Posted on Sun, Jan 1, 2012
January 2, 2012
1st Sunday after Christmas
Gospel Text: Luke 2:22-40 - "My Eyes have Seen Thy Salvation!"
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’ 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ 36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth
39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Would you have recognized the Holy Family if you would have seen them on the streets of Jerusalem… Through the text, we can imagine Joseph leading his little family through the streets with Mary struggling to keep up with him carrying their eight-day-old baby. Luke is very interested in making sure we know the details of Joseph and Mary fulfilling their religious responsibilities of bringing their baby named Jesus to the temple to be presented to the priest for circumcision.
I wonder if they were nervous. I wonder if they got lost in the narrow streets going to Jerusalem from Bethlehem. It was a day or two walk from Bethlehem but the temple looked immense and spectacular even from a distance. They were from Nazareth, not a huge town, but nothing like Jerusalem with the beautiful temple.
They would have looked like outsiders from the north, and they probably had an accent that gave them away as outsiders as soon as they spoke. Whether they had a donkey or not, the text doesn’t say; but a donkey would have been a great luxury.
Frankly, they would have looked poor, and their offering was an offering that only the poor would have been able to give, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’ They may have also looked tired, as it has been a long time since they have slept in their own beds.
It doesn’t take much for us to see people looking very much like Joseph, Mary and Jesus on our own streets. There are countless families that look them living on the streets, beaches or in the bush… Many people just like him or her come to our church every Thursday and Friday. People may look down at them and their “unplanned pregnancy” and their apparent ‘struggling’ situation. They are far from home just trying to do what is right, even though may not have a green card or even a passport. Whether it is Jerusalem or Honolulu there might be some people who actually resent this little poor family that appears to have come to the big city to take advantage of ‘opportunities’ reserved for the residents… “How dare they come to the big city expecting social services? … Especially when they don’t pay the local taxes,” some people may grumble. There is not doubt this little trio is teetering on poverty… what were they thinking?
If we didn’t know their entire story, there is little chance many people would see them as special. Indeed, Mary’s story alone is scandalous. Mary will be known as the “Holy Mother of God,” yet; she is seen by those around her as a woman who has conceived of a child before she was legally married… again, “what was she thinking?” Scandalous…
But appearances can be very deceiving! People simply look and make judgments too quickly. When Jesus became an adult and began his teaching, too many people looked upon Jesus and could not believe what he was teaching was true. “He didn’t look like a ‘normal’ rabbi!” “He didn’t act like a ‘normal’ rabbi!”
He spoke with Roman soldiers, even healing the slave of a Centurion! He spoke to an ‘unclean’ Samaritan woman! He ate with tax collectors and sinners! Scandalous!
People judge and do not take the time to hear the complete story. They immediately judge and harbor resentments because they cannot get beyond their own assumptions and prejudices.
This little family, looked almost pathetic and certainly not a family anyone could make any positive assumptions or have any great expectations about just by looking at them… but according to their traditions and because they were faithful to the angel that announced to Mary and Joseph that they would be the ones responsible for raising and caring for the Messiah of Israel, the Savior to the Gentiles, they didn’t much to seem to care what anyone else thought about them on the street, even if they received stink eye from some of the locals in Jerusalem.
They went right to the temple to present the baby Jesus to the temple priest and be circumcised according to the law and it seemed like there were two wonderful prophets just waiting to see and care for the baby Jesus EVEN though they had never met Joseph or Mary… but when they saw the baby Jesus, Simeon and Anna knew they were laying their eyes upon the Salvation of God!
Simeon is labeled as “righteous” along with Zechariah and Elizabeth in that they were “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” His waiting for the consolation of Israel is rooted in the scriptural promises of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. The words of the prophet Isaiah in verses 40:1, 49:6 and 61:2 are deeply written in his heart at the work of the Spirit of God.
Isaiah 40:1-2 Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
Isaiah 49:6b “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The text states that the Spirit rested on Simeon and that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Whatever Simeon “sees” in the temple will clearly be God’s revelation to him and the reader of Luke’s narrative with him. “To see the Lord’s Messiah” is to discern the fulfillment of God’s promises to console, redeem and save Israel.”
Simeon the prophet and Anna the prophetess, alone seem to know the exact future of Jesus. They look upon Jesus and rejoice in that by SEEING JESUS, they know they are looking upon the one the prophet Isaiah spoke about in Is. 9:6,
6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Simeon and Anna, people of great faith, living each day with the expectation that this could be the day God will show to them their Messiah! Every baby they looked at, every family they took care of at the temple became a holy gift from God given in order to bless God’s people and God’s land… but this little baby Jesus was different! Jesus was to personalize God’s salvation to all people. It was a time to rejoice for the Promise of God had been fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. Now, they could die in peace.
At this Christmas time, we celebrate because we have been blessed by the Christ Child! Not only has Jesus been born, but also through faith, we have new eyes, new ears, and a new heart and with every person we see we see them as forgiven and redeemed through the death and resurrection of this Christ Child! In Jesus, we see the salvation of God! Amen.
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