For Every Action, There is a Reaction
Luke 2:25-35 | Key verse: 34-35 (The Message)
This child marks both the failure and
the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted —
the pain of a sword-thrust through you —
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they are.
This scripture of Simeon’s blessing of Jesus is usually reserved until after Christmas. However, in preparing for Advent this year, I was struck by two scripture lines in the Simeon story of Jesus’ blessing in the temple.
First is in verse 30: “With my eyes, I have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all people.” The second is in verse 34: “This child is … to be a sign that will be spoken against.”
The dichotomy between the two scriptures of seeing salvation and being spoken against reminded me of a science lesson about the universe. The third law of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics says if you push on anything, it pushes back on you; the bigger the push, the bigger the push back.
We have had a couple of years where this concept has been right in our face. For every side, there is a counter side. For every opinion, there is a counter opinion. For every action, there is a counteraction. One news outlet reports things are one way; another news outlet reports the same facts another way. It feels more conflicting today than at any other time in my ministry.
However, it has always been like this. Jesus enters planet earth, and angels sing Glory. On the other hand, King Herod orders the death of every male child under age two.
The scriptures are very honest about our brokenness. Simeon saw his salvation, while others would speak against and reject Jesus. The scripture says Jesus will reveal who and whose we are. It will be the recovery of sight to the blind for some and a stumbling block for others. Jesus’ mother and father were speechless and surprised by Simeon’s words and forecasts of the future.
The last two years’ events have been very revealing about who we are and whose we are. It has been very revealing about the state of our souls. Our normal became unhinged, and we all are still trying to find our way.
The first Christmas upended everything in the first century, and “normal” went out the door. Surprising to us, the first Christmas was a sort of revealing and a disparity. It was a push on humanity’s way of doing things, or religion’s way of doing things.
John’s gospel says, “God moved into the neighborhood.” Yet, some of the neighbors didn’t want that because their religion was much more comfortable with God being kept up at the temple. The birth of Jesus pushed against the nature of things, and the nature of things pushed back.
The news this fall has us worried about supply chains to the stores. Some go so far as to say that Christmas will be disrupted, and orders delayed. News flash! Orders might be delayed, but Jesus’ arrival is not disrupted. If we can see past all the Christmas lights, we might see that Jesus is disrupting the normal of our human ways and reminds us that God has other ways.
The last two years have been something! We can either see it as gloom and doom or see God’s revealing a new way! The Bible is clear. All things work toward the good of those who love God. Luke says (2:19), “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in deep inside.”
May we see the new revelation and declare, as Simeon did, “I have seen the salvation prepared for all peoples.” It will reveal who and whose we are. Let us declare with Simeon, “With my own eyes, I’ve seen your salvation.”
It’s now out in the open for everyone to see. May it be so.
Bishop Farr, Missouri Conference
of The United Methodist Church