Got plans for ringing in the New Year? Got the hotel reservation, the tux back from the cleaners, and your tickets ready for your trip to Memphis or St. Louis? Or maybe your New Year's Eve will be like last year--at home and in bed by 10:30 because you've seen years come and go and you find all that holiday's hoopla a bunch of hooey.
Of course, New Year's Day is not a "holiday" from the definition of the word, a splicing of "Holy Day". The mail doesn't run on January 1, so we still use that word. Maybe we should substitute the term, "Commemorative Day" for the secular days of celebration when the mail doesn't run then either, like Fourth of July and Columbus Day, but that seems like that would take a lot of time and effort. There are more worthy causes than that.
Forty days after the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Son of God, she and her husband followed the Law of Moses by buying then sacrificing two turtledoves or pigeons for the Rite of Purification. (Luke 2:22-39) New mothers were considered unclean because we humans are born into sin, and therefore her body needed purification in the eyes of the Lord. (Leviticus 12)
But Mary had another duty that day, one that was of the Law of Moses as well. Because Jesus was her first child, she and Joseph were to present the baby to the Lord, because all first born children (and animals) were to be dedicated to the Lord. (Exodus 13:2) The One whom Joseph and Mary presented to God would be the One who ushered in the New Covenant. No more animal sacrifices were needed as the Son of God, fully man and fully God, would be the sacrifice for sins of all peoples.
One of the visitors to the temple that day was Simeon, a devout and righteous man, who had also seen many years come and go. God had promised Simeon that before he died, he would set his eyes on the Messiah In the temple that day, Simeon would pick up the Christ child, blessed God, and said. "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen the salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32)
As one theologian points out, Simeon was not making a request, but confessing that his wait was over. His role as watchman in the temple was finished. God had fulfilled His promise not only to Simeon, but the world. In those words were the gospel brought about by the cross. If the parents of the first born did not want to dedicate the child to God, they could redeem him by paying twelve shekels to the temple (Numbers 3:46-47).
Of course, Jesus was the ultimate servant of His heavenly Father, the worthiest of all causes. That's why many always go to bed at 10:30 on New Year's Eve. It's not because they are cranky or party poopers, but that their hearts have been blessed by the Gospel of salvation that makes every day new. Gloria Deo--Glory to God.
Rev. Timothy Matthew
of Redeemer Lutheran