Dec 31, 2023; Luke 2:22-40; Feast of the Holy Family
If you were to look over the Christmas cards you received this year, what images would you find? I am sure you would see decorated trees, poinsettias, and silver bells in the snow. There would also be some religious cards: the shepherds at the manger, the Madonna and child, the wise men following the star. But I would be willing to bet you that none of us here received a Christmas card with an image from today’s gospel: the image of Simeon blessing the Christ child in the temple. That is unfortunate, because of all the characters in the Christmas story, with exception of Mary and Joseph, Simeon is the character who is closest to Jesus. The angels announce him. The shepherds go to see him. The wise men give him gifts. But Simeon holds Jesus in his arms.
Simeon is the character who most clearly sees who Jesus will be. Simeon praises God because Jesus will be light to the nations and the glory of Israel. But then he goes on to say that Jesus will also be a sign of contradiction. That some people will be upset with Jesus’s teachings. Others will be angry because of his actions. Simeon sees that the evil of this world will have its way with this child and will eventually lead him to the cross. Yet, fully aware of these darker themes, Simeon, nevertheless, raises his voice in praise of God.
You and I need Simeon’s praise in our lives today, because those darker themes continue to characterize our world. War rages on in Ukraine and the Middle East. Racism and homophobia continue to penetrate our society. Our government is close to collapse because of lies and partisan politics. These troubles are real. As followers of Jesus we are called, not to ignore the suffering we see but to commiserate with it, not to accept the injustice around us but to work against it, not to deny the darkness but to let our light shine within it.
And we need to act as his disciples today. Because if we wait until the world is all that it should be, we will never give glory to God. We cannot postpone our praise until our family understands us, until our friends forgive us, until the burdens we carry are taken away. To embrace the Christ child is to embrace the broken world into which he came.
So today, let us stand with Simeon, and raise our voices in praise of God. Yes, the darkness is around us, but our eyes have seen God’s salvation.