33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:33-39)
Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce your own soul also) so that many hearts will be revealed.
The Christmas lessons try to cover all the events of Christ’s childhood, up until he was in the temple when he was twelve. There are precious few events recorded about Christ’s childhood. Mostly because they are not very important. It opens up a lot of speculation, some childish, some the height of stupidity only academia could entertain. And when you see ABC is doing a special on the life of Jesus, or the history channel, well you are better off watching Sons of Anarchy or Mad Men, or Borgia. Seriously. Anything but the Bible is given credibility when the networks are doing shows on Jesus. Yet over the years the Bible and its accounts have shown themselves to be quite accurate. They are discounted only because they record miracles, and the world at large would have you believe there are no miracles. The protestant world betrays its lack of faith in miracles with their very doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. In anycase there are precious few stories of Christ’s childhood, and so the season is quite short, 12 days after the birth of Jesus. And yet today we hear of events that happened on the fortieth day, when Jesus, in accordance with the law, was dedicated at the temple, the sacrifice of a couple doves.
Dedications, they didn’t happen often in scripture. Baptists like to do them these days, because they won’t baptize their children they see some need to do something for their children. So they dedicate them. Of course, this won’t do. What they do is antibiblical. For one, dedications had to happen at the temple, which has been destroyed, consummated by a sacrifice, all of which were absorbed in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Furthermore, and the law is very clear on this, the only children to be dedicated to God in such a way, were first born children if they were male. First born and female, and you didn’t have to bother. This wasn’t an insult to females. This was a matter of law, not gospel, and it applied to males, who were first born, the first to open a womb. This applied to Jesus who would fulfill all the law. And this is what Mary and Joseph are doing on the fortieth day of Jesus life at the temple. When they get to hear this wonderful but forboding prophecy.
This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, (and a sword will pierce your own soul also) so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
Simeon speaks what he has been given as a prophet to speak, the word of God. This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many. Prophecies can be enigmatic things, full of double meanings, hidden surprises that only make sense in hindsight, interpretations of events that are yet to come. The fall and rising of many in Israel. This has two meanings really. It is to be taken two ways, and both at the same time. He is a sign that will be opposed, even as his cross is opposed to this day. We know this well here, where kids are teased and taunted for wearing a cross to school, bullied for confessing the faith.
But it is precisely by that sign that we fall and rise, the fall and rising of many. Oh, it is meant on the one hand to mean that some will fall, and some will be exalted. For some the cross will be nothing more than their down fall, they will reject it trying to save their lives, and then by that they will lose it.
But for others, the sword will pierce their soul, the word of God will twist in the wound, and they will know that it is only by this sign that their lives will be saved. Only by taking up the cross, only with their own death in Christ, will this child be then appointed for their rising. And does it pierce your soul? Does it cut you to the quick? The word’s are said to Mary who has to watch her son die for your sins, watch a spear be thrust in his side. But I don’t think that was quite the sword spoken of. No, the word of God is a double edged sword, and it is the sword that pierces the soul, even of Mary, to purge and bleed it of sin, to work repentance and faith. She herself would come to doubt all these words said about her son. When Jesus would start his ministry, so soon on the heels of John the Baptist’s imprisonment, it would be her who questions her son’s sanity. She would lead her other sons to the crowd, stand outside and refuse to listen. Refuse to be preached to by her own son. Jesus himself would be rejected by his family, would reject his family for you. Who are my mother and my brothers? Those who do the will of God, those are my brother, my sister and my mother.” That is those who pick up their cross and follow me. Those who trust in me to lead them through death to life, who inspite of the world, in spite of the hardships that come from bearing the name of Christian, trying to do the right when it is so much easier to do wrong. Those who cling to my name for salvation and forgiveness when the sword twists in the wound and they realize their sin, for these then, this child was appointed not only for falling but for rising.
For into him we have been buried. In him we have died to the world. In him our flesh has been crucified. In him and him alone we have forgiveness. Yes this word translated here rising, it says it all. He his appointed for the fall and anastasis, the fall and rising, the fall and resurrection of many in Israel. He is your death and resurrection, your fall and rising, in whom you now have eternal life. Yes, for in Baptism you were buried into his death, so that just as he is risen from the dead, to the glory of the Father, you too might walk in the newness of life. The newness of life, fresh life, free from sin, free from death, full of love, compassion and joy, like a month old baby boy, who knows nothing but the warmth of his mother’s breast, and nothing of death, spears that run a heart through, or swords that pierce a soul, but life and love and joy.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.