Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
We listen to Luke 2:22-40. Mary and Joseph fulfill the dictates of their religious tradition following the birth of a child. They offer two turtle doves instead of a lamb indicating that they are poor. In the course of the story, Simeon offers testimony that echoes the Magnificat, the song of Mary after the visit of the angel Gabriel.
When the day came for them to be purified, as laid down by the Law of Moses, the couple took Jesus up to Jerusalem and presented him to God. For it’s written in the Law of our God, “Every firstborn heir is to be consecrated to God.” They likewise came to offer in sacrifice “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accord with the dictate of the Law of our God.
Now there lived in Jerusalem a man named Simeon. He was devout and just, anticipating the consolation of Israel, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. She had revealed to Simeon that he wouldn’t see death until he had seen the Messiah of God. Prompted by her, Simeon came to the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child to perform the customary rituals of the Law, he took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Now, O God, you can dismiss your servant in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the peoples to see — a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”
As the child’s mother and father stood there marveling at the things that were being said, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, the mother, “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that is rejected, so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare. And a sword will pierce your heart as well.”
There was a woman named Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, who was also a prophet. She had lived a long life, seven years with her husband, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple, worshiping day and night, fasting and praying. Coming up at that moment, she gave thanks to God and talked about the child to all who anticipated the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When the couple had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the Law of God, they returned to Galilee and their own town of Nazareth. The child grew in size and strength. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was with him.
Reflection from Kim
As this New Year begins, I think we need to hear the passionate voices of hope and promise that come to us in the stories of Simeon and Anna. These faithful prophets herald the wonderful things God is doing in the world. It is a powerful story of the spreading of the message of the gospel of peace and good will for all people. Light to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel. Light to the whole world. The light of love, peace, joy, and hope. Here among us. Within us. Around us. This saving gospel of life! Anna and Simeon see this and they celebrate with praise and thanksgiving.
Simeon and Anna remind us of how to be part of what God is doing in the world. Watch. Wait. Be attentive. Be expectant. Be filled with desire. Devote yourself to religious observance. This is how we prepare ourselves to see what God is doing. This is how we open ourselves to what is happening within us and in our world.
But Anna and Simeon don’t stop with watching and waiting. They call out what they are seeing. They name salvation and liberation. For all people not just their people. They declare the unconditional, universal love of God. They support and affirm and celebrate the presence of Divine Love. They are excited and passionate.
And as with any significant transformation, positive or negative, or some of both, there is a down side. And in this wonderful story of the encounter in the Temple, that is taken seriously. Simeon tells us that there are those who will not be pleased with the good news that comes into the world through Jesus. The way of new life and love will be difficult. For Jesus. For Mary. For others. Simeon has a real world outlook. The gospel has a political, social, economic dimension. It is controversial. Yet it is the way of healing and wholeness – for the world.
As this new year begins, in the midst of serious divisions on many fronts played out during a pandemic, the world needs Annas and Simeons to speak of the saving presence of Divine Love. Within us . Among us. Around us. Blessing the world. We need people to help us to see the transformation and healing that is emerging in our midst. So we begin the new year by calling on all Annas and Simeons. Yes, that may even mean you. An every day person of faith with open eyes and an open heart. Waiting. Expectant.
And we can all be open and receptive to those around us who are inviting us to see the presence of Divine Love in the our lives and in the world. Who are sharing the good news. We can all be attentive to those who are passionately affirming and celebrating the way of love and justice that we see in Jesus.
When we think back to Luke’s story of Anna and Simeon, we remember that Anna and Simeon, along with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, are devout and observant when it comes to their religious tradition. So as 2021 begins, we want to remember to make regular religious observance part of our lives in the new year so that we position ourselves to experience and hear the Spirit. It’s hard during covid, but participate in the church as best you are able, read scripture, pray, meditate, journal, sing [by yourself, of course], reach out to others from the church. Exposure and contact with the church is an important context for discerning and celebrating the presence and power of Divine Love in our lives and in the world. You may experience the testimony of a contemporary Anna or Simeon in the context of the church. You may share your message of healing love for the world through the church.
So as we journey into this new year, a year with many unknowns and much division, may Anna and Simeon be our guides as we seek consolation. Amen.
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