The MySpiritualAdvisor.com Reflection for this week focuses on what we call it the night before a funeral, God’s promise to an old man, and what it means for Jesus Christ to be a “comfort” in the 21st Cen.. For what is Jesus a comfort? Is there meaning after a loss? #Comfort #JesusChrist #AGT #TheVoice #Luke #GreatChristianPreaching #Christmas #Simeon #MSAWordfortheDay
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/28/2014 The 1st Sunday of Christmas.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 2:22-40.
In my hometown, when someone dies, we say we go to a “viewing” the night before the funeral, usually. When I moved to the Chicago area, I had a staff member who laughed and said, “Who wants to go view the body? Ew!” I had never thought of it that way. She said that they call it a “visitation.”
As I studied the words for this reflection this week, I was reading about “consolation” and “comfort” because in the passage it says that Simeon, an old righteous and reverent man, had been promised by God that he would see the “consolation” or “comfort” of Israel before he died, and this child he holds in this passage from the Gospel of Luke is the ONE. This baby, Simeon knows by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the ONE who will be the “consolation” and “comfort” of Israel AND the Gentiles.
So, I studied the practices of consolation and comfort in the ancient world in preparation for this reflection. The word for consolation and comfort in Biblical Greek finds its roots in the word that means “to admonish.” Usually, comfort was given to people who experienced loss by admonishing them that they had more life to live and that there were others who were watching them, so they should just put aside their mourning and move on. There are other meanings of consolation and comfort, thanks be to God.
The one meaning of consolation and comfort that remains is that of visiting. Visitation seems to be the most consistent and best form of consolation and comfort because there are a couple of consistent themes about which we are reminded. When we are visited by persons at the funeral home, we see how many people love us enough to acknowledge the death of our loved one. When we are fired from a job, there is nothing like having a former co-worker offer to buys us a drink. When we face the loss of a relationship, there is nothing like having others who want you to move on with life show up and take you out. There is also just sitting with someone who assures you that there will still be love after a loss, there will still be life.
More than this, the greatest comfort and consolation comes from when we are given something that we had always hoped would happen. I love watching those shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice, the home repair shows that focus on helping those who have lost their homes, because they give people consolation of getting that which they had always hoped to receive.
Have you ever had a time in your life when what you wanted to receive was forgiveness? What about a time when you hoped to receive intimacy from someone? Have you ever desired to be reconciled in a healthy way with someone that you could never seem to please? Have you ever wanted something that was wrong put right? If you have, then Jesus Christ is a source of comfort for you and for Simeon. Jesus Christ is the source of forgiveness. He is the intimacy of the Godhead to humanity. He is the reconciliation of us under the weight of the laws of God. Jesus is the one in whom the wrong will be put right.
Simeon was waiting for the Messiah. It was understood that the Messiah would deliver Israel, but it was thought it would be strictly a political deliverance that would then allow for a religious existence. Instead, Jesus Christ came to give a religious deliverance that would allow us to exist in any political existence. The deliverance we received was forgiveness of the sins we committed under the law. Deliverance for adulterers, God haters, gossipers, cheaters, liars, thieves, those who covet, those who envy, murder, and commit any number of sins. There is forgiveness for anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ and is baptized or vice versa.
The Lord comes to us in Jesus to offer us intimacy like we have with other human beings, but more. It is an intimacy of entering our bodies and becoming nourishment for our bones. He comes to us in the Eucharist. So, instead of having a God who is far away, He comes in the form of the baby in the manger and is human enough to know our needs, our disappointments, our failures, our victories and celebrations. God did not desire to be the God far away who demands of us and doesn’t know us. God did not want to be the transcendent God who demands from us but does not provide the inner strength in the form of a wafer and a sip. He comes as bread, a staple of sustenance. He comes as wine, the healthiest form of water in the ancient world. God comes as an intimate human answer to Simeon’s prayer. He knows you. He loves you. He knows.
God comes as the form of a Savior that comes to love you and help you be reconciled to the God you think is so demanding you could never please. That is not who God is. To make the point, he comes as himself to walk our walk, talk our talk, live our life, die our death and raise us up to eternal life. That is the promise of the baby which Simeon, and then Anna, hold in their arms in this Gospel reading.
Go to Church. Lay your lack of forgiveness, your resentment of a demanding God, your failures, your lack of intimacy at the altar and pick up the forgiveness, reconciliation, and intimate relationship with Jesus. Be renewed in your life so that you can go on to be a person who does not need adultery, does not need to steal, does not need to lie, does not need to envy, does not need to do any of those things which separate us from God because you have God within you. You have Jesus in you. Through Baptism, Eucharist and prayer, you have Jesus within you. You can climb the highest mountain of your life. You can withstand the deepest darkest valley of your life. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you because God is a loving God.
He is a God who keeps his promises. He is a God who has relationships with people like Simeon and can have a relationship with you—so let him. He is the consolation and the comfort that raises you up out of this world into citizenry in heaven. No matter where you are. No matter what you are doing. God is with you. God delights in you. God wants you to change for the better to face a better day within. So, be visited this day by the Christ child who comes to the Temple to fulfill the law. Be visited, comforted and consoled. Amen.
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