Thursday, January 3, 2013

Do you see what I see?

Sermon preached for the First Sunday after Christmas, Year C, preached on December 30, 2012.

    In less than a week we span forty days.  It is the clock of the Church Year.  From Bethlehem and a Baby lying in a manger to Jerusalem and a first born presented to the Father in the temple.  Blessed Mary fulfills the required of those women preserved from the perils of childbirth.  Jesus is  brought to the Father in the requirement of the law.  But just like Christmas, this is a story with its joys and its sorrows.  We have the routine and mundane of a legal requirement and the extraordinary and memorable appearance of a elderly prophet and pious woman and the forgettable is rendered unforgettable by the prophet's words.
    From Mary’s perspective. . .   She comes not because she can but because she must.  The law requires that women preserved from the peril of childbirth and those unclean after birth must be presented to give thanks to God rendered ritually clean.  She comes as a pious woman, a believer in the promise, and as one obedient to the law... but there is more.  She comes not only as a woman who has delivered a child but as the Theotokos, the Mother of God... the Mater Dei.  For this is no ordinary mother.  She is the virgin who conceived within her by God's power His own Son clothed in flesh and blood.  He did not become divine but was conceived and born as the divine Son of the Father in the clothing of flesh and blood from the Virgin.
    The Word has been fulfilled just as it was spoken to her and you might think that it was sacrifice enough to give her life to the Lord and to be used by Him.  But there is more.  The prophet Simeon sees not only the past but the future of both the Son whom she bore and Mary's own future.  It is a future touched by suffering, pain, loss, and tears.  A sword will pierce her own soul.  The Son whom she has born will give Himself into our death that we might be taken up in His life.  His path as Savior and King must tread through suffering and death.
    What mother wants to hear words like this when she holds in her arms a baby little more than a month old?  There is fear enough for the future of our children, the twists and turns of their lives from which we cannot insulate them.  But to know that the baby lying in your arms is born to suffer and die?  Who can bear it?  But she listens and ponders and trusts in the Lord.  She is the model of faith and trust.
    From Jesus’ perspective . . .   He is brought to the temple like all babies, the first born of their mother's wombs, and yet is like none at all.  Hidden in the face of this infant is the Word that created all things, the Light that enlightens every darkness, the Savior who alone can atone for sin and overcome the tentacles of its death that holds all of us in its grasp.  Hidden in the infant flesh of this child is the glory of God – not of raw might and power but of mercy and love to save an unworthy and undeserving world.
    He is a baby but this boy child of Mary is also a bridge.  He comes to bring together the divided earth, to reconcile the chosen of Israel with the Gentile pagan all by the shedding of His blood and the killing of His flesh.  He will indeed be set for the falling and rising of many.  He is the bridge between a heaven inaccessible to us because of sin and the world living in darkness and the shadow of death.  Who would have thought that the answer to the fall would come in the face of a child?  But that is exactly who the Infant Savior is.
    He is a baby and as with all babies He is brought to the temple with many hopes and dreams for His future.  Every family and every parent has solid if unspoken hopes and dreams for their children.  But the future of this child was not a dream in the mind and heart of a mother.  It was a destiny appointed by the Heavenly Father for the redemption of a world lost to Him by sin and its death.  His future is set for the rise and fall of many.  He is both Savior to those who trust in Him and Judge of those who refuse Him.          
    His life is offered to us not for our worship as an object but as sacrificial payment for our sins.  He comes to a future marked in death that He might give to a people mired in death a future of life.  The hopes and dreams of a mother give way to the hope and dream of all humanity for a life no longer lived in death's shadow and redemption big enough to answer guilt and open up heaven's gate.
    Everyone saw that mother and that child that day and yet hardly anyone saw anything at all.  They gave no notice to what they saw because it was only a mother and only a child.  Like today.  Everyone around us sees and knows the story of Christmas and yet few receive Him.  Most wonder what all the fuss is about.  Faith sings "Mine eyes have seen the salvation of God, the glory of His people Israel and the light that enlightens all nations..."  Sort of like Holy Communion.  Some come and taste only bread and wine.  Faith tastes the flesh given for the life of the world and the blood that cleanses us from all sin.  Some see all and some see nothing –  faith makes all the difference.
    Today we pray for the old eyes of Simeon and Anna, to see what only faith can see, to trust what only faith can grasp, to rejoice in the life meant to die that the dead might live, to sing with such relief and peace that there is nothing more we await, we can die in peace for our salvation has been revealed to us and we have seen in it the face of the Son of God in flesh and blood.  Today we pray for patience for the years of watching and waiting that seem unfulfilled – so we might be ready to receive the Lord when He comes again in His glory.  Today we ponder with Mary and rejoice that the Lord has met us lowly and filled us with good hope amid troubled and painful moments.  We surely feel the prick of the heart in the Law that must be satisfied... but we do so rejoicing that in this act is the Gospel fulfilled.  Christ is the Son of God who keeps the Law for us and delivers salvation to us as a gift.  Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to ponder this wondrous blessing!  Amen

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