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Luke 2:22-40

Simeon talks about knowing there will be peace upon holding Baby Jesus in his arms. At first this might sound like Jesus’ birth will solve all our problems, which we know is not the case. We don’t have to look very far to realize there isn’t world peace. Something Raj Nadella, Biblical Scholar, says is that Simeon isn’t talking about an overly simplistic peace. But rather Simeon is talking about Jesus making a deeper, lasting peace possible. At the time Roman citizens enjoyed peace, but that peace was for a small, select few. Excluded were all the slaves and non-citizens who didn’t enjoy the privileges of voting, property ownership, and safety. Simeon imagines a peace which isn’t guaranteed for a privileged few, but available to all God’s people. For Simeon, Jesus represents challenging power structures in ways that make way for real peace.


As well there is an emphasis on salvation beyond the dividing line of Jews and gentiles. There is a breaking down of these boundaries. And it’s not unique to Simeon. This universal salvation is first mentioned by the prophet Isaiah (40 and 49:13), as God seeking mutual flourishing for all people. It can be fraught using scripture to diagnose a very specific situation in the world as we’re seeing in the Holy Land today. We’re not here as Christians using Hebrew scripture to tell Jewish people and Palestinians what to do in order to solve their problems. However, one thing we can do as Christians is point God’s desire for a lasting peace. A peace that is deeper than a partisan political solution that benefits one party. We want to see an end to the bombing in Gaza and as churches we do play a sizeable role in Canada. Our voice is not insignificant. But we need to use it. We have to believe that our voice matters when we speak into a world for peace. When we proclaim a peace that God desires.

It’s hard not to think about Mary in this story. She is given a lot to deal with. We just heard the Christmas gospel proclamation of the birth story of Jesus. We know she had to journey a long ways while highly pregnant. Now at this presentation of Jesus at the temple, she’s receiving this hot take from Simeon. And while he is poetic, he’s also blunt. It’s not all salvation and peace. Mary hears that a sword will pierce her soul also. 

It’s a foreshadowing of the cross and the challenging life that lies ahead not only for Jesus, but also for Mary his mother. She has to witness all this and Simeon is trying to prepare her with this prophecy. This peace won’t come easy or without sacrifice. So Mary is is taking her time to process all of this. It’s a lot to take in.

On a lighter but related note, the other day I watched “Dashing Through the Snow,” a new Christmas movie on Disney+ starring Lil Rey Howery as Nick or Santa Claus. The part that is relevant is the story revolves around Eddie, a social worker, father of Charlotte. Eddie’s job is to solve crisis situations together with the Atlanta Police Department. He helps negotiate people off ledges, help get people out of dangerous situations to receive the medical help they need. In this case Eddie and Charlotte meet Nick and Eddie is immediately sceptical when Nick basically says he is Santa. Eddie goes into full crisis-negotiator mode, trying to get Nick a psychiatric assessment and somewhere safe. But Nick is able to befriend Eddie while eluding his grasp at key moments in the story. Nick continually escapes in order to fulfill his mission and save Christmas. 

Now if we can bracket out whatever we might think of the Santa story, there is an element of faith for Eddie. He is stuck in the everyday reality of doing his job well that he struggles to imagine a reality different than the parameters of social work. Anyone who talks about world peace or a grander mission must be mentally ill, according to Eddie’s narrow worldview. Over time Eddie begins to become more open to different possibilities. And while there are limits to how much far we can stretch a comparison of a lighthearted family Christmas movie to the gospel narrative, there is a sense that faith is needed. If we listen to today’s gospel reading with the weight of the world, it doesn’t sound like good news. We hear that Jesus is already set up for failure. That this prophecy of peace comes with the caveat of potential violence. And that Mary is drawn into all of this as more is revealed to her about Jesus. Mary, unlike Eddie, doesn’t need convincing over time. She gets it from the beginning. However, we are more like Eddie. We are the ones like the disciples, who need convincing that God’s plan somehow makes sense. That despite grand plan of peace that unfold over time may be impractical, God desires to bring peace into the world through the birth of a baby.

In this way some people outside the church look at us as though we believe the Santa Claus story as grownups. They think we believe in fairy tales. And yet the gospel, for all its flourishes, is among the most practical of stories out there. There is the practicality away from a world bent on its own self-destruction. A gospel that wakes us out of our slumber. God’s Word telling us to trust in turning the story of the world upside down. That the powerful will be cast down, while God brings peace through a tiny baby. And Mary, a mother with nerves of steel, who offers a masterclass on taking a leap of faith.

Wrapping up, I invite you to consider your own way into the story. How does this story speak to you today as we wrap up 2023 and prepare for 2024? How is God proclaiming the Christmas gospel into your life? Maybe there is a Mary in your own life, a faithful person who has served as a mentor, an aunt or grandmother you have trusted, someone who has been a rock in your life dealing with difficult things in life.

And trust that God’s peace is for all people. That together we are living into a peace that  is lasting. Through God all things are possible. Amen.