December 27, 2020 At St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Genesis 15, 1-6 & 21, 1-3 + Psalm 128 + Hebrews 11, 8, 11-12,17-19
Luke 2, 22-40
For Luke, the fact that Joseph and Mary were law-abiding people fulfilling what was required at the time of a birth, this story is important. But, in this place and at this time, that’s not so important to us. Other details he provides are because, he puts before us two elders placing this child right into the history of his own people. From old Abraham and Sara in that first reading to old Zechariah and Elizabeth the unexpected parents of John the Baptist, we see God’s promise fulfilled. Jesus Christ comes out of that promise, and this story today confirms his membership in the people of God. Jesus is brought into the temple. The act says it all. It’s just the Rite of Baptism. A child is brought into the church becoming a member of the church family.
The temple was the very heart of life for the Hebrew people. Everything happened there. It would have been filled with Scribes, Pharisees, priests, and every kind of officials and there were ordinary people too like Simeon and Anna. These two, simple elders, step into the spotlight by name, and Jesus right into the midst of them. In a sense, this is another nativity story. First it was some shepherd and now it’s these two old folks. It’s almost as though Luke is just hammering away at us to get the point that Jesus comes to us, not to the big, powerful, important people. Jesus is to be found where ever people are gathered together waiting in prayer. That’s why this happens in that temple. These two are the perfect models of evangelists. They pray and give thanks, like Simeon. They announce the presence of Jesus to everyone waiting for redemption, like Anna.
With this Gospel today, we are led to realize that this Feast is not about a nuclear family with parents and a child. This is a celebration of the whole human community, the whole human family. Yet, we look around and we realize that something is broken. It does not seem possible to decided which is the cause and which is the effect, but family life everywhere is fragile and breaking. Neighborhoods are too. People hardly make time to speak to one another much less know the names of those just across the street. Calm and peaceful looking neighborhoods turn into places of danger where children are not safe to play on the street. Nations, just like our own, are broken, divided, and violent. There is work to do about this, and it is the work of the Lord whose presence we have just proclaimed. It is work of us all who inherit his Spirit and accept his mission.
We are here today in this church two days after a very difficult Christmas because, a great number of us celebrated alone with others in our family unable to travel. For some these holidays are hard because broken marriages, family feuds, or the loss of a loved one this past year leaves a great hole in our hearts and an empty place the table. But we celebrate a promise that began with Abraham and Sarah. We celebrate a truth that Christ has come just as promised to the least expecting and the most simple and humble of people. The story we tell begins with Abraham and simply reveals that God fulfills promises and will accomplish the impossible with people who strive to be faithful. What we do today as church is celebrate and confirm our place in communities of love; communities that make us more human and more godlike. It is the holy family of humankind, bound together across the ages by the God who loves us into life now and forever.