31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 1, 2023
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
There is a lot of new in our lives right now. Today is the first day of a new year; last week, there were lots of new gifts given and received.
There is a game show currently on TV based on a “classic” game show. Both are called “Let’s Make a Deal” and while the prizes and games have been updated, some things are still the same – like they will often say to a contestant something like this….. you have just won this wonderful new item. (toy) Do you want to keep it or do you want to trade it for what’s in the box? (wrapped gift)
How many of you would keep this cuddly teddy bear? How many of you would trade it for the surprise in the box? For those of you who are online, we want to hear from you, too. Keep this very nice gift or trade for a new gift?
Let’s see what is in the box.
For those who know this game show, you might be calling this a “zonk” because it doesn’t look like much of a gift. It looks kind of mangy and old, right? However this is one of my most prized possessions. It is the Winnie the Pooh my parents gave me for Christmas when I was three years old. This old teddy bear is very well traveled and much beloved.
Sometimes, new is better than old, and sometimes old is better than new. And sometimes, they are both important, both connected, both a part of God’s plan.
In our Bible story today, we heard about Jesus being brought to the temple in Jerusalem, to be blessed, as was the custom with all first born sons. This story is about the new baby, and this story is also about two wise, elders: Simeon and Anna. The Bible wants us to know how “old” especially Anna was. “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.” (Luke 2:____) That was when we thought eighty-four was a great age. Now, it’s just a great age.
In our Bible story today, new is not better than old; old is not better than new. They are a part of one another. They are connected.
God’s people needed these wise elders. God’s people needed Anna and Simeon to remind them of God’s promise of old. Promises the prophets spoke hundreds and hundreds of years before – that a savior was coming, a Messiah, a child would be born for them and he would rule with justice and with mercy.
This was God’s promise of old, a promise generations of God’s people had been waiting for. It was an important promise. It is still an important promise, one we should hold at the center of our lives – that God loves us so much that God wants to save us from brokenness, injustice, and unkindness.
Sometimes, though, we can get stuck in the old. We can hear something so many times that we don’t hear it anymore, that it doesn’t touch our hearts and change our lives. It’s just words, and then we might miss the new ways God is fulfilling this promise of old.
Anna and Simeon helped God’s people see the new. These wise elders helped God’s people see that God’s promise of old was being fulfilled in a new way – through Jesus, through this newborn child.
As we begin this New Year, we, too, are called to remember God’s promises of old. We, too, are called to remember God’s promises of justice and mercy, God’s promises and peace and love. We are called to hold these promises of old at the center of our lives. They are not just words that people of faith have spoken for generations and generations. They are real promises made to us, real promises meant to change our lives and the world.
As we journey into the new year, into this new world, this new life, we hold on – not to old ways of being the Church, not to old understandings of what it means to be a Christian, we hold on to God and God’s promises. We hold on to God’s ways of peace, love, justice, and compassion.
And we open our eyes to the new ways God is fulfilling those promises in our lives. We open our hearts to new ways we can love God and love our neighbors. We open our minds to the new ways we can help our neighbors love God and know they are loved by God.
As we begin this New Year, we hold on to God’s promises of old, and we open ourselves to the new ways God can fulfill those promises through us.