They were trying to get their lives back to some sort normal after the eventful birth of their son. So, they did what any Jewish parent at the time and in their culture would do. First, they made sure they followed the tradition of having the boy circumcised so that he would be part of the Jewish faith and community. Then they made sure to follow the law when they took him to the Temple to be dedicated to God, knowing that all first born Jewish sons were normally dedicated to the service of God.
The birth of their son Jesus had not been normal. How normal was it for an Angel to tell the mother that she would give birth to the son of God? How normal was it for people to prophesy about who the child was and how he would save the people of Israel? How normal was it for Shepherds to show up unexpectedly after the birth of the child to see if what the angels had told them was true? This doesn’t include the inconvenience of having to travel to another town to give birth and then delivering the child in a stable instead of a proper home because there were no rooms available in town.
They were ready for their lives to get back to normal. But instead of their lives getting back to normal what they got was more of the same about Jesus being the Messiah who would one day deliver the people of Israel. What’s more they were told that he would also disrupt people’s lives in the process. I am sure hearing that your child is going to be a disruptive presence is what every parent wants to hear!
This time they heard it from an elderly stranger named Simeon who had spent much of his life sitting outside the temple waiting for God to show him the Messiah. God had promised Simeon that he would not die before he saw Jesus. That was followed shortly by an elderly woman named Anna who also been waiting for the Messiah. She spent much of her time fasting and praying for the redemption of Israel. The message they got was that despite their efforts to make their lives normal once, their lives would never be normal. They would not be normal because they would always carry with them the knowledge of who Jesus was and what he was going to do and how he would disrupt people’s lives.
Imagine trying to live a normal life knowing what you know about who Jesus is and what he does and how what he does often disrupts the world. Remember last summer when our lives were disrupted by the news that our government was intentionally taking children away from the parent at the border as a deterrence. Remember the trouble it caused and how uncomfortable it made us feel. It made us uncomfortable because we knew that it wasn’t something that Jesus would condone. He would have expected us to find a solution to illegal immigration that was more compassionate instead of being mean about it. How many other times this past year did Jesus disrupt your lives and made you feel uncomfortable? And how many times after having our lives disrupted and made comfortable did, we want our live to get back to normal? I can think of a few times.
And so, it is with us on this first Sunday after Christmas. After all the stuff we did this past Christmas, after all the expected and unexpected disruptions to our lives we are ready to our lives back to normal. We are ready to take down the Christmas Tree and the decorations and store them away till next year so we can put the furniture back where we are used to having it. We are ready for Christmas vacation to be over so the kids can get back to school again.
The thing is if we were really honest with ourselves, we would admit that our lives before, during and after Christmas are not normal. In fact, they are often filled with chaos. For a lot of people, the chaos of their lives is what is normal. It’s that sense of normalcy that causes people who have been abused to return to their abusive circumstances. It’s the reason why people have difficulty breaking free from their addictions, and bad habits, because they have become normal and strangely comfortable.
But according to Simeon and Anna our lives can never be normal because of Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the one to free our lives from sin and death. And to often Jesus disrupts our lives.
What we should be making normal in our lives is God’s love and grace instead of trying to make our chaotic and conflicted lives normal. What should be normal is Jesus living in and through our daily lives and relationships. What should be normal is that Jesus disrupting our lives to once again remind us of who he is and what he means for our lives and remind us one again that God loves us. One could argue that what Simeon and Anna were giving Mary and Joseph was the expectation of a new normal. Jesus was born and through him God would be working God’s will and purpose even if it meant disrupting people’s lives to do it.
And so, the truth is that we all want to get our lives back to some sense of what is normal and comfortable. The question is how will we do it. Mary and Joseph thought that by following tradition and the law they would get their lives back to normal. And suppose we think that if we go back to those things, we think are normal and make us comfortable that our lives will be normal once again. And they will be until Jesus once again makes them uncomfortable again. Something will happen that will remind us who Jesus is and what Jesus does and what Jesus expects of us. We used to call those situations WWJD events. What would Jesus do right now. Make no mistake Jesus will disrupt our normalcy and what we think is comfortable. The Angel Gabriel, Mary Zechariah, The Shepherds and now Simeon and Anna are agreement about that fact.
Imagine that our lives will be just as disrupted in 2019 as they were in 2018. And that is especially true for our Church and the connection we have with one another as we decide on the Way Forward in regards to how we deal with the issue of homosexuality and whether homosexuals should be ordained and serve the church. And then there is issue of the future of this church and whether it is still important and relevant to the local community. 2019 will bring about new financial and spiritual challenges for this church and for our lives.
And at the center of all this will be Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. At times Jesus presence will be disruptive and then at other times his presence will be comforting and guiding. Whether its disruptive or comforting and guiding it’s all for the same reason and that reason is to remind us and show us that God loves us unconditionally and that you are not alone in whatever situation and circumstance you find yourself. God is going to be there for us always just as the Angel Gabriel, and Mary mother of Jesus and Zechariah and now Simeon and Anna said.
I heard people say at the beginning of a new year Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I don’t know what is going to happen in 2019, If Simeon and Anna are right Jesus will be with us to support us, love us, forgive us and encourage us and if necessary, disrupt our live when we need reminding of who was as God’s children and how much God love us all.