December 27, 2020
First Sunday after Christmas Day between December 26 and January 1 inclusive.
May be replaced by readings for Epiphany if January 1.
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 2:22-40, The Message or Luke 2:22-40, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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The circumcision and naming of the infant Jesus on the 8th day is parallel to similar events that Luke records about the birth of John the Baptizer, Luke 1:59 and following. This ritual marks the male child as a descendant of Abraham, and also as the son of the father - in this case, Joseph. Needless to say, in a patriarchal culture this marking was significant and crucial for securing the infant and his mother's place in the community.
The purification ritual, Luke 2:22-24, refers to is the ritual required for a woman following childbirth, and for the dedication to the Lord of first-born males. Since blood was unclean, women needed to undergo cleansing or purification rituals after each period and birth.
Similar to the story of John the Baptizer, an old man praises God for the birth of the child, publicly testifying to the honour of the child and quoting the scriptures as to the significance of the child. This praise at the outset of the child's life will be recalled at the end of his life as evidence of the praise, honour, significance and worth of the man. What is evident at the end was also evident at the beginning.
Note for a third time, the parallel between John and Jesus of the concluding comment:
- (About John, Luke 1:80) The child grew and became strong in spirit
- (About Jesus, Luke 2:40) The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
By the time we have finished reading Chapters 1 and 2 of Luke, we should realize that the stage has been set for a powerful (but non-violent - at least on God's side) confrontation between two kingdoms - two ways of being in the world. The Pax Romana of Caesar - the way of peace through force of arms; and the peace of Christ, the way of peace through justice.
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 233-234; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
Luke 2:22-40 (NRSV)
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared
in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
33 And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too."
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 2:22-40 (The Message)
22 Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God 23 as commanded in God's Law: "Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God," 24 and also to sacrifice the "pair of doves or two young pigeons" prescribed in God's Law.
25 In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. 27 Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, 28 Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
29 God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
30 With my own eyes I've seen your salvation;
31 it's now out in the open for everyone to see:
32 A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.
33 Jesus' father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. 34 Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,
This child marks both the failure and
the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted—
35 the pain of a sword-thrust through you—
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they really are.
36 Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years 37 and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. 38 At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.
39 When they finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. 40 There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.