"Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very heart and soul.”
There are times in life when we all long for the world to be a place of rest, only beauty, good news and hope. Have you ever wished that just for a small, brief time, life could be happy, without burden, without guilt, without struggle? Just happy and easy and free to enjoy? I have. As a dreamer, romantic, idealist, I sometimes wish life could be as lovely as I can imagine it to be in my heart.
Mary must have had some moments of God’s celebration in her life—angels sang to the Shepherds, Wise Men fell and worshipped and brought amazing gifts to her baby Jesus, the future King. There must have been time to be amazed and to enjoy.
Often, in contemporary times, we have falsely convinced ourselves into thinking that this is the place we should be happy and have our deepest desires met. Why can't we just have it all, now?
And then, when the challenges come, the burdens weigh heavy, the interruptions and broken places drain us, and we find ourselves surprised and shocked and hurt by the imperfect, fallen people who populate our lives, because somehow, we were expecting sense, balance and wholeness out of this fallen broken place.
And this is why He came into our darkness, why he invaded our world to bring light, beauty, restoration, rest, perfect love.
As I have been pondering some of my own heaviness of life this week, Mary's story has brought grace and courage to my own life. Imagine with me, ...
Even as Mary was inviting her son into her love and deeply rejoicing in the miracle of His birth, she was told to be prepared for a sword to enter her heart.
Fondly cuddling her first born, her newborn son, Mary must have been filled with the unbelievable depth of awe that mothers feel when they understand that a miracle has taken place within them--a life has mysteriously come from seemingly nothing, grown inside into a warm flesh and blood tiny being and leaves our womb to foray into the swirl of this crazy world. Out of us, comes this precious gift that immediately binds itself around our hearts.
What a feeling to hold our babies for the first time and to dream of all the potential days that lay ahead, the possibilities that come with each life.
And yet, as Mary was still on the cusp of breathing in this miraculous treasure of soul, a wizened old man, Simeon, chosen by God, looks deep in her young pensive eyes and gently warns of the trouble her little one will endure--he will cause many to fall, he will stand against those of her own race, and she hears, "many will oppose this one, your precious baby Jesus."
Her son, just like ours, will face worries, difficulties, persecution when they seek to live righteously--and so will we.
This news, in the inception of the joy of becoming his mother, foreshadows the the weight of strain and trouble he would endure, this, her precious little, adorable baby boy. And finally,
"And a sword will pierce your heart."
What news! Yet, a foretelling she could never forget. A warning so that she would not have to be surprised and unarmed when the sword came upon her.
Often at this time of the year, I sit on my living room couch that faces pine trees and our front yard. Last year, (can’t wait to be there in a couple of days!) our Christmas tree stood bold in the front window covering up some of the light. Shadows crept stealthily towards me, softly as though to identify with some of my own burdened feelings, dancing over my own heart.
Life, indeed, comes with a constant companionship of burdens. Yet, in this moment, such deep gratefulness filled my being. Anew, in this quiet moment, I felt deep understanding: This is why he came, because He did not want to leave us alone, with a feeling of helplessness, in this laborious, strenuous place. He came humbly, as one who suffers, as one who could feel compassion, and yet as one who would become the prince of peace, the one who would save.
From many years of experience with shadows, I know that they will come again, and light will also break in once again. But as I sit quiet in this space, I am cognizant that I am so deeply grateful that Jesus came. I am so happy to be celebrating Christmas with my loved ones. We can all have hope, we can all find the grace to forgive, and we can all have peace, because He has given us life.
Isaiah 53: 2-6 tells a part of his story:
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
And Finally, Isaiah 9:6
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.