Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
December 30, 2012

Scripture: Luke 2:21-40

Luke 2:21- 40

21After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph 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”),
24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25Now 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.
26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
27Guided 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,
28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
30for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
34Then 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
35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36There 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 seven years after her marriage,
37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.
38At 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.
39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

The Word of the Lord Thanks be to God

“Getting Back to Normal”

The preparations began long before the big event. First there was the pregnancy test that confirmed her suspicions, followed by the fun plans to tell her curious husband.

After sharing the happy news with the husband there were the joyous phone calls to the soon to be grandparents, aunts and uncles, and with the faith community surrounding them.

After sharing the news with all the people that mattered came the time of waiting and the preparing; the time to get the room ready, to buy the cute clothes, the time to take classes, to paint and clean, to set up the crib, to install the car-seat and the time for parties.

The baby showers were filled with diaper and baby food related games, but most importantly with people who loved the couple and the baby on the way, with people who wanted nothing more than to celebrate this impending birth, to dream about this child who was going to enter the world.

This was pretty much the experience my wife, Amy, and I had each time we were expecting a child, but especially when we were expecting Anna, our first born. It was a joyous time filled with love and hope and an uncertain balance between peace and terror. While I imagine there might be some similarities I feel safe in saying Mary and Joseph didn’t have quite the same experience.

First of all, there was no covert trip to the CVS for a pregnancy test for Mary. The news of this divine pregnancy, from the lips of an angel, launched the happy couple on a divine charge for which they were not quite prepared.

From the beginning their journey was filled with one astonishing encounter after another. Mary, who was too young to be married, much less become a mother, was greeted by Elizabeth, a much older relative, who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy and her husband who was mute until the birth of their child.

And then after months of crazy cravings and late night conversations about their dreams for this child, a VERY pregnant Mary and Joseph are required to travel from the comfort of their own home in Nazareth to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem for a census. And here Mary goes into labor and delivers her first born son in a manger. Exhausted from the travel and birth of her son, Mary is astonished to look up and find shepherds at the door to their barn, shepherds from the distant fields who came bearing stories about angels and the future of her child.

In the story of Luke there are no wise men from strange lands bearing gifts. After the shepherds depart, Luke leaves us to assume that Mary and Joseph got as much sleep as possible, registered as required by the law and then headed out of Bethlehem.

Their baby was born, this long expected child was finally breathing and sleeping in the arms of Mary and now they feel a need to assert some sense of normalcy, some sense of control over the unusual circumstances that have led them to this point in their lives.

Instead of traveling home to Nazareth they head south from Bethlehem for the temple in Jerusalem. The text tells us, “it was time to circumcise the child.” These weary parents just want things to get back to normal. They want to be like all the other families with newborns, they want to honor the traditions of their people, and so they participate in the normal traditions.

In accordance with Jewish custom, after the circumcision and naming ceremony they return home to Nazareth only to return 32 days later to “present him to the Lord,” Just trying to be normal, to be like everyone else, they return to the temple to honor their beliefs and customs. But in a sign of things to come, Mary and Joseph learn that they will have very few normal moments in their lives.

They are approached by two elders who quickly recognize the Spirit of God in this holy child and who don’t fail to share that wisdom with these tired and road weary parents; voices reminding them once again of God’s favor at work in this life.

“Simeon and Anna have waited a lifetime for this moment to find perfect peace. For Joseph and Mary it is only the beginning of their stewardship of a favored life[1].” These parents just want to get through it, they want to take care of this task and then return home and resume their lives, but these elders remind them that life isn’t normal anymore, that the Holy has interrupted, that the Holy has come, that many others are eagerly waiting to see how this young one’s life unfolds.

In so many ways, this story of Mary and Joseph is our story. We have celebrated this amazing miracle, this world changing event but now we are ready for things to be normal again, for the patterns and routines of our lives to resume.

Many people have already put away their presents, taken down their decorations and packed away that cute sweet little baby Jesus until next year. We have sung “Silent Night” and now it is time for Auld Lang Syne and all that will come in the new-year.

But Simeon and Anna are there, in that temple, to remind Mary and Joseph and to remind us that there is more to this child’s story, more for us to see, more for us to do.

Simeon and Anna are there reminding us that we are just at the beginning of our stewardship of this favored life, we are just at the beginning of our understandings of who this child is and what this child’s life means for us and for this community.

“My eyes have seen your salvation” says Simeon. The prophet Anna, upon seeing the Christ child is moved to praise God and speak about him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Before we rush back to the normal patterns of our lives, before we put all our energy into imagining what new thing will emerge in the coming year let us spend some time with Simeon and Anna.

What does it mean for us, individually and as a community, that we have seen our salvation? How has this vision called us to speak about our faith and to work for the redemption of all creation?

In the coming months, as we walk with this Christ child into his adult ministry, as we journey with him back to Jerusalem let us step outside our “normal,” let us be reminded again and again of the salvation that walks with us, let us be challenged to speak about the child, let us be new and renewed stewards of his story that we may be transformed and prepared for the new things he will bring to fruition within and through us.

[1] Shelley D.B. Copeland.  Feasting on the Word. Year B, Volume 4. Page 165