Monday, January 2, 2017

The Consequences of Hope - Christmas IX 2017

I'm moving a bit beyond the tradition Christmas stories today, but I'm thinking about Simeon. Here's what Luke has to tell us:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation 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." [Luke 2:25-35]  

Simeon had lived in expectation of seeing the Messiah before he died, and when it happened, gave us this song, which in my youth we called by the Latin name, "Nunc Dimittis."  It's an "I'm ready and thank you" hymn, basically, and something I've said over dying people.

It's the next part that I'm thinking about, though, where Simeon tells the young mother that her child will have trouble in his life and that her own soul will be pierced, too.

Not the blessing a mother might hope for.

Unlike Matthew, Luke doesn't have Herod threatening the baby Jesus, nor is there the flight to Egypt and other moving around. Luke is more into foreshadowing like Simeon's blessing.

New Year's Day, I woke to a Facebook news feed full of hope and defiance for 2017. There's a general consensus that 2016 was hard for a number of reasons, the least being a contentious election with the contention unlikely to let up anytime soon. I, too, felt the urge to post something defiant and full of resistance for the year ahead. I wanted to post something about how our hope for 2017 lies in defiance and resistance.

I didn't post any of that because seeing so many such posts in succession seemed to point toward something we can't be sure of. I do feel the incoming president has given us more than enough to be concerned about, to keep vigilant about. I do think resistance will be called for.

I'm also aware of the soul-piercing will accompany this. There is more than a little potential for pain and loss. I wasn't quite ready to add that bit to the news feed.

I see friends posting memes about how the institutions won't save you. It's true, they're too much a part of the power machinery. As troubling as Simeon's words to Mary are, we will have to look, like him, for salvation in unexpected places, like the baby he's just called God's salvation.

As Christians, we are fond of saying our hope is in the name of the Lord---a scriptural enough claim. Like Simeon, though, if we pay attention and are truthful, we know that such hope costs.

I do not know the future, of course. What I know is extrapolation from history and I'm aware of similarities and differences from past eras to our current situation. I have my hope, and I like to think my hope is something more sure than just wishful thinking. It is a hope that requires action.

All of this will have consequences.

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