One of the things that is probably on many people’s minds is what they are going to give up for New Years or how they are going to be able to keep what it is that they have already have decided to give up. Out of curiosity, how many of you here are planning to take on a New Year’s resolution?
For me, personally, I can never think of something that seems fitting or appropriate to do as a resolution. As I think about them I usually think of things that are either trivial and don’t really matter or I think of an idea that is so unattainable that I am basically setting myself up for failure.
But the whole idea of a resolution is to come up with something that we want to do for the next year to better ourselves in some fashion. I went online and found a study that said that only 32% of people polled were not going to do a resolution, which means that an overwhelming 2/3 of Americans polled were going to have a resolution. The website also listed the most popular ones for 2018. Here is a list of most of them:
read more books
learn a new skill
get a new job
meet new friends
The other thing that frustrates me about New Year resolutions is that if you do fail, you feel bad about it. It was a goal that you set for yourself and you weren’t able to achieve it. Then when that happens you feel bad and you start to think about where things went wrong and how you could have done better. You think about how you might be able to fix it and maybe even start over. There are lots of different ideas that you think about when someone fails their resolution and the main feeling they most likely feel is guilt over being unable to keep their resolution.
In Biblical terms, you have basically put yourself under the law and are forcing yourself to be judged by it. In fact, some people even join groups or pools to keep their resolutions so that they are held accountable for their goals, which just further shows that people set themselves up to be judged by someone or something else. The Wednesday Bible Study group has been studying the book of Romans and for basically three whole chapters Paul has been telling all who hear and read this letter that all people are bound to the law. The Gentiles are bound to their own law that they have created for themselves, and the Jews have the law of Moses that they have lived under for many generations. The law that they both know make them aware of their sins. Much like today we live under a law of our nation and our state. We know what is right and wrong and if we do what is wrong we pay the price that has been decided by those who make the laws.
When Mary and Joseph come to the temple in our text today we see two things happening that the law has required them to do. They get thrown together by Luke and seem like one event but Mary is at the temple to be made clean after having had her son. The Law said that a woman was unclean for 40 days after she had a son and had to present herself and make an offering to be made clean again.
The other event that is happening, which is also a part of the Law is that since Jesus is the first-born son of Mary and Joseph, he, just like every other first born of Israel are dedicated to the Temple and they are redeemed and claimed by God. The law for offering the first-born to the temple came from when Pharaoh ordered the first-born of the Israelites to be killed so that they would not grow too great in number and overthrow him. The first-born from then on were dedicated to God as a symbol of God saving their children during the Passover.
Mary and Joseph were devout in their faith and though they were not rich by any means they came to the temple and offered the sacrifices according to the Law in order that Mary may be made clean and Jesus may dedicated to the temple as their first-born son. From the time that Jesus was 40 days old he had been dedicated to the temple and was then a part of the Law that all Israelites live under. Jesus was bound by the Law just like any other person, and yet, he was so much more than that.
We see that when Simeon and Anna see Jesus and start to proclaim the goodness of God and the salvation and redemption that God will bring through Jesus. Simeon speaks specifically about Jesus and what he will do, while Anna, it simply states that this child will bring redemption to all who are looking for it. Both Simeon and Anna see this child for more than just what is on the surface. They see how Jesus will be and what he will do for not just Israel, but for all peoples.
To reinforce the prophecies of Anna and Simeon, if we take a look at our text from Galatians, we see that Jesus was born of a woman who both were a part of and lived under the Law, but that Jesus came to redeem all who were under the Law. Both Anna and Paul use the word redeem/redemption here. They both know that Jesus lived under the Law and yet Jesus came to redeem people from the Law.
If we also take a look at we see that Jesus says that he came not to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. Through we were not able to save ourselves from the law and from the sin that we have lived in our whole lives, Jesus came also into the law, but because he was God’s son he was able to bring us, in the words of Simeon and Anna, salvation and redemption. Through that salvation and redemption we are then adopted as children of God as tells us. Then if we are adopted as the children of God then we are God’s heirs. If we are heirs then we are no longer bound by the law of sin and death but we are given life through the life of Jesus Christ.
I think sometimes it’s easier to live under the Law because we live in world where there are laws and rules and we want to know what we have to do to fix the wrong that we have done. The Law says exactly what to do when you have done this or that. The Law of God under Jesus proclaims that we no longer have to worry about sin. We are forgiven children of God, loved by God and claimed as God’s very own.
Today we see a story about Jesus when he is a little more than a month old. Yet in this story we see that Jesus has a devout and righteous family who lives according to the Laws of Moses and we also see two individuals, a man and a woman, who see this infant as so much more than just another infant being dedicated to the temple that day. They see new life and a new world through this child. They see the resolution, not of a new year, but of God’s promise to redeem and save all people from their sins that they have lived too long under.
The text from Galatians says it perfectly so I want to leave you with the words from Paul:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Above everything else you do this New Year’s, make it a resolution to remind yourself that you are forever and always a child of God and an heir to his gifts of redemption and salvation.