Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Of Spirit and Flesh

Luke tells us of another in Jerusalem who anticipated the coming of the Christ child, one named Simeon. 

Simeon was a faithful man, a man who lived his life looking toward Heaven, if he had known of such a thing before atonement or not. He was devout, living in faithfulness and righteousness, the kind of man that anyone aspiring to be a good Jew would attempt to emulate. The Gospel tells us that he lived by the Spirit, and as such, the Spirit revealed many things to him.

Most notably, it revealed that he would not die before he saw the promise come to life. And Simeon took the Spirit at His word. 

So when the Spirit led him to go to the Temple, Simeon went. There, he found Jesus on the day of His consecration, on the day of His dedication, on the day of His circumcision. Simeon, like Anna, was witness to the giving of the Christ child back to the Lord who had given Him to Mary in the first place. 

And he picked the babe up and held Him. 

This is worth our attention. So often, we think of Jesus lying in a manger, with wise men and shepherds gathered around Him and weary travelers asleep in the inn, completely oblivious to what's happening in the barn. We think about Him in swaddling clothes, but we do not think about Him having been swaddled by human hands. And we don't think about Him at all being, well, a baby.

Babies get passed around. They get picked up and held and handled. They get poked and tickled and squeezed. Worn-out mothers relish any opportunity for someone else to take over, even for just a few minutes, to give them just a bit of rest. In Temple culture, which is highly communal, we can imagine that babies got passed around much the way they do in churches, where it's not uncommon to see someone carrying a baby that is not his or her own. In the way that we do life together, the baby has become very much ours.

Simeon was not, at least Luke doesn't tell us that he is, a priest. He wasn't even, as far as we know, a Levite. That means that Simeon likely had no official role at all in the Temple. He's just a man, just a Jew, just a faithful guy. He's got no position that would entitle him to pick up a baby as part of a blessing, but he does. He picks up the Christ child, holds Him high, and declares Him a blessing.

By the Spirit of God that is in him and that has guided him to this very place, he recognizes that this baby is not Mary's, not Joseph's, not Nazareth's; this baby is just as much his as it is theirs. This Baby is ours.

May we, this Advent, take ownership of the newborn babe in swaddling clothes. May we not be afraid to step forward and take Him in our arms, coddling and cooing and swaying and treasuring every bit of this tiny miracle that is more than we could ever have imagined being born in a manger. 

May we, by the Spirit, live faithful for to see Him, and may we know that this baby is not Mary's, not Joseph's, not Nazareth's...but that He is ours

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