Once again, beloved reader, I focused on the big event this week and left until the last minute what the Sunday in the lectionary series had to say. Perhaps if Christmas had not nestled itself down at the end of the week, I might have been more attuned to the Sunday after Christmas. But here it is, this Sabbath day, and we are to look forward and carry on while Christmas is still a bright memory; and the nativity story is still shining in our minds.
For Mary and Joseph, however, time had moved forward . . .
“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.” (Luke 2:22 – 24)
There they met Simon and Anna who recognized and blessed the baby Jesus. The second chapter of Luke says “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Verse 40) The young parents (or at least we envision them both being young) went to make a home for themselves and their infant. If they thought about raising the Son of God, the gospels to not speak to it other than when the teenage Jesus and his parents went up to Jerusalem again. It must have been a stark reminder of Jesus’ birth event years ago.
They could have lived with one eye to the past . . .
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.“ (Isaiah 61:10-62:3)
But Jesus was not destined to be a reliving of past missteps, but hope for the future. And to create a new type of relationship to the Divine.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)
We also are not to live in the past, wallowed in our despair and sin. For us it can be a new day; or a series of new days – if that is what we need. Certainly our celebration can be of what has been . . .
“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!” Psalm 148: 1 – 11)
But it is also a celebration of what is to come.
“Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!” (Verses 12 – 14)
There will be, beloved reader, a few more celebration days before we settle into the New Year. In some tradition Christmastime extends into January, giving time for the wise men to arrive and leave after worshiping the infant Jesus, and after they have confounded Herod.
Do not wait, however, beloved reader to put into practice what you have learned during Advent and Christmas. While the glow of the Christmas tree and the Advent lights may fade, do not let the light of Jesus Christ fade or go out! Carry on in your lives, and carry forth the message of hope, salvation, love and compassion! Shalom & Selah!