(A Communion meditation based on Luke 2:22-40 for the 1st Sunday after Christmas Day 2014)
It was forty days after the birth of Jesus and the praise of the angels and of the shepherds was still echoing. In our text we hear it echoing in the words of two elderly people who had faithfully throughout their long lives waited and watched expectantly for God to act in the coming of the Messiah.
A few questions:
Are we looking for God to reveal the Messiah in whatever ways God chooses to reveal him?
Are we dedicating our lives to living in the light of his past, present, and future comings?
Are we proclaiming with our lives the presence of Christ in the world and in our lives?
Are the echoes of the Christmas event still echoing in our lives?
Mary and Joseph, in obedience to the teaching of their tradition, brought Jesus when he was forty days old to the Temple to be dedicated to the Lord. There they encountered Simeon and Anna, both of whom were well up in years. Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah. He then declared the role that Jesus would play in bringing about God’s purposes in the world, purposes that would affect all people. Then Simeon said to Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
“Good tidings of great joy”—that was what the angels had proclaimed forty days earlier.
“Falling and rising; opposition; a piercing sword”—that was what old Simeon now proclaimed.
The good news embodied in the baby Jesus was going to be worked out through love, you see, and love is willing to pay any price, no matter how difficult, challenging, or hurtful, to accomplish love’s work in love’s way. Love’s way is costly and sacrificial. Love is also contagious in both its positive and negative effects; when love leads someone we love to get hurt it hurts us—such was the price that Mary would pay. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that she was going to give birth to the Savior; Simeon was given necessary insight into what kind of Savior the baby was going to grow to be and he shared that insight with Mary.
Is it still difficult for us to accept that God’s way for the baby born in Bethlehem was the way of the Cross? It is one thing to praise God for the birth of the baby—it may be almost easy because it’s so much fun—but is it difficult for us to praise God for the path down which Jesus’ faithfulness to his Father took him? Mary seems to have taken the word of the Lord through Simeon as she took all of the words that she had heard and all of the experiences that she had experienced—she took them to heart, accepted them, pondered them, and lived with them. What do we do with them?
Simeon’s words and the reality that they reflected have echoed now for two thousand years. The nature of echoes, though, is that they fade away a little more each time they are repeated.
Perhaps it is time for us to proclaim the good news of the birth of Jesus with our words and with our lives in ways that are obvious so that the word can begin to echo anew.
How do we need to live? How do we need to give? How do we need to sacrifice? How do we need to take the hurt of others into our lives? How do we need to move from adoring the baby in the manger to following the man on the cross who told us to take up our cross and follow him?
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the One in whom “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” Can we also celebrate the fact that the ministry of Christ continues through us, his Church? Will we embrace the truth that we are the body of Christ in the world and that we will be—we must be—broken for his sake and for the world’s sake?
Old Simeon held the Christ child in his arms. Today we hold in our hands the bread and the cup that represent the body and blood of Christ. As we go out, let us recommit ourselves to being the body of Christ in the world.
Sometimes it seems that the echoes of Christmas—and of Good Friday and Easter—have just about faded out.
Let’s live lives of love, of service, of forgiveness, of grace, of mercy, and of sacrifice that will get the echoes going again—and again—and again …