When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted—and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:22-40)
The Gospel narrative for the presentation of Jesus Christ is filled with both hope and sorrow. Handel was so impacted by these words that he penned the Messiah and The Hallelujah Chorus.
Simeon and Anna knew that they had just seen the Messiah, the Son of God. Amidst their joy was a solemn and sorrowful prophecy… “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The child destined for glory is also destined for suffering. Mary and Joseph are reminded that they are part of a much larger story.
We too are part of a larger story, one that contains all manner of joy and sorrow, and the world draws us into that story whether we like it or not. A sword will sometimes pierce our own souls, too, and sometimes we must be reminded of that, lest our hearts become deadened to the full scope of God’s vision.
We are jaded by these uncertain times, times marked by a pandemic, an uncertain economy, a fractured and divided society. How can we know peace when there seems to be no peace? How can one see with certain eyes in such uncertainty?
Have we lost the desire to believe and look for that which we believe?
We must. There will always be those whose eyes have a clarity of God’s vision. Certain eyes know that whatever God has promised God will deliver. It can happen when a stranger bumps into us and tells us something we needed to hear. It might be a kind word; it might be a sobering one. But it is something true, something that jolts us back into an understanding that our lives are not simply our own private drama to be enacted according to our preferences.
As followers of Jesus, we must follow the Christ Child into the temple, as it were, and see whom we might encounter there to tell us about ourselves. We do this in any number of ways—by attending church, by going out into the community to serve others, by taking a stand on issues of justice, by living the words we read.
If we don’t, the Simeons and the Annas of the world will never find us. We will never rejoice with them; we will never see what they see; we will never understand ourselves through the reflection of their piercing gaze.
There is danger here and distraction, but also goodness. God can be found it all of it, though, and the fundamental lesson is that we must present ourselves in its midst, in the cacophony, in the muddy streets, in the jostling sea of searching souls—we must make our way to the temple and allow our fragile hearts to be pierced, because somehow that is the only way we can live. Somehow, it is the only way we can be saved.
Prayer of The Day
Thank you, God, for giving us your All, the Word made flesh in your Son Jesus. Lord, grant that we might have certain eyes in the midst of our present uncertainty. We thank you. We bless your name and we praise you for the giving gift of Jesus. Amen.
It is incredible that Simeon and Anna’s respective histories did not hinder their faith in the things of God–they continued to look for God’s promise. Our problems of the past can prohibit our seeing possibility in the present, but not for Simeon and Anna. This text tells us that seeing is possible in the midst of darkness. Disappoint-ments can be disappointing, but discoveries can cause us to see afresh that God is still speaking. Past wounds can blur the lenses through which we look. Yet Luke is deliberate in mentioning to us that Simeon’s and Anna’s devout faith, guidance by the Holy Spirit, allow us a bit of seasoning for this season of our lives.