Simeon took [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’ (Luke 2:28-32)
In some ancient traditions, the season of Christmas was much longer than twelve days. In fact, like other uses of the holy number, the season was 40 days long, and concluded with The Presentation of Our Lord, with the story of Mary and Joseph again fulfilling the Law of Moses, continuing St. Luke’s account of the incarnation of our Lord at its very beginning. According to Exodus 13, all firstborn children are to be offered to the LORD; not sacrificed literally, as was done by many cultures in the time of ancient Israelites – the ancestors of Mary and Joseph – but, in contrast, they are consecrated to God’s service. Leviticus 12 describes how a woman is to be purified ritually after the birth of a child, and for a son the total is 40 days. So, 40 days after Christmas brings us to February 2nd. Four times in the Gospel for this day Luke reminds us that Joseph and Mary are faithful Jews, understanding themselves to be living in the Covenant of Moses, careful for the Law by which that covenant was established. Jesus was a Jew.
Joseph and Mary were Jews. Simeon and Anna were Jews. All the first disciples, men and women, all of them, were Jews. Jesus was a Jew. How horrendously and hideously horrible, then, that in his name, in the name of Jesus, his followers, disciples of Jesus through the passage of agonizing centuries, persecuted and killed so many Jews. One horror leading to another, until, in the last century, the most horrific time of all, the Shoah ( השואה ), the Catastrophe, or, the Holocaust.
But even the greatest evil of all – and can such things be ‘ranked’? – cannot defeat the love of God. As Christians we believe that this unquenchable love is most clearly revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of a Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee, who became Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the healing (the Greek word used here for ‘salvation’ can also be translated as ‘healing’) of all peoples and the whole creation. God’s love is so powerful and bright that it shines through in many ways, in many traditions, in the creation itself, but often – and don’t we know it – there is an element of uncertainty, of question, a dimness, or lack of clarity, until we come to Jesus. Here, in him, in his life, in his death, and finally, in his resurrection, all is clear.
Here there is salvation, healing for all peoples, for the whole creation.
Here there is light enough to shine upon and for all the nations.
Here there is the glory of God’s love, handed down through the people of Israel and its own son Jesus/Joshua/Y’shua/ ישוע, but glory enough, healing enough, light enough, salvation enough, for all people and for the whole world, indeed, for the whole groaning creation. What a word, what a Gospel word, a living Word of Light and Life, is Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah of God.
Thanks be to God!