2014-12-28 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Today in the 12-day season of Christmas, we get to share in a rare, “he’s-less-than-40-days-old” Jesus story!
Joseph and Mary are back in Jerusalem and displaying their devout Jewishness…Mary is presenting herself for a purification ritual and as parents of a first born son (is Joseph still wondering what’s up with all of this?),
Jesus is being presented as a worship offering to the Lord…along with presenting (dedicating) Jesus’ to the Lord, they offer a “sacrifice according to the Law” which for the rich, would be an unblemished lamb, but for the poor, it’s a pair of turtledoves.
Imagine a solemn ritual, with a temple priest presiding….and now Joseph, Mary and Jesus are making their way out of the temple’s inner courts…
Imagine a quirky, 70’s something, white haired man…righteous and devout, yes, but also lanky and a little bit nutty….think of Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown from Back 2 the Future…bursting into the scene: “Great Scott! The Holy Spirit led me into the temple courts this morning and I had no idea why! And here he is! Here he is!
The consolation of Israel!! (grabs joseph by the lapels)… Joseph! Do you know what this means!! Let me hold the child!
He swoops 39-day-old Jesus into his arms, praising God, shouting:
“Master, dismiss your servant in peace!
My eyes have seen your salvation!
Not just for me…but for ALL people…
A LIGHT for revelation to the gentiles,
& GLORY to the people of Israel!”
And as if there isn’t enough to get used to as young parents…
Joseph and Mary are bewildered and amazed at these words.
And wanting to calm down his antics a bit, Mary reaches out to take Jesus back into her arms…she’s nervous, of course…watching gangly Simeon lurching to and fro’ with the baby…
But he’s not done…after saying words of blessing for the whole family, he suddenly gets intense and serious…. his dark, beady eyes and furrowed brow glancing at Joseph and then staring deeply into Mary’s wide-eyed (and somewhat mortified) gaze…
“This child’s destiny is for the FALLING and RISING of many in Israel…
He will be opposed…
The inner thoughts of MANY will be revealed! – – –
And a SWORD will pierce your own soul too.”
– a sword will pierce your own soul too – –
Simeon’s face drops. His exuberant, frenetic joy…crashes into a sober, sullen, silence…
If you could read the “thought bubbles” above Joseph and Mary’s head…what would they read?
– this guy is mad??
– WTF….what the far-vus? = “what the why?”
The silence is broken with a shrill outburst from an 84-year old woman!
It’s Anna, the temple prophet…a woman who tarries day and night at the temple, worshipping, fasting and praying.
This time, Mary held Jesus, tight to her chest…she wasn’t about to let her baby get swept up into another mystical, prophetic, drama-scape.
Anna was different though…she was visibly excited and ecstatic, but much more subdued in her delivery…she too, praised God for the gift of this child…perhaps quoting words from the prophet Isaiah and then turning to others in the temple court saying phrases like:
“Have you not known…have you not heard? Has it not been told to you from the beginning?”
“The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…”
[She utters more of Isaiah’s words from memory…her favourites…]
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
……. you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you…”
> And though it feels like yet another dream in the midst of their wild and more-than-dramatic lives…Joseph and Mary are slowly getting accustomed to their plight in life…this baby has turned their lives upsidedown…yes, it’s amazing to see him grow and change even in his first 39 days…but Joseph and Mary realize how much they too, are changing…
and as they leave the bustling city of Jerusalem, longing for the quiet, ordinary routines of their smalltown, nazarene life, they realize, that with this child, somehow, in the near or far future, it’s going to be anything but a routine life…
* * * * *
“all is calm….all is bright….sleep in heavenly peace…sleep in heavenly…”
meep, meep, meep!! (like an alarm clock you forgot to turn off!)
Oh, the RUCKUS, calamity and commotion of our lives.
Unless you live in a bubble….or on your own planet…you recognize that your life is not immune to ruckus.
It might be local, global, mundane or catastrophic…personal or communal. But it’s inevitable isn’t it?
[Northridge earthquake, Mon. Jan. 17, 1994, 6.7 magnitude, 4:30 am]
Reality is, that everyday we wake up to ruckus…whether we are aware of it or not. It doesn’t take too long to look around your life, or the news headlines to realize that “all is not calm….not everyone is sleeping in heavenly peace.”
Poor Joseph. And poor Mary. They were hoping for a relatively ordinary, uneventful time of ritual worship at the temple and yet, their lives are bombarded with intrusion…crazy Simeon with his praiseworthy but also terrifying words!
And then dear old Anna…telling about how this baby boy is the “game-changer” for all the cosmos.
[maybe you’re hoping for a quiet day of worship? Look out!]
What’s the good news of a whacky story like this?
Out of all the childhood stories of Jesus, what’s up with this one?
It seems that Luke wants us to know that Joseph & Mary are obedient Jewish kids but there seems to be more to this story…
Good news: GOD is intimately involved with the ruckus of our lives.
God is familiar (and actually likes(?) nosing around) with the ruckus & commotion of our lives.
In fact, it seems that God, through Jesus, might, dare-we-say, like being an instigator of ruckus in our lives!?!
The problem with a living God, is that GOD IS A LIVING GOD (thanks Will Willimon!). And because of that alive-ness, it might very well mess up our lives. We might very well encounter Jesus and he might move us to praise, to exclamation, but also to bold truth-telling…(ie. “This is what I’ve been waiting for!” IS ACCOMPANIED WITH “a sword will pierce through your soul.”).
It’s the inseparable swirling together of joy & sorrow…and God “Emmanuel-ing” with us….
Jesus was born into the beauty and bane of humanity, so that he might be familiar with our beauty and bane.
Isn’t that good news? Isn’t that wonderful?
In the words of Isaiah… (42:3)
“…a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.”
In the midst of the ruckus & calamity of our lives, Jesus is on the move…bringing forth justice,
Offering peace to all of humankind…slowly re-shaping and re-making the world (tho’ sometimes it feels like it’s at the pace of a 39-day year old child!)
No matter what the pace…God is inviting each of us to join him in this restoring work in the world.
On the 4th day of Christmas…let’s pause for a minute of silent reflection…and as we lay our lives before God, the joys and the sorrows in our hearts, may we know of the certainty of these sagely prophets, who knew for sure, that Jesus was…
The way, the truth and the life.
[ SILENT REFLECTION ]
Blessed are you, God of all creation,
and blessed is the communion
into which you gather us.
Your Word is conceived within us,
and we grow heavy with hope,
eagerly awaiting the day when all creation
will be delivered into your glorious freedom.
Send your Holy Spirit
to call us by name and lead us home.
The prophets crying in the wilderness awaken us
with their holy anger and passionate hope.
Come, Lord Jesus, bring the day of justice to birth.
Send your Holy Spirit
to call us by name and lead us home.
As the shadows shrink and the sun begins to bite,
we anticipate your coming with joy and fear.
Come, Lord Jesus, give us the courage to yield
to the purifying fire of your love, raging towards us.
Send your Holy Spirit
To call us by name and lead us home.