December 29, 2002
First Sunday after Christmas Day

Luke 2:22-40

In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:

"God, you can now release your servant;
     release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I've seen your salvation;
     it's now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
     and of glory for your people Israel."

Jesus' father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,

"This child marks both the failure and
     the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted -
     the pain of a sword-thrust through you -
But the rejection will force honesty,
     as God reveals who they really are."

Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.

When they finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.

[The Message]


1. An interesting image this life of Jesus and you and me as marking both the failure and recovery of many. So often we only have the image of a victorious Jesus who gets his way. We do so like to be liked that we are not willing to risk failing. In so doing we also miss the opportunity to recover. Can you simply acknowledge that your life, even when well lived, is unresolvable into only good.

2. It is this recognition of the mixed-upness of life that brings forth the honesty that this is who we are. It is in this honesty that we have the opportunity to come through in a meaningful way. Try reading the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson.

3. Graceful living is growing in both strength and wisdom - growing in relationship with neighbors and GOD. In neither case, however, does this come without bumps along the way. There is failure and recovery all along the way. There is no way to grow without breaking the limits of the past and that very growth is fraught with the risk of failure as well as the joy of recovering more than was lost.

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