Meditations on the Reality of Christmas: 16. Life Threads
Lk 2:22 Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
Human life is like millions of threads growing, intertwining, reacting and responding, each life a thread unaware of the other threads until they cross. Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem and Mary has just had her baby. Several miles away in the temple in Jerusalem an old woman worships and nearby and elderly man looks heavenward. It is likely that these last two know each other but Mary and Joseph know nothing of them. Their lives continue but do not yet interact.
Time is an important factor in the Jewish faith. On the eighth day Jesus was circumcised. That means they would have sought out the local rabbi and made arrangements for this to happen. Then there is a period of waiting. According to the Law the mother had to wait forty days before going to the temple to offer her sacrifice for her firstborn son. The time passes and eventually, to conform to the Law, the young couple make their way on the six-mile journey to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile the elderly man named Simeon, a righteous and devout man, a man led by the Spirit, suddenly senses today is the day and gathers himself up and makes his way to the temple. Already in the temple is aging Anna, a widow of many years who spends her life there, praying and fasting. She has become part of the background there. Figures converging.
The young couple arrive at the temple. Maybe they have been there before, brought by their parents. They enter the precincts of the temple and find themselves stopped by an old man. He takes the baby in his arms and prays out loud. He pauses, turns to Mary and prophesies, “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.” (Lk 2:34,35) or as the Living Bible puts it, “A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel, and this to their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy of many others. And the deepest thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.”
Yet again this child is heralded on earth and his parents have been witness to it. First it had been by the angelic encounters. To Mary: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Lk 1:32,33). To Joseph: “he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) Then the angels via the shepherds: “a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:11) The message rings loud and clear, God’s Saviour is here, this is him, this little baby!
Then up steps the old lady, Anna, a fourth heralding: “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem,” (Lk 2:38) or, as the Living Bible puts it, “she also began thanking God and telling everyone in Jerusalem who had been awaiting the coming of the Saviour that the Messiah had finally arrived.”
Threads coming together, pieces of the puzzle falling into place, people converging, the plan of God being revealed. There is more to come, much more, as the divine jigsaw maker brings together piece after piece and the picture becomes clearer and clearer – for those with eyes to see, for those who bother to read the accounts, for those who bother to think through the reality of these things – the Son of God has arrived and we can never be the same again! Give thanks.