives I celebrate the truth of the Good News that right from the beginnings of the Gospels dispels any myth that men alone should be the leaders of the faith community; that men should be the only ones in control … that myth propagated by men wanting to hold onto their place of power and dominion was never Scriptural and in today’s Gospel reading you heard about one of my heroes … a woman named ANNA who lived each day to its fullest for God.
EIGHTY FOUR YEARS OLD … or I should say young because even though the Scripture called her VERY OLD … and for her time she was by the calendar indeed very old … she was alive each day for God.
Can you imagine that when your friends talked about you … when people reflected on your life that one of their first comments would be “she is alive for God each day … he lives each day for God and Jesus.” Can you imagine … what would be the impact if God’s love was something that everyone noticed every day in your words? In your actions? From eyes opening until sleep settling in that in counting another day your day … my day … was God centered? Christ centered? Standing up for justice? Declaring love for all of our neighbors? Every day … no hesitation just because God calls and we answer.
This incredible woman … she figured it out. She fasted not to lose weight but to to give up some of those eating days to prayer and God. Have you ever considered giving up your breakfast, lunch and dinner on an ongoing basis … once a week … even one day a month and using that time for prayer, Scripture reading, music of faith … fasting, it is something people of faith are called to do … and Anna fasted so her focus was on God.
She prayed … night and day. Paul writes about praying without ceasing and we all know that he was not being literal in that directive but he used the concept of without ceasing to help us understand that we should be in conversation with our God night and day. An ongoing communication stream … ANNA, the daughter of Phanuel, used her days … not just her day of Sabbath … not just that one hour or so when organized worship occurred … she used her days to worship God … can you imagine how each of our lives could change if … if we were willing to make as our first priority of the day worship … not the TODAY SHOW … not STARBUCKS … not TWITTER but worship?
And, then … can you imagine the scene 2000 years ago in Jerusalem? This 84 year old woman … there at the Temple where people saw her every day … and she sees in the gate of the Temple a young mother accompanied by a grizzled looking working man. The mother is carrying a baby … ANNA feels a surge of warmth over her entire body. Maybe you have felt that kind of warmth when you have seen someone you loved approach but I can imagine Anna straightening herself up and slowly walking towards the couple. Her old eyes opened fully so she can truly take in what she was witnessing.
Did she speak to Mary … ‘excuse me miss … can I see your beautiful baby?’ God was speaking to this incredible woman of faith in that moment … she already had daily relationship with the Almighty … she prayed and talked with the Creator … and in that moment … her life at 84 was energized again because she experienced Jesus. The Son of God … the baby born just days before … Anna didn’t know about the shepherds … the Wise Men had not arrived at Jesus side yet … but what Anna knew in the moment was Jesus the Christ … Immanuel; GOD IS WITH US.
And, friends … when she experienced Jesus she began to praise God with joy and to speak about Jesus to everyone … everyone she met. You see she was counting the days not worrying about the years. Have you experienced Jesus? Have you felt the warming in your very soul at knowing that God the One who Created the universe loved you … loved you so much that Jesus came for you … not only to teach you how to live but to provide ETERNAL LIFE in heaven. Does that make you happy? Does that give you security? Does that offer you a reason to live each day … day by day as they sing in Gospel “Oh Dear Lord Three things I pray; to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly DAY BY DAY.”
We get caught up in so much and when another year comes to a close most people of faith when asked about their year will rarely say I lived each day for Jesus Christ … that’s what I accomplished over the last year.
Simeon was righteous … he was devout … every day. He clearly was in conversation with God … he was open to God’s Holy Spirit’s direction. When you live each day for God … when the days value is primarily focused on the Almighty that’s when we are able to sense what God wants … how the Holy Spirit is nudging us … pushing us … directing us. Simeon knew he was going to be blessed by God … before his last breathing day he would see the MESSIAH … the CHRIST … the SON OF GOD.
So, just like Anna .. Simeon saw them but we know he was bolder … he was on a mission that wasn’t just going to be about seeing the baby born in the manger … Simeon needed to hold the CHRIST CHILD … his heart next to Jesus heart. So, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and he praised GOD. Simeon experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ … and he praised God with joy.
On this New Year’s Eve in the year 2017 are you hearing the words of Simeon … are these words alive for you or are you too wrapped up in the year behind or the year ahead to miss the blessing of the day?
“God prepared this salvation through Jesus in the presences of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people ISRAEL!”
The light of Christ … holding Jesus tight and praising God. The challenge of the days … when we focus on each day and have in our day planner time for God. .. time for Jesus it is easier to make a difference than just adding it into the cauldron of the year’s resolutions.
My friends … 2017 is almost gone. Are you ready for 2018? Is your faith journey one of the casual fit in when you can or is it a daily experience … count the days and find time to follow the prophet’s call:
“I surely rejoice in the Lord; my heart is joyful because of my God because he has wrapped me in a robe of righteousness like a bridegroom in a priestly crown and like a bride adorned in jewelry.”
You see … our lives are not the world’s lives. We are the ones called to shine God’s righteousness out like a light and make sure that Jesus’ salvation blazes like a torch … we can’t keep silent … we can no longer not live each day for God.
The days of the past are in the history books … they cannot be changed but the days of the future are ours to take on … it is your choice if you are counting the days as God’s days or choosing to push God aside for other priorities.
The song that will be sung around the world tonight has these final words that probably are never sung … And there’s a hand, my trusty friend! And give us a hand of yours! And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will For long, long ago.
Anna at 84 … God was her focus … Simeon’s heart was next to Jesus … after they experienced Jesus they went into the world praising God. Let’s make 2018 a year where each day God’s love is given new light … a time when our joy in God’s love is known by all!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Watch a video of today’s worship service: