Anna’s testimony

A prophetess named Anna was also at the Temple that day. She was a daughter of Phanuel, who was of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, and had been a widow for 84 years, having been married for seven years before that. She served God constantly with fasting and prayer, never leaving the Temple complex.

While Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, she also began to praise God and tell everyone that their long awaited Messiah had arrived.

LK 2:36-38

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Simeon’s prophetic praise.

There was a righteous and devout man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit was with him, and he looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple complex when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to dedicate him to the Lord, according to the Law.

Taking Jesus in his arms, Simeon praised God and said:

“Lord, now I can die in peace. For I have seen the Savior as you promised I would. In the presence of everyone you have prepared a light of revelation to the nations and glory to your people Israel.”

Joseph and Mary were amazed at what he was saying about their child. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary “Truly, this child is destined to unsettle many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against. You will be sick at heart that people’s scheming thoughts will be made known.”

LK 2:25-35

The circumcision and presentation.

Eight days after he was born, the baby was circumcised and named Jesus, in accordance with what the angel said before he was conceived.

When the time came for Mary’s offering at the temple as required by the Law after the birth of a child, his parents brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The Law states that every firstborn male shall be dedicated to the Lord. They were required to offer a sacrifice of either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

LK 2:21-24

The shepherds and the angels

Some shepherds were watching their flocks in fields near the village that night.

Suddenly an angel appeared, and the glory of the Lord shone forth. The shepherds were full of fear at the sight. But the angel reassured them, saying “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to everyone – the Messiah, the Savior was born for you in Bethlehem this very night! This is how you will recognize him – you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast number of other heavenly beings who were praising God and saying –

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people of good will.”

After all the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other “Let’s go to Bethlehem right now to see this thing that the Lord has revealed to us.” They hurried off to the village and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger.

After they left, they told everyone about the message they had received from the angels about the child, and everyone was amazed. But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart and often thought about them.

Then the shepherds returned to their flocks, giving glory and praise to God because of everything they had just seen and heard.

LK 2:8-20

poem – shoes and hats

hallowed and haunted
this ground
covered with ghosts
of saints and other,
past deeds
praised and profane

we walk barefoot
holding our breath
silent
lest we wake
lest we disturb.
unsettled, unwary
we wander

good that the land is marked
good that the boundaries are set
good that we know
when it is safe
to put our old shoes on
and take our hats off.

Odd how it is
that we are expected
to uncover our feet
yet cover our heads
in the presence of the divine.

Talk with a difficult manager

I once had a talk with a manager that was very difficult. The talk, and the manager, I mean. Both were difficult. She’d been psychologically abusive the entire time I was there. It wasn’t just me that she was abusive to – she was abusive to everybody. I like to joke that she alternated between being a bully and a tyrant. Upper administration knew about her, or suspected quite a bit, but felt powerless to do anything because of her race. She would have threatened to sue if she had been disciplined or fired. It wasn’t her race that was the issue, but she would have made it one.

I didn’t say anything to her for years. I didn’t say anything in part because I didn’t often have to deal with her directly. There was a manager between her and me, and that manager caught most of it. I also didn’t say much because I grew up in an abusive home, with a pushy and manipulative brother and compliant parents. Being pushed around and not treated well was my normal. It was only in my 40s that I started doing my boundary work.

When the bad manager finally decided to retire, I knew I had to say something. I steeled myself up and prayed quite a bit. I sat, in her cramped office, lights and furniture angled to make everyone visiting in it feel like they were being interrogated (this was intentional on her part). I reminded her of the sentence she’d said at the announcement of her retirement. She’d said that she’d “been hard on us all this time because it was for our own good”. She meant that she was abusive because it would help us, she thought – spur us on to be better employees. She nodded, she remembered saying that. I asked her “Would it have hurt you to say ‘thanks for the good work’ every now and then?”

She didn’t reply. She was stunned. In 12 years she’d never said that, and she knew it. She recovered, and turned it around so that it was all my fault. This is her way. Leopards don’t change their spots, you know.

I didn’t do it for her. I didn’t expect her to change. I did it for me, because I’d changed. I wasn’t seeking revenge, just reconciliation. I had to speak up, even if it was just a little, even if it was at the end of our relationship. Late is better than never. I didn’t want to push her or abuse her – then I would have been the same as her. I just wanted to speak up, to let her know that things weren’t what she thought they were.

I left her office, holding myself together. I went into the bathroom and cried. I cried hard, not caring if anybody heard me, not really. I knew she wouldn’t. She rarely ventured out of her office. I didn’t want to cry in front of her – I didn’t want her to get the satisfaction of pushing another person around.

Reconciliation

To reconcile is to make your checkbook work out. The debts and credits need to be entered. The balance that you have needs to match the balance that the bank has.

Reconciliation is also between people. The good (the deposits) and the bad (the withdrawals) need to be entered. If you pretend that all is well while harboring a grudge, you are imbalanced. Your relationship is unhealthy.

Jesus tells us that if we have issue with someone, we need to go make peace with them before we take our gifts to the altar. We have to get straight with others before we get straight with God. We take our gifts to the altar to “pay” for our sins and our wrongdoings. We don’t have the Temple or the altar anymore, but the idea is the same. We don’t have to “pay” for our sins with sacrifices anymore either – Jesus has picked up that tab. But we still have to do the work of balancing the relationship checkbooks.

I’m also reminded of the work of John the Baptist – “Make straight the way of the Lord.” He came to make things easier, to warm people up. He was Jesus’ opening act, if you will. He made it possible for Jesus to come.

Reconciliation does that. It makes it possible for God to come among us. When we make peace – when we do the work of making peace – then we make straight the way of the Lord. We make a path for God to come in. It isn’t something we wait on, passively. We have to do the work. If we want healing, we have to be healers. If we want peace, we have to be peacemakers.

God can only get in when we open the door.