What do you preach on the Sunday AFTER Christmas? Perhaps this event which took place 40 days AFTER the birth is appropriate. These summary ideas are seed-starters for your own further reflection. I wrote out the Scripture (Luke 2:25-35) in the last post.
When Jesus was 8 days old he was circumcised (Lk. 2:21). When he was 40 days old he was presented in the Temple as part of the ceremony of the Redemption of the First Born Son (Lk. 2:22-34; Num. 3:11-12, 40-43). Mary purified herself by immersion in one of the “baptismal” pools for this function right outside the Temple. They then entered with the baby to find a priest for the ceremony. They did not have to find one because the Lord directed one to find them (Lk. 2:25-27). But when Simeon took Jesus in his arms to perform the ceremony (returning the son in exchange for 5 silver coins), he uttered some amazing words about the child’s future that must have stunned the proud parents (Lk. 2:28-32). The child was to bring salvation as the glory of Israel and as a light to the Gentiles! Mary had known about His future ministry to Israel, but this blessing for the goyim came to her as something brand new!
But Simeon then delivered the dark side to this message of Jesus’ Messiahship (Lk. 2:34- 35). The child would not only cause the rise of many in Israel, he would also cause many of them to fall (who would reject Him). Furthermore, he would be a sign that would attract severe opposition (“many would speak against Him”). No Mother likes to hear people criticizing and rejecting their kid! Finally, Simeon tells the teenage Mother that some day a sword would pierce her soul! Here the darkness and death that accompanied the First Nativity becomes even more evident.
There were a number of incidents during Jesus’ adult ministry that must have caused pain to Mary (Lk. 4:16-30 and Mk. 3:31-35 drive the sword deeper into her heart). None were more painful, however, than what she saw and heard at the foot of a Roman cross over thirty years later (Jn. 19:26-27). It was at that unbelievably painful moment that she must have recalled Simeon’s words about the sword piercing her soul.
But the pain and death that originally hung over this Nativity were all part of the process of bringing salvation to Israel and also to Mary herself. How wonderful it is to see Mary and Jesus’ once perplexed half-brothers gathered in that upper room to worship the Ascended One and to wait for His promised Spirit (Acts 1:14).
Yes, Christmas IS a time of light and peace, but first came the darkness and war that was encountered and defeated by Messiah’s coming!