By Regina Heater
Ah, the first Sunday after Christmas. This is what a pastor-mentor always called a “low Sunday:” low energy, low attendance, and low prep. There’s a reason many churches designate this a “carol sing” Sunday, after all. Conveniently, the texts for this Sunday offer easy justification for this practice - both Isaiah and the Psalm are about rejoicing, and easily “create space” for a meditation where one extols how singing carols is in the spirit of the texts as we continue celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas.
There’s also plenty of space for rejoicing and even rest in the Gospel text. After all, both Simeon and Anna had actively and watchfully waited a very long time for the One who would change their lives. Recognizing the Savior in their midst, they rejoice and Simeon even says “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word.” This phrase, known as the Nunc Dimittis, begins Compline prayer in the Daily Office. It’s a signal that the work of watchful waiting is complete. Take a breath, take a rest, rejoice. The Savior is here!
In the state of the world in 2020, we have an innate understanding of how we both must rest and can’t rest. We know we are never doing enough to usher justice into the world; we are simultaneously weary from both witnessing the constant injury to the world and the work of repairing it. In these days after Christmas, in one of the most exhausting years we’ve experienced, let’s take a cue from Simeon and recognize the Savior in our midst; let’s take a cue from the Medieval Church and mark the Twelve Days of Christmas as best we can by limiting the work and upping the revelry. You and the people charged to your care might think, “But Regina, I still have to work! There’s still so much to do! We can’t just *stop* until Epiphany.” A friend reminded me once that absolutely nothing has to be done to perfection and it’s the lie of capitalism that tells us that unless we do something perfectly, it’s not worth even attempting. This goes for everything, whether it’s Christmas cookies, justice work or taking a nap. A disruptive preacher can take the declaration of Simeon and create the framework for rest with the encouragement to pursue it, then live into it and model it for yourself for a few days as best you can.
One more thought about Simeon and Anna. Each time I read this text, I think of how Simeon and Anna didn’t just recognize the Savior - they believed in him. They believed in what had been prophesied about him, about how he would utterly change the world. Simeon takes the child in his arms and blesses him, further proclaiming the things he would do.
I wonder: what might happen if we took the idea of recognizing what was in our midst and blessing it? Each person who gathers with us has a place and role in bringing about the Kin-dom of God. After a season of watchful waiting, perhaps a word of blessing and prophecy over our people is not just appropriate, but necessary. The Savior has come, yes - and in coming to us has empowered us to embrace our role in furthering the Kin-dom of God. The Spirit rests on us as it did Simeon, and through our declaration of faith (and our affirmation of baptismal promises) we are called to the same things Jesus did - the things Simeon saw as a blessing as he cradled the child. As you rest and as you rejoice this Sunday, take a moment to also speak a blessing, acknowledging the essential role each of the faithful have in the continued work of the Kin-dom.
This is the Revised Common Lectionary sermonizing archive.