Dec31SunFirst Sunday of Christmas December 31, 2017
Mary and Joseph
Forty days had passed since that night in Bethlehem. The angles sang, the shepherds saw, a child was born. On hay Jesus cooed with an animal lullaby around. In the night sky a bright light shattered the darkness. That night, the stable transformed into a place fit to receive a king. A life came into being, against all odds. Born on the margins to a poor couple. A hope absent and silent for too long was born into the world.
In those first few hours of life, like any newborn, Jesus needed his small stomach to be filled with mother’s milk and to be cleaned. Both parents took turns cradling the baby in their arms throughout the long night when he awoke cold and crying.
The next morning the couple was longing to return to the comfort of home and family. To share with them the joy and moment of dreamlike peace that had come into their lives, little did they know this same joy and peace was to spread throughout the world. They had stayed longer than expected in Bethlehem at the animal inn but this was not time to rush.
Finally, they journeyed home. Jesus grew up in a family that closely followed the law of Moses. On the eighth day relatives gathered in the family home for a celebration. It was naming day. Jesus will be his name, an angel told the parents on separate occasions. When it came time for Joseph to take his first born son to be dedicated, a lamb was given and Joseph dedicated his son to the service of the Lord .
The first month passed quickly and it was time for the family to go to Jerusalem. A purification ritual was necessary for women after childbirth. An offering was appropriate. If wealthy, a lamb and a turtle dove would be the gift. If poor, two turtle doves or pigeons. Walking up the temple steps, on her way to the women’s court Mary was comforted by the birds flying around wherever they please, they reminded her of the presence of the holy spirit.
As she watch the birds fly freely an eye was kept open for a certain person. She knew it likely to bump into Anna at the temple and hoped this would be the case. Her cousin Elizabeth had told her all about this faith filled lady who lived in the temple night and day. Praying. Fasting. Welcoming. Guiding those coming for Jewish rituals like Mary. Anna was the woman who spoke a loving truth to those visiting the temple offering a face of humanity in a sometimes cold closed off place. Her name meant “poor” and yes she was poor like Mary but rich in so many other ways.
Anna’s steps were slower now but sprightly for a woman of her age, some say over 100 year old. When she saw the young couple approaching, her mind immediately went to her friend Simeon. It was time dear, Simeon. Now, you can soon go in peace. Her spirit rejoiced for dear Simeon while a tear dripped down her cheek. How she would miss her friend, her faithful companion, whom she had loved for so long.
Simeon, dear Simeon, come and see the babe born for us.
Simeon had been waiting for what seems like a lifetime for this moment, this child. He was an old man now. In earnest he waited for the comfort of Israel, an end to exile, a homecoming. Now there in the temple is a baby … Simeon eyes glimpse upon Jesus. He imagines the wholeness all of creation will one day see through this child.
With a cane in hand, Simeon (whose name means God has heard) hobbles to the young family. Dropping his cane, he grabs the six week old baby out of Mary’s arms. Would his frail arms hold the child the parents wondered? Mustering his strength, Simeon gently cradles the child. Rejoicing that God fulfills promises. Faithful and so timely he thought. The remembrance of God’s faithfulness went deep into his old bones and made them alive.
His song of praise burst forth:
Now Lord, you let your servant go in peace. Your word has been revealed.
My own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to reveal you to the nations and the Glory of you people Israel.
Now Lord you let your servant go in peace.
Mary and Joseph knew of Simeon and for whom he waited, the promised one. Zechariah and Elizabeth had gone through these same rituals 6 months earlier with John. Throughout the entire hill country of Judea - people were amazed. Wondering who will this child named John become? And now Jesus?
Joseph and Mary held dear the words spoken to them by the angels for quite some time… They were careful not to dwell too long in what this might mean but pondered with grateful hearts God’s mysterious way among them. Some moments were most vivid.
Elizabeth said to Mary,
How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me?
An angel said to Joseph,
You will call him Jesus. The child will save people from their sins.
And to Mary- You will conceive and name him Jesus. He will be great - the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of
David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.
Now a bit more was revealed to their eyes. Mary and Joseph were amazed by what Simeon was saying about Jesus. He blessed them and like Anna, offered a word of truth to Mary. Simeon would much rather have kept silent and held on to the six week old. But he couldn’t stop from saying these difficult words to Mary, “This child will change how the world is ordered. He is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel.” Dear Mary, your son will welcome all but will not be welcomed by all. And “a sword will pierce through your soul.” As Simeon spoke these words, it was as if a sword pierced him at that moment too.
Simeon and Anna alongside Mary and Joseph looked down at Jesus now back in his mother’s arms. Smiles brimmed from ear to ear. Hope filled their hearts. Light brightened their minds. There was still a lot of growing up this young child had to do. One day this little baby would grow into a man who would continue to bring life into existence for the poor and marginalized.
Mary and Joseph gathered the little they came with. The young couple said farewell to the two elderly friends, Anna and Simeon, they had met on that day. And they were blessed on there way . Go in peace, they said together. God is with us.