On the eighth day, May and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law. When they had completed this, they came to meet two very interesting people, the first of which was a man named Simeon. By the time that he met parents and child, Simeon was a very old man, but he had been promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes, and having been moved by the Spirit to come to the Temple that day, he came upon the blessed baby; taking the child up in his arms, Simeon said:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
Mary and Joseph marveled at this, but Simeon wasn’t quite finished yet:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The first part must have been so thrilling, so exciting, so gratifying; I know that if I were Joseph, it would also be something of a relief under the circumstances. Yet that second part; what was that all about? It’s great if the kid was destined to be a light and a glory, but “spoken against,” and a “sword” in his mother’s soul?
This isn’t fun any more!
Then Anna comes into the picture. She was a very old prophet (interesting in itself) who told everyone about this child “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Try to imagine what must have been going through the minds of Mary and Joseph…
They had come a long way on faith. Of course Mary knew that God was the father of the child; this is something she would have been certain of, but nobody can tell me that Joseph didn’t have his difficult moments of doubt; now this. What had they gotten into?
It would be hard to imagine that they didn’t have thoughts along these lines, but I think we still have such thoughts today. I say this because these aren’t exactly the most quoted verses in the Christmas Story… are they? Oh we love to quote the “peace on earth” part, we like the little lambs in the manger and the little drummer boy who I still can’t find in Scripture. Singing choirs of angels are also great as they Hearken the good news to those poor shepherds, but the part about rising and falling, being spoken against and a sword to the soul are different; Jesus came for peace on earth; we didn’t sign up for swords and troubles!
Jesus came to bring unity of all peoples, yet with unity came disunity also, and with peace came conflict, and this paradox continues to this very day. Even though this isn’t the part of the story we like to get into during this season of the year, it is important to understand because it affects our lives, and we must not shrink away from the truth.
Let’s take a look at this in more depth tomorrow…