Hear the Word of God from Luke 2.
“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Jesus 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.” (This particular sacrifice indicates that they were poor. The poor sacrificed birds; wealthier families sacrificed larger animals, like goats.)
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, (to the comfort, to the relief of Israel) and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now You are dismissing Your servant in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Centuries before the prophet Micah wrote, “Fallen, no more to rise, is maiden Israel; forsaken on her land, with no-one to raise her up.” And yet now, Messiah.
This is the Word of the Lord.
When are the things we want to hear when we have our 8-day-old baby in our arms?
Look how beautiful.
Oh my word, he looks just like you.
What am amazingly perfect baby girl.
You are a child of the covenant, and I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
9 months earlier, Gabriel visited Mary, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you….“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
This is what Mary knew: Jesus would be a most special baby. He would grow to be a powerful leader.
After His birth, shepherds came and went, and the Wise Men were just packing their bags for a long trip.
The 8th day came, and just like for every Jewish baby boy, so did the trip to have him circumcised. Mary and Joseph gave God their firstborn.
“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
These words are a little different than He’s a special baby who will grow into a powerful leader. These words are different than the praise poured over Him by the shepherds. These words tell Mary and Joseph the reality and consequence of Jesus’ power.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.
What’s in a name?
Jesus’ cousin was named John, which means “the Lord has been gracious.” John the Baptist was given the name on purpose by the word of the Lord through Gabriel.
But what’s in this name?
I AM is the name of God. Yahweh.
Gabriel said His name would be Jesus. Yeshua. Joshua. God saves.
Emmanuel. God with us.
Messiah. The one who saves the people.
Mary, you have found favor with God and favor comes at a steep cost.
A sword will pierce your soul. Parents get this, the soul-piercing anguish of a parent.
We would change places with our children so they would not have to suffer. And it never ever matters how old you are or how old your children are.
Yet, we cannot switch places. Our souls are pierced as by a sword.
How do you tell a mother with an 8-day-old baby in her arms, that He will be the cause of the falling and the rising of many in Israel, He will be opposed, which will reveal what is in our hearts, and that her soul will break?
Mary would be humbled a lot by Jesus—at the wedding at Cana, for example, her Son looks at her and says that His use of God’s power was not her business and would not happen at her request. Still, she told the stewards, “Do whatever He says.”
She would be swollen with pride when she sees the crowds follow her Son. His teaching was awesome and awe filled. She knew He had whatever it was that Gabriel told her he’d have.
She would be exhausted from long days. She’d travel with the women and her Son’s itinerant ministry. She’d have to set up places to stay and prepare food and some comfort.
She, like the crowds, would marvel at Jesus’ ability to heal. He’d take people who were broken and restore them. She’d see bodies restored and souls saved and hearts mended; the poor lifted up and the rich challenged.
She’d hear the disciples question her Son about what He was doing, and could He please interpret to them what He’d just taught the crowds.
Mary would see that the leadership of the faith of her childhood would have nothing to do with Jesus as a rabbi, and in fact would pursue Him to His death.
Mary would experience the consequences of the plotting of Rome and the Sanhedrin on her Son:
The cheers of Palm Sunday.
The last meal shared with His disciples.
His tears in the Garden while at prayer.
His arrest by a mighty military mob.
His trials before Pilate and Herod and Pilate again.
The release of Barabbas, a criminal, instead of her Son, sinless, innocent, the beloved Son of God who would save they very people who yelled, “Crucify Him.”
The flogging. Jesus carrying His cross, Simon of Cyrene helping him.
As they would hammer his feet and hands, He’d forgive them. Her grief would be exquisite.
On the cross He would cry out in pain and she would give anything to trade places with Him.
Placed in the tomb she would weep ugly, deep, horrible tears for her dead Son.
There is no Christmas without the cross.
There is no Christmas without the resurrection.
Mary would see the culmination and the meaning of the angel’s words:
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Simeon’s words:
“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed”
Mary’s heartbreak would be replaced with joy. And the falling and rising of many in Israel would be so. And the thoughts of many revealed.
And so in Advent we wait for the birth of this child. Knowing what we know, we have the audacity of faith in Christ who comes helpless, then reigns victorious.
Who makes what is dark light.
Who takes our souls and saves us; our minds and purifies them.
Who takes our hearts and mends them.
Who takes our bodies and resurrects them into perfection.
This is the peace of Christ that goes beyond our understanding. This is the mystery of God, for our salvation.
What’s in this name?
Everything good and just and righteous.
(Prayer based on writings of Thomas Keating.)
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; Make us to know Your ways. Make us to walk in Your truth and teach us, for You are our God and Savior.
We have not received the spirit of the world but Your Holy Spirit, so that we may have a glimpse of understanding the things You’ve freely given us.
Your Presence is so immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender, and personal. We know that we are known.
Everything in our lives is transparent, not hidden, in Your presence. You know us, all in all and through and through. Yet You love us without condition. You know how we are broken. You know our weaknesses. You know how we yearn to love You more.
Your presence is healing, strengthening, and refreshing.
Your presence is self-giving and boundless in compassion.
You are like coming home to a place we should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always with us, but which we did not recognize.
We come before You with our prayers for those we love:
Let us be the bearers of peace, O God. Give us peace to give, for if we rely on ourselves for it, we will surely fail. Give us peace in our bodies, in our minds, in our souls, in our hearts; in our conversations and in our actions. Let us reflect Your light in a world burdened with too much hatred, misunderstanding, and unrest.
We pray only in the name of Jesus Christ, who, because we did not know how to pray, taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.