Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
Luke 2: 22-40
Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, which comes on the Sunday after Christmas. This year, this Feast and Christmas are only a few days apart. How many of us are still recovering from the Christmas celebrations; the preparations, the clean up; the stresses and the joys of that day. And how many of us are just hoping for a quiet weekend. Can we suppose that Mary and Joseph may have felt the same way, after what had happened on the evening of the birth of their son? First there was the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, then finding shelter in a manger, a barn! Then that appearance of a group of scruffy shepherds, who have this story of angels flying in the night sky, proclaiming that this child, their child, is the long for Messiah. I am sure that what Mary and Joseph longed for was some normalcy, to just perform the rituals required by Law of Moses and then get back to Nazareth and their lives as quickly as possible.
So they go up to Jerusalem, to the Temple to make the required sacrifices. Now keep in mind that they were not the only ones going to the Temple that day. There would have been hundreds, if not thousands of worshipers going to the there. If you have ever seen a picture of the crowds assembled in front of St. Peter’s in Rome, you would have some idea of the crowds going in and out of the Temple courtyards. And yet, and yet; out of that massive crowd of humanity, Simeon, is able to find Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How? He was guided by the Holy Spirit, for God was fulfilling His promise, that Simeon would not see death, before seeing the Messiah. Simeon had such faith in that promise, that for so many years he kept going to the Temple. And despite so many disappointing encounters, he still had faith. Then comes the day his path crosses with Mary, Joseph and their infant son. He praises God that his faith has been rewarded, he has seen the Messiah. Then he tells Mary and Joseph what the destiny of their child would be, and what it would cost them. Now, after hearing this, who could blame Mary and Joseph, if they were to flee south to Egypt; or north to Syria, or east to Babylon? This was not what they signed up for. But they do not flee, they returned to Nazareth, Despite their fears of what the future may hold, they raised the child Jesus up into a strong young man, who was “filled with wisdom” and with the favor of God. They were able to do so because they had faith, faith that whatever trials and tribulations may come their way, God would not abandon them, that God would be there for them. It is that same faith that their ancestor Abraham had when he first listened to God, to a Presence he did not know, yet he believed, and left the safety of the Ur, for an unknown land. He had faith that, despite his old age, he believed that God would keep His promise of making from him a mighty nation.
And it is faith in God’s promise that through His Son, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “God is with us.,” we believe that we will never be alone, that indeed, God will be with us always, He will be with us in times of trial, and times of challenge:. He will be with us in the joyful times, and the sad times. It is faith in Him, that draws us here today, as a community of believers, that through Word and Sacrament, that faith will be continually renewed and strengthened. It is by faith in God’s love, which causes us to reach out to others, to share that love. And it is by faith that we look forward to the fulfillment of the promise that Jesus Christ will come again, and a new heaven and a new earth will be born.