Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mediation on this Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, December 28, 2008:

First Reading: Isaiah 61:10--62:3

Psalm: Psalm 148

Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

This Sunday, after the whirlwind excitement of Christmas Eve, we return to the Temple, where Simeon and Anna have been patiently waiting for God to fulfill God's promise. And in our scary times, that message is a wonderful reminder: God fulfills the promises that God makes.

Of course, it may not happen in the time period that we would like to demand. So what do we do in the meantime? We wait. Maybe we wait patiently, like Simeon. Or maybe we become impatient, like the Psalmist. But we wait. What else can we do? Scripture and Literature across many different cultures warn us of what happens if we decide that we're as powerful as God and can proceed on our own--nothing good can come of that.

What do we do while we're waiting? We can take Simeon and Anna as our models. We can surround ourselves with people who believe in God's promise. Hopefully, we find those kind of people in our Christian communities. Hopefully, we've spent our lives finding people who live in hope, even when surrounded by evidence that would make more rational people doubt.

Of course, we don't have to just wait passively. The Advent lessons have reminded us of the importance of staying alert and watchful. The Scriptures tell us that God will appear in many guises, none of them what we expect.

We can also take our cues from Mary and Joseph, from Elizabeth and John the Baptist, from any number of spiritual predecessors. We can decide to take our part in the redemption of God's creation. Every day gives us the opportunity to practice resurrection, as Wendell Berry phrased it. We can choose to move towards light and leave the darkness to mind its own business. We are called to be the light of the world, the yeast in the bread dough, the salt of the earth. We can't do that if we're pessimistic.

I would encourage us not to leave Christmas behind too quickly. Many of us have had busy Decembers. We can leave our Christmas trees up for a few more days (twelve, even, until Jan. 6, Epiphany) to enjoy the vision we haven't had a chance to take in during our busy Advent. We can eat one last Christmas cookie, while we reflect on the past year, and plan for the year to come. We can pray for the patience of Simeon, for the wisdom of Anna, for the courage of Mary and Elizabeth and Joseph, who said yes to God's plan. We can pray that we have the boldness of John the Baptist, who declared the Good News. We can pray for the strength to evolve into people of hope, people who watch and wait, confident in the knowledge that God fulfills all promises.

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