Readings for Christmas
Peace be with you!
Everyone has a friend who has the ability to point out what you are good at—someone who recognizes and encourages you to sharpen and share your gifts. Sometimes, their encouragement to do more seems like nagging, while other times it gives you the reassurance you are heading in the right direction.
To the best of their ability, Mary and Joseph teach Jesus the Jewish ways by taking him to the Temple, leading by example, and participating in the Jewish festivals. According to Jewish law, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to be circumcised when he was eight days old. Also, Mary and Joseph go to the temple to be purified forty days after Jesus’s birth. Jewish law requires women to go to the temple for a purification rite forty days after giving birth. Mary and Joseph are faithful to the Jewish laws.
Circumcision is an important event, particularly for a firstborn son, since he is set aside as holy to the Lord (Luke 2:23). The symbolism here is important since Jesus is also God’s holy firstborn Son. Mary and Joseph may not have understood the true importance of Jesus being circumcised, but they faithfully follow the Jewish law by offering a sacrifice and having Jesus circumcised (Luke 2:21, 23-24).
When Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple, an old man named Simeon is there. Simeon is looking forward to the redemption of Israel, which the Lord had promised to the Israelites. The Holy Spirit has told Simeon that rests that he would see the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:25-26). When Simeon sees Jesus in the Temple, he is overwhelmed with joy as he recognizes that this is the Messiah (Luke 2:34). Jesus will redeem those who turn their backs to the devil.
Simeon sings a song praising the Lord for allowing him to meet the Messiah before dying and for allowing him to see the Redeemer of Israel. He can die in peace knowing his friends and family will be redeemed in the name of the Lord. The redemption of Israel is being set into motion, and although Simeon will not be there to see it accomplished, he can die happy, knowing it will happen as the Lord has promised.
A little later in Jesus’ family’s Temple visit, the prophet Anna also worships God and identifies Jesus as the Redeemer of Israel (Luke 2:36-39). Simeon’s and Anna’s brief mention in the gospel plays an important role in confirming the baby Jesus as the Messiah. The Christmas season can be a difficult time for people who have lost loved ones in the past. The gift of closure through know Jesus Christ as the Messiah gives family members a chance to make peace with their departed loved ones, because they will see them again in God’s kingdom. Family members and friends can find reassurance that their loved one has been saved and redeemed and can join in singing Simeon’s song. Simeon’s joy reminds us to recognize what was to come and what is to come through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Simeon’s song furthers confirms Jesus is God’s son; Mary and Joseph just have the honor to raise him and to be a part of the story. Mary and Joseph are right to bring Jesus to the Temple, to have him circumcised, and to raise him with the Jewish traditions. We owe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit ongoing praise as they continue to offer us redemption and grace all the days of our lives. We should not just think of redemption as something that has happened in the past but as an ongoing event: the world continues to be redeemed by the Lord. We are redeemed and given grace on a daily basis.
As we bury loved ones in the coming months—or as we mourn the loss of those we love who are long in the ground, let us lift their memories to the Lord and trust that he will redeem them as his children.
Although Simeon’s song about his coming death seems out of place during the Christmas season, it reminds us of the joy found in redemption and grace through the Messiah. This reassurance in God’s ongoing redemption and grace gives us peace of mind, knowing the Lord will always redeem us as his children.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for continuing to redeem us as your children. Help us to understand that redemption is an ongoing experience. Remind us as we bury loved ones that you redeem them as your children. Thank you for giving us grace through your Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- What parts of Simeon’s song most resonate with you?
- How do you celebrate the joy in knowing we are redeemed?