Sunday, December 27, 2020
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont
“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.”
There’s an ancient legend that tells the story of a shepherd boy tending a few straggling sheep on the side of the mountain. One day as he cared for his sheep, he saw at his feet a beautiful flower, one that was more beautiful than any he had ever seen in his life. He knelt to scoop up the flower in his hands and held it close to his eyes, drinking in its beauty.
As he held the flower close to his face, suddenly he heard a noise and looking up, he saw the great stone mountain opening up right before his eyes. As the sun began to shine on the inside of the mountain, he saw the sparkling of the beautiful gems and precious metals inside.
With the flower in his hands, he walked inside. Laying the flower down, he began to gather all the gold and silver and precious gems in his arms. Finally, with all that his arms could carry, he turned and began to walk out of that great cavern, and suddenly a voice said to him, “Don’t forget the best.”
Thinking perhaps he had overlooked some choice piece of treasure, he turned around again and picked up additional pieces of priceless treasure. And with his arms literally overflowing with wealth, he turned to walk back out of the great mountainous vault. And, again the voice said, “Don’t forget the best.”
By this time his arms were filled. He walked outside, and all of a sudden, the precious metals and stones turned to dust. He looked around in time to see the great stone mountain closing its doors again. A third time he heard the voice, and this time the voice said, “You forgot the best. For the beautiful flower is the key to the vault of the mountain.”
As we celebrate this first Sunday after Christmas and this last Sunday of the year, we don’t want to forget the best. We don’t want to forget the joys we shared in this incredibly special season of the year. Some of you, particularly those with small children, have been making some priceless memories. Some day you will look through perhaps hundreds of photos or home videos and relive these days.
For some of you, this entire year has been one you’ll want to remember. A wedding, a graduation, a new grandchild, there are many events that we’ll want to remember and cherish for many years, some for the rest of our lives.
Of course, there are some events that we would just as soon forget. The Covid-19 virus, the downturn in our economy, a personal sickness, maybe a divorce in the family, a death, the loss of a job, etc. There are three kinds of memories, good, bad, and convenient. Think about how true that is. We don’t want to remember everything. There are some things that ought to be forgotten.
Fortunately, our faith helps us deal with the good and the bad in life. And, as we make our way out of the Christmas season and this year that is nearly over, just as the shepherd boy made his way out of the mountain vault, we do not want to forget the best.
The best is God with us. The Biblical word for that is Emmanuel. God with us, that’s the great good news to take into the New Year. God with us, how our problems seem to fade in the light of that staggering truth. God with us, is there any obstacle in this world that we can’t overcome if that’s true?
God is with us in the Christ child of Bethlehem. A righteous and devout Jew named Simeon recognized at once who He was. According to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought their newborn son to dedicate Him to the Lord. They did this by offering a sacrifice in the temple. The sacrifice, according to the law, was a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.
Two facts jump out at us immediately. First, this is the sacrifice prescribed as a suitable offering by the poor. We see here Mary and Joseph’s social and economic status. That’s how God would begin God’s redemption of humankind. God would start at the bottom of society, with a borrowed manger and the humblest of homes. Here’s where Jesus’ story is told, among ordinary people of limited means. And this is where the story stays. Remember, Jesus’ friends even had to borrow a grave to bury Him in.
The second startling fact is only speculation about this mother’s innocence. As she offered up her pair of turtle doves for the sacrifice, could she possibly have imagined that her son would one day be offered up as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices? Could she in her wildest dreams have seen where this happiest of occasions would one day lead, that the son she dedicated to God in the temple would kneel in a garden and confirm that dedication with drops of sweat like great drops of blood falling to the ground around Him as He prayed, “Not My will, but Thine be done?”
Mary could not see where God was leading her son. Only after His resurrection did she understand.
Simeon recognized immediately that this was the Christ Child. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would see the Christ before he died. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he came to the temple. There stood this humble couple with their small child. Luke tells us that Simeon took Jesus up in his own arms and began singing, “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.”
Then Simeon turns to the parents who, by this time, are amazed, and announces to them that their child is a very special child. Of course, every child is special to its parents, but this child would be a blessing to the world. Emmanuel, God with us. Can you feel Simeon’s excitement?
That’s how this elderly man Simeon felt as he sang out as he did. He has come! Now I can die in peace. He has come! We have not been forgotten. He has come and never again will the world be the same. He has come and light has penetrated and overcome the darkness. He has come and we are not alone. The best is, God with us.
A voice says to us this morning: Don’t forget the best.
Sir Walter Scott wrote an interesting novel which he titled, Old Mortality. It was the last novel written by Scott. In this novel he describes a character who lived about the middle of the 18th century. He was called by an unusual name, Old Mortality.
Old Mortality had a unique hobby which he took up late in life. He went about the country with an old horse and a kit of tools and searched out the graves of those who had died a martyr’s death for their faith. These people played an important role in the history of Scotland, and to a lesser extent that of England and of Ireland, during the 17th century.
When Old Mortality, whose given name was Robert Paterson, came upon one of these graves he would scrape the moss from the tombstone. Where the carving had grown dim with wind and weather, he would sharpen the lines with his chisel and hammer. Where there were no stones at all he would set up one.
It was only a hobby, but one which made him a character in the lowlands, where it was said not a single cemetery might be found in which his work had not been done. He wanted to make sure that no one forgot what these men and women had done. We dare not forget either what God has done in Jesus Christ. Do not forget the best!
One final word as we prepare to begin a new year. As we remember the best, why don’t we make a new commitment of our own lives to seek the best in our lives? We need to remember the best because we so often settle for less.
If Jesus is God and He died for me, there’s no sacrifice too great for me to make for Him. Prior to his marriage, a man gave away half his fortune, which at the time was equal to $20,000 in U.S. currency. (Today worth close to $200,000.) When his fiancée learned he only gave one-half of it away, she asked, Charlie, what did the Lord tell the rich young man to do? Sell it all, he answered. Well, we, too, will start clear with the Lord at our wedding.
All the money this young couple had went overseas to missions. But that’s not all. It wasn’t long before they moved to Africa to give their lives to Jesus in missionary service. He lived his life according to a principle we all need to apply, If Jesus is God and He died for me, there’s no sacrifice too great for me to make for Him. And that is most certainly true. Christ gave His all for us. What shall we do for Him?
In the book called, Giving Blood, tells a wonderful story about one of the finest performers who ever graced America’s stages, Judy Garland. One night in 1961 with 3,100 people packed into Carnegie Hall to be a part of what is now known as “the greatest concert ever given.” Among those present for “Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall” were some performers whose names are etched in our memories—Carol Channing, Rock Hudson, Spencer Tracy, Mel Brooks, Henry Fonda, and Julie Andrews.
Everyone present that night knew that Judy Garland was a competent performer, in that she would sing until exhausted and depleted. Garland felt she owed everything she had to every audience. In this concert she sang a remarkable twenty-six songs, giving her all in every song. A live album was made of her performance, which received five Grammy awards.
But, above all else, Garland did something just before walking out on stage. She repeated to herself, and to anyone else who happened to be within earshot, an unusual charge. “It wasn’t the time-honored ‘Break a leg,’” says Sweet. “Rather, it was this: ‘Time to give blood.’”
“Time to give blood.” Certainly, if anyone ever “gave blood,” it was Jesus. And He did it for us. As we leave this Christmas season and begin a new year, may God help us not to forget the best, God with us. God who came to us in Jesus Christ and gave His all for us.