1st Sunday after Christmas

by Bear Wade

The Presentation of the Infant Jesus
Luke 2:22-40
1st Sunday after Christmas
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
One of you asked for quick help for the 12.29 Gospel text, which I shall tuck in here at the outset. My policy (if I really had one!) is to offer a text study on Saturdays for the Sunday coming 8 days later, i.e., a week in advance. And for those texts I’m following the RCL, the Revised Common Lectionary. So this Saturday (12.28) my “real” offering should be the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, Jan. 5, 1997. I know that some of you are in churches that use other lectionary series, and therefore will not be synchronized with the RCL. So you have to make do with what you get. For words about the Gospel for January 5 (RCL) see below. 
Peace & Joy! Ed 

Some Preliminaries:

  1. Luke seeks to show throughout Luke-Acts that Jesus (in the Lukan Gospel) and St. Paul (in Acts) were law-abiding citizens. Thus when both of them are brought to trial toward the end of each of Luke’s two volumes, Luke has already built up his case that they were not law-breakers. The charges against each of them of breaking the law (Jewish religious law or Roman imperial law) are baseless.
  2. In the text at hand Luke shows us that the very first “public act” of the infant Jesus is law-abiding (v. 22, 23, 24, 27 & 39). St. Paul ascribes theological weight to this in Gal. 4:4&5: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as God’s own children.” (Perhaps Paul and Luke discussed this very topic on the journeys recorded in Act where they travelled together.) Paul’s verb “redeem” echoes in Anna’s praising God in Lk 2:38.
  3. The material Luke gives us in chapter 2 after the Christmas Eve narrative, v. 1-20, shows Jesus himself at the interface between the Old and New testaments. He’s circumcised, presented, does Passover. In short, a kosher kid. But he’s got another agenda, as the final pericope in Luke 2 shows. See v. 49 & 50.
  4. The two faithful ones, Simeon and Anna, enter the text as end-of-the-line Old Testament saints–“righteous and devout” (Simeon) and “a prophet(!)…worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Anna). But they are a distinct sort of OT saints. Though patently under the OT law themselves, as their behavior shows, their faith is grounded in God’s “other” OT covenant, the one of promise (David, Noah, Abraham). Luke signals this already with the words about Simeon: “looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him” plus all of v. 26 and the opening words of 27. Simeon’s own song is solidly centered in God’s OT promise covenant. V. 38 gives the same sort of data for Anna.

So here’s a possible Crossings matrix:

DIAGNOSIS: LIVING UNDER THE LAW

D-1 On the Outside
Living under the law, law alone, never fulfills. Law-living at its very best (e.g., Simeon and Anna) leaves even such saintly sinners with unfulfilled waitings and expectations.

D-2 On the Inside
When the genuine Law-Fulfiller comes, ” the inner thoughts of many will be revealed” and that revelation will not be good news. Folks with such hearts will be opposed to the sign he is.

D-3 On the God-side
Falling (34). No “shalom” (29), no salvation (30), no light and glory (32). No “redemption of Jerusalem” where this sign is opposed. Remember that “redemption” is a commercial/ownership metaphor. Alien owners stay in control in life lived only under law. Only One Owner offers life. All others finally give only the opposite.

PROGNOSIS: REDEEMED FROM LIVING UNDER THE LAW, LIVING UNDER THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST.

P-1 (Good news for D-3, the God-side)
Jesus is “born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law” –and as D-3 shows: those dying under that law. And the purpose of Jesus’ going into this venture is “to redeem those under the law so that we receive adoption as God’s own kids.” Adoption and redemption are both “ownership” images. Becoming God’s “own” kids.

P-2 (Good news for the Inside, the heart)
“Seeing the Lord’s Messiah.” “My own eyes have seen your salvation.” Here Seeing IS believing. In place of trusting God the promisor for a promise not yet fulfilled, Simeon and Anna are changed by their unique Christ-encounter. They move out of the family of OT faithful into the community of New Testament believers, trusting God-the-promisor for his promise-fulfilled right before their eyes.

P-3 (Good news for the Outside, life in the world)
Simeon and Anna are old, old, old–at their lives’ end. The last of the OT promise-trusters here witness the promise’s fulfillment, and then become witnesses (“praising God” v. 28 & 38). Guess who is to pick up their task and assume their roles? All those whose own “eyes have seen God’s salvation” from any one of these three designated groups: “all peoples, Gentiles, people Israel.” Such witnesses will not be exempt from bearing “the blessed holy cross,” as Luther calls it. Simeon’s words to Mary (34f.) are words for anyone who becomes a Christ-bearer to others. Yet it is upon such witnesses that “the Holy Spirit rests” (25), and lives “guided by that Spirit” do reach fulfillment “in peace”(29).


THE GOSPEL FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, JANUARY 5, 1997. This lectionary text returns to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. I say “returns,” because it is basically a repeat of the text we just had for Advent III. So I won’t do it again, but instead I refer you to the Crossings matrix for that text offered in Sabb. #42, sent out on December 11. If you didn’t get that one, or don’t have it any longer–and wish that you did–let me know and I’ll send it to you.

EHS

Author

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