Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Birthday of the Kingdom--by Linden Malki

Many years ago, "in Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God: God, you can now release your servant;  release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;  it’s now out in the open for everyone to see: A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,    and of glory for your people Israel.  Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother, 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 really are."  (Luke 2:25-35, The Message)

It's one thing to have been told that your child is the Messiah.  That one word doesn't tell you enough. it doesn't tell you that various unexpected people are going to pop up without much notice--from a baby cousin whose parents are the most unlikely people to have produced him, to shepherds and angels and caravans of camels and foreigners with unlikely gifts; with a bar-mitzvah developing into such  amazing scholarly discussions in the Temple in Jerusalem to have lost track of time for three days. Somehow she knew that he could save the day at a wedding celebration when the wine ran low, but when he began to draw crowds with incisive speeches and miraculous healing, she and some of the family thought he'd run mad, and when they came to see what was going on and take him home if necessary, his response was to blow them off with this: "But who is my mother and father, whosoever shall do the will of my father who is in heaven, those are my brothers and sisters and mother."  We can see her going home with family members who totally don't know what is going on here.  She must have been puzzled, too--after all that happened to get where she was at that time. It doesn't look like her life is very blessed.

We don't see her again until the most horrible day of her life--when she saw him die the most horrible death. That next day must have been literally like Hell--not only was her son dead, but God Himself might has well have been dead, too.  She must have thought back to Simeon and his words of swords that were too much in evidence, and glory that wasn't. I wonder if the sorrow and total ending of what Mary had expected for over thirty years, and what a hundred people who had given up three years of their lives, not to mention everything they could have been doing for those years, and the words of hope and love they had lived with, was a day whose memory would taint the Sabbath forever.

But the coming of the next dawn brought more than just the expected sunlight, but a totally unexpected Son-light, as all the answers came to Life. We are still wrestling with the meaning of Messiah--that it's not a hero on a white horse in the streets and roads of Judea, but a Relationship that parallels what we thought reality is, and changes our lives--if we let it.  The last glimpse of Mary in Scripture is in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the day that the Holy Spirit shows up in power.  We celebrate Christmas as the birth of a baby--and Easter as the first step in the birth of a Kingdom.

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