Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Ready for Grace

For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people (Luke 2:30-31).

. . . she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38)

His first game of the season, first score of the season, and I missed it. I wasn’t ready. He didn’t score much last year. Honestly, I’m not sure he scored at all. So this past Saturday when my son’s basketball game started, I wasn’t ready for how much he had improved.

I was there at the game, but I missed the shot, missed the moment. For some reason I decided that I needed to check my email on my handheld phone / PDA thing. I was watching, but with divided attention. My eyes were on a small screen when the ball hit the basket. I managed to redeem myself later in the game when I actually saw his second basket.

One cannot help but wonder about all the people who were at the temple when Mary and Joseph arrived to dedicate their son. The place was massive. Throngs of people moved through the temple courts daily. Years later when Jesus would drive out the money changers, we sense that the place had the feel of a carnival, not unlike walking the midway at the state fair or stepping inside the gates at Disney.

Simeon and Anna had company that day at the temple. But everyone there missed what Simeon and Anna saw. They were in the right place but they missed the moment. For most of the people at the temple that day, these two conversations between a very young family and two very old people didn’t even hit their radar.

This is even more peculiar when we realize that we are told about Simeon and Anna with very broad and comprehensive language. Simeon praises God for a work of salvation that is unfolding in the sight of all people. Anna speaks of the child to all who are waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem, which was just about everyone there. The word “all” keeps showing up in the story. But not all see what Simeon and Anna saw.

We know this is so and it perplexes us. We can be in the right places and miss Jesus. We can be in the sanctuary and not encounter the Christ child. We can hear the Christmas story and it remains just that – a story. Comforting in its familiarity, endearing in its images, but somehow disconnected from the traffic of our lives. Too often we are numbered among the many who hurriedly walked by the young family that day, perhaps noting that they carried a baby, but never dreaming to stop, not having the slightest clue who that child might be.

There may be ways to explain why Simeon and Anna were blessed to recognize the infant Jesus and perceive what God was doing in this child. They were at a season of life in which they moved slower, not hurrying to get someplace else. They lived a discipline of life that made them sensitive to the Spirit’s moving. They were uniquely ready to see the work of God around them.

But God’s work is for all of us, not for an elite few – for all nations, for all who yearn and hope and long to see God set the world right. We find ourselves in this story. Somehow readiness and grace meet. The recognition of Jesus comes by grace. Simeon and Anna show us how to get ready.

What would it mean for you to truly get ready for Christmas?

It is by your grace, O God, that we see who Jesus truly is and love him for what he came to do. We ask for this grace as we ready ourselves for Christmas. Make us prayerful in these days. Move our hearts to worship. Give us eyes to see what the world so easily ignores. And we, like Simeon and Anna, will declare your works to all people. Amen.

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