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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 2:21–40     

After 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. 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 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 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 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed--and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 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 seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 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. When they had finished everything required by 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. (NRSV)

It’s kind of an odd thing to tell a mother about her baby, especially after what he’s just said in front of everyone. “My eyes have seen your salvation . . . a light for revelation . . . for glory to your people.” Pretty good. But then, he takes Mom aside and says, “What happens to him will cut your heart out.” Gee, Simeon . . . thanks?

People often say that you really don’t know fear until you become a parent, when you bring a small, defenseless person into a hostile world and finally see how there are mortal threats around every corner. So we buy cabinet locks, soft bumpers for all the sharp corners in the house, gates to close off stairways that hold dangers; we check toys for choking hazards, buy NASCAR-quality car seats, and make sure we put the baby down in the crib on its back.

It’s a normal response to fear, to try to insulate yourself and your loved ones from a threatening world. But indulging that fear comes with consequences—insulated from the world, it’s impossible to learn how to live in it. In the end, it’s impossible to insulate our children from all the risks and still have them grow up to be fully functioning adults. Without embracing the risk and stress of living, it’s impossible to make a way in the world.

There’s a reason, when angels appear, that the first thing they say is “Don’t be afraid.” Indulging our fear makes us small and childish. It is the concrete expression of a failure of faith. The world is full of risk. Sometimes you feel like your heart is cut out. But it’s the only way we, and our kids, ever finally grow up.

Simeon shows Mary the light and the darkness and blesses her. Darkness is unavoidable. Thank God, so is light.

Lord, the world can be a fearful place. Help us to live our hopes and not our fears. Strengthen our faith, so that we can open ourselves to the world and live as you would have us live. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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