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Reflection on Luke 2.22-35 (5th Day of Christmas, 29 December)

Listen to a reflection for the Fifth Day of Christmas, 29 December, on Luke 2.22-35

Luke 2.22-35 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

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.’ 

Reflection 

The birth of a new baby should be a time of celebration and great joy. The miracle of new life is something that should move us to tears of rejoicing and thankfulness. Today’s reading opens with the moment when all of that joy is being demonstrated as Mary and Joseph brought their new-born son to be presented to the Lord. Just as we see people gather at services of baptism in a spirit of festivity and good cheer, so people would have gathered around the Holy Family as their special son was designated as holy to the Lord.

The presentation of Jesus in the temple was, of course, far from being a matter of religious routine. The Son of God was being presented to his Heavenly Father in the holiest of places, the temple in Jerusalem. On this unique occasion in the history of the human race, there was someone present whose words and actions did not only confirm all that had been foretold, but also pointed towards that which lay in the future.

Simeon was an old man. We are told that he was righteous and devout, and that he had been told that he would not die before seeing the long-awaited Messiah. On the day of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, Simeon felt guided by the Spirit and he, too, came into the temple. Then, as the rituals were performed around the boy, Simeon saw that God’s promise was being fulfilled … he recognized the baby he took in his arms as being the Messiah, and then he uttered the words we know as the Nunc Dimittis. Simeon’s joy must have known no bounds as he held the baby close to his heart and told everyone in whose presence they were standing.

Simeon’s words were not all words of joy, however. Simeon foresaw moments of conflict and division and he had a particular message for Mary: and a sword will pierce your own soul too. As post-resurrection people we know what lay ahead. We know that there will come a time of betrayal and execution. But, we also know that there will be a moment of ultimate triumph and joy. The challenge for us today is to keep our eyes open for Christ’s victory beyond the cross, and not let ourselves become side-tracked by the persecutions and agonies that lined the way to that moment of ultimate joy. Let us pray that, no matter what may befall us in the coming times, we might remain strong in the faith as we proclaim the joy of recognizing Christ in all we say and do.