Prayer before reading:
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
As Simeon and Anna see
And know you.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
First Sunday after Christmas Day
The days following Jesus’ birth are marked by Hebrew law and tradition. On the eighth day he is circumcised, and his name recorded: “he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21; Matthew 1:21) Later, the apostle Paul reflects on Jesus’ coming among us – sent by God, and born “under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” (Galatians 4:4-5).
This little baby boy, little more than a week old, is wrapped in the loving and freeing purposes of God.
On the thirty-third day after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph make their way to the temple in Jerusalem. Not being able to afford a lamb for an offering, they bring two birds–a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons—“a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord.” (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:6-8) In the book of Exodus Moses offers us a wider meaning of this ritual of presenting the firstborn male child to God. “When in the future your child asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall answer, ‘By the strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. . . It shall serve as a sign . . . that by strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:13b-14,16)
This baby, Jesus, carries within his tiny body and soul, the great freeing purposes of God. He comes to free us from captivity to the lie, to death, to all that troubles and enslaves us.
The lectionary guide invites us in to the temple now, as Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus and their offering, “to do for him what was customary under the law.” But more than the regulation of the Law is at work here. A greater guidance is at hand. Guided by the Holy Spirit, an elderly man named Simeon, walks towards the couple, and takes the baby in his arms. Simeon had spent his life looking forward to the time when Jahweh would come, bringing comfort and peace to his people. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that before he died, he would see the Lord’s Messiah – the One who would bring salvation to the Jews and to the Gentiles. That same Spirit now guides Simeon through the temple court to where Mary and Joseph are standing.
Stand with them, and with Simeon as he cradles the new-born baby in his arms, and lifts his voice and soul to God. This prayer companions us across the centuries as we cross the threshold into the “little death” of sleep each night, and holds our hand as we cross the bridge from this life into the next. The lie spun in Eden, which has held us in the grip of death on every level, has lost its power. This little child carries salvation, rescues us from death’s power. He is our salvation.
Now Simeon turns and blesses Joseph and Mary, and reveals to them what he has been shown. The way ahead will be marked by opposition, by the exposure of our inner thoughts and motives, by the fall of many, and the rise of others. The new thing God is doing will not be understood and received by all, and will not come without suffering and opposition. “A sword will pierce our own soul too,” Simeon also reveals to Mary.
At that moment another voice sounds in the Temple courts. Anna, a widow in her eighties, begins to praise God and to speak about the child. The present and the future, with all of their promise, pain, revelation, and opposition, are known to God. But God’s purposes will not be thwarted. The purposes of God are resilient and eternal. Praise be to God!
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Carrying God’s purposes
God’s love and rescue
In your tiny form.
As Simeon held you,
So may I hold you close
Loving God, may your
Purposes hold me,
For the sake of the world.
First Sunday after Christmas
- 12/26 Monday: Luke 2:21 – 24
- 12/27 Tuesday: Luke 2:25 – 40
- 12/28 Wednesday: Psalm 148
- 12/29 Thursday: Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3
- 12/30 Friday: Galatians 4:4-7
- 12/31 Saturday: Luke 2:21 – 24
- 1/1 Sunday: Luke 2:25 – 40