30 December 2018
So Christmas is over. The banners remain and memories of the big day and its build up lingers like smoke from the Advent candles now blown out. We have remembered the story of the birth of Jesus. And today Luke takes us into the Temple, where Jesus is presented and greeted, not by the priests but by two old and wise devout saints – Simeon and Anna. This is a story for all the elderly who have stayed in the church and faithfully done their bit; a testimony of persistence and steadfast faith. But this story is one for us all to acknowledge the lessons of waiting, to inspire us to keep the faith, to keep believing, for nothing is in vain, in Jesus salvation and deliverance has come.
Simeon takes the fruit of Mary’s womb, takes the god-child in his arms and says what all of us would want to say one day: ‘Now Lord let me go … let me go for I am in peace … because I have seen the salvation for all the world. I have seen hope! I am at peace.
Anna was widowed as a young wife and had not left the Temple since her husband’s death. Her story represents one of deep grief and a profound longing that perhaps all who have experienced grief and loss know well. Now, for her and all of Jerusalem, she proclaims, this child brings deliverance to me and to all looking for something more, seeking something that can redeem them, change them, restore them.
And so the journey of Jesus the new-born Messianic hope begins, and appropriately for this Gospel it all begins in the Temple for, of all the Gospels Luke is the most traditional, the most Jewish is cultural flavour. And little wonder the reaction of the parents that day in worship, for what do parents know, proud they may be, of the future of their young children. The text says Joseph and Mary were awestruck, amazed at what was happening before them. It was for them perhaps vindication, validation, confirmation.
Today briefly I want to make reference to the term used by Simeon and implied by Anna … the word ‘Now’. Now is the time Simeon says … now is the day to remember, to celebrate that something special has occurred in human history, now salvation has arrived. At that moment says the text for Anna, seeing Jesus, she could begin anew to praise and to worship and experience redemption.
We are a generation of the now … we like things instantly. We prefer the big bash over the test match. We like instant food over slow cooked meals – fast food or uber driven take away! My nephew was giving a speech on the occasion of his wedding anniversary and he celebrated his wife because she was a now woman, she says we are going, we doing this, we are taking this, while he pontificates a bit. He said she enlivens him because she is so now! And here it is not later, here salvation is not in a little while, here it is not ‘manana’ tomorrow … its now! God has broken into our world now, Jesus is available to us all now … and for us we can know, that, well may the child be born some time ago, but Simeon and Anna indirectly is saying the salvation event is available to us all, now! It can impact us now, where we are, as we sit and listen, at home, at work, at rest or at play.
The nativity story well may be sanitised into cute old fairytale about a small baby nestling in a crib with straw and lambs bleating ever so softly. The truth is it is one of struggle and difficulty, and the simple point I make today is that this story is not just history, but a repeating story, a story that can impact us now, a story where Divine Love takes place in human form daily and where opportunities and a way forward is apparent now for each one of us as embrace the legacy of our past, and the directions of our future. The door of faith for us all even for believers, the door to new direction is now, the door for change is now, the door for salvation and redemption – making sense of our life, culling that which is wrong, and beginning a new road of liberation … is now.
Simeon and Anna could be us all, and it could be all who long for deliverance, it could be all families seeking refuge or asylum sheltering their newborn in desperate circumstances, it could be all those gripped with the trauma of domestic abuse or poverty, it could be all those tired of life and seeking release. This story in the Temple is for us all, in our own here and now, for it gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate where we sit in life and in faith and like a wise old man or woman in the Temple or in church to sit in silence and ponder the mystery of it all and know not just believe but know that in and with faith in the Christ Child whatever tragedies befall us, whatever trials impact our heart, whatever temptation rages in our soul we can overcome because the child is here now who shows a door and embodies a way of hope and peace.
That is the radical hope that we can celebrate here and now especially on the eve of a new year.