I have been struck this season by the conversation about our ability to say Merry Christmas. I literally know no one who has ever been punished for saying Merry Christmas. However, I do know people -- pastors -- who have lost their jobs for proclaiming the message of Christ. The coming of Christ was radical, revolutionary. God, who had always been seen as something far away or at least separate (whether you are coming from the Greco-Roman perspective of their gods or Yhwh), came in HUMAN FORM. God became human. God came to change the playing field. God came to pull down the powerful and lift up the lowly. Christmas is hella subversive, and this reordering of things as they are is so often wrecked by this focus on love and joy and a tiny baby who is love embodied. In the midst of this focus on grace and love (which is important, don't get be wrong!) we forget about revolution. So my question for you, dear preachers, is how can we talk about the revolutionary nature of Christ this Sunday?
This scene from the gospel of Luke has Luke pulling together what was likely two events -- Jesus' circumcision and the presentation at the end of Mary's period of purification. This story shows the incredible ordinariness of Jesus' first months AND the way he was a revelation to the poor. Jesus' family brought the bare minimum sacrifice to the temple -- this makes it clear these were not people of means. They weren't the people showing up at our doors looking for gas money or housing this Christmas, but they also weren't buying their kids a ton of toys. They were trying to get by. A young family of very basic means doing their best to meet the requirements laid on them by the temple.
They were devout. They made sacrifices in the way of money and time to make sure that Jesus was dedicated in the way that all Jewish boys were. They showed up with all they had and gave it to God.
Simeon, a lone old man, no family name, no family with him, is called to show up and declare to the family what he was told of Jesus. Jesus was already dangerous. He was going to bring about the rising and falling of many in Israel. And the only people who have somewhere to fall are the people in power. Simeon's proclamation here is a continuation of the Magnificat, yet another reminder of the radical nature of this child. He is already a threat (a fact we will see borne out in the coming weeks). The people of Israel were looking for someone to lift them up -- but probably not expecting someone who will throw down those in Israel who already had powerful. Then Anna, another woman without power, a widow who had been living in the temple (likely because she had no one to care for her -- I wonder how much her fasting was a choice and how much it was an economic necessity) also recognized Jesus for who he is. Even though they are in the temple, there is no mention of priests, pharisees, or anyone else who might have held power in that place. The people who saw Jesus for who he was/is are the people for whom he came. The poor, the marginalized, the lonely.
The reading from Isaiah says, "For Zion's sake I will not be silent." We are called to not be silent. We are called to preach again and again about Jesus as revelation to and for the poor and marginalized. As we start this new year, how will we speak of Jesus? How will we set the tone to continue to challenge our people as to who Jesus is and how we are called to live in light of this revelation. Will we preach nice things, happy things, about love and peace and joy that leave our people feeling just dandy, leaving worship unchanged, or will we begin this year talking about the revolutionary nature of Christ, calling our people to see this and asking them to dwell in the discomfort of the challenge this brings to our lives?
Christmas is not *just* about a baby, a little boy, or even a man. It is about the revolutionary nature of God come in flesh to take down and lift up. How will we communicate this message?