Malachi 3:1-5; Ps 24:7-10; Heb 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
First a deep breath, as we pack away thoughts and emotions emanating from the joys and wonder of Christmas, the Epiphany, and all with which we wrap those festivals,
we face that the “real world” awaits our attention. My neighbour has brought her caravan home from the beach, my other neighbour’s family are packing to head home to the big smoke, or careers across the waters of the western Pacific. Many are concluding their last blast in the recalcitrant sun of this summer, closing up the bach, bringing home the boat,
the recreational toys, and the stories of fish caught, and waves ridden, and water-skis mounted, tracks walked, bargains hunted and scored, and Odyssey-like road trips.
Now we take a deep breath and look to the road ahead into the rest of 2017, into whatever it is that God is calling us in our own expanding world of mission. The office computer, the farm tractor, the classroom all call with their varying demands. What do we take with us into this emerging journey, this perpetual pilgrimage?
Coming from the stable to the Temple meant a change in their pilgrimage for Mary, Joseph and their special baby boy. As Joseph and Mary proudly carried their precious little boy into the place of worship, their hearts would have realised that this was a turning in their pilgrimage in God’s surprising call. If they didn’t realise the change that was coming, they soon would as two encounters affirmed that this was no ordinary child, with an extraordinary purpose in God.
A man called Simeon, was lead by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple and God would show him the beginning of His work, in a person, the Messiah – did he know to look for a baby? I guess so. So he went, and he waited – and when he saw the little family enter the Temple he knew, “This is it. This is what God sent me to see and had me waiting for.” Here is salvation, the promise of deliverance, in the person of this month old child – not just for Israel, but for all peoples. People will live in newness of life, in the abundant life, all the promises of prophecy are coming to fruition in this vulnerable and needy baby. Ah, but wait – there’s more, but it’s not going to come easy for His parents to hear.
This child will be a dividing point for those who encounter Him – some will rise, some will stumble, some will try to stop Him – actively, mischievously. The chambers of secrets in our minds will opened for view by this One – things they’d rather keep under wraps will be exposed – brought into the light. So of course people will oppose Him, governments will oppose Him – and those who follow Him.
This is reality. The charm and good feelings of Christmas evaporate so fast – joining the ruck at Boxing Day sales should convince us of that! They don’t really like the Baby in the manger, the just like the excuses for the Saturnalia and holiday. They don’t really like that inconvenient, itinerant preacher, that worker of miracles – and yet He is our salvation and He is their salvation. And who can tell them that – who can show them that? At this point a lot of people would be tempted to point at Brendan – the clergy, the specialist. But that’s not what we see even in this story. Simeon – old and waiting to leave this world for the next prophesying; and Anna an aged frequent visitor to the Temple – worshipping God, fasting and praying. Simeon tells the young mother the wonder of her son’s destiny, and Anna tells anyone who’ll listen. And back in the Christmas story, the first evangelists are the shepherds – they tell everyone they come across.
We have a tremendous story to tell – our own story. A God-purposed and Spirit-filled life, by the grace of God – a surprise, a gift (one we’re to share). The founding story is even more compelling – more startling. God comes among us – why? To kick us in the collective butt for being so stupid? No! To save us – for now, for those in our now, and for an unimaginable future. We’re now heading through Lent towards Easter – God is calling us to take our faith seriously, to face reality, and to walk through it in grace-fired faith, with the express purpose of being the blessing God always intended His kids should be.