Presentation of the Lord - Feb 2

To raise a child is an experience of both incredible joy and devastating heartbreak.  Every parent’s life is “pieced” with turmoil, disappointment, illness, desperation, and fear.  Certainly every mom and dad knows what Mary and Joseph went through.  Within our families, our sons and daughters embrace and are embraced by the love we have known and seek to know better, to be grasped by the hand of God who has grasped us by the hand.   The prophet Simeon proclaims that this Child will be a “light” for Israel — but that light will endure great suffering and pain before finally shattering the darkness.  Luke’s Gospel of the Child Jesus reminds us that the crib is overshadowed by the cross, that this holy birth is the beginning of humankind’s rebirth in the Resurrection.   

In baptism, we incorporate our children into the life of the Risen Christ; within our home, we try to guide them in learning the Gospel values of compassion, love, forgiveness, justice and peace that we have embraced.  Our celebration of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple calls us to recommit ourselves to giving our sons and daughters the best that we have -- our faith in the God who loves us -- so that they may grow “and become strong, be filled with wisdom; and the favor of God upon them.”   

Anna and Simeon live among us today in our own families and communities and "temples."  They inspire gratitude and teach compassion by the lessons of their long lives.  In the wisdom that comes with age, in the love and care they extend to us in their grace and joy, in their faith that has been made strong and unshakable through a lifetime of struggle, the Anna’s and Simeon’s of our time and place are rays of God’s light shining through all of our lives, illuminating the way to God's eternal dwelling place.  

Chasing the light

A childhood memory from an accomplished writer and preacher: 
“I would learn to read in the first grade, I was told as a young child, and I couldn’t wait to go.  As it was, I was dependent on the schedules of the adults around me for stories, having to wait until there was somebody who could read to me.  I feasted on pictures in fairy-tale books, of course, and made up stories with my dolls.  And we had a television, which had more stories . . . But my parents and my brothers read happily in silence for hours.  Sometimes you would have to call the boys’ names twice, or even three times, before you could get them to look up from their books.  Reading was that absorbing.  I longed to join the club.
“Somehow I had the impression that I would learn to read that first day, that learning to read was just a secret that would be imparted to me at the proper time . . . I didn’t grasp that learning to read was a process.  Imagine my frustration, then, when we began to go over the alphabet and the sounds each letter signified.  That was all very well.  ‘But when are we going to learn to read?’ I asked the teacher as the afternoon wore on.  She told me that this was learning to read, that this is how you started.  Oh.  This was the biggest disappointment my short life had yet encountered . . .
“Soon, the thrill of the chase took over.  It was fun to sound out the words on the page, to begin to recognize a whole word, to read and write longer and longer sentences.  But it was work, too.  To grow in wisdom doesn’t just happen to us, while we sit there on our hands folded in our laps and do nothing.  We acquire wisdom.  We pursue wisdom.  We follow in her ways.”
[From Let Every Heart Prepare: Meditations for Advent and Christmas by Barbara Cawthorne  Crafton.]

Everything that is good and of value in our lives — from learning to read to being a loving spouse and sibling — demands work and struggle.  Today’s Gospel is a sober reminder of that reality: the prophet Simeon proclaims that this child will be a “light” for Israel — but that light will endure great suffering and pain before finally shattering the darkness.  Luke’s Gospel of the Child Jesus reminds us that the crib is overshadowed by the cross, that this holy birth is the beginning of humankind’s rebirth in the Resurrection.  And it will be a long road of joys and wonders, of conflict and hurt. .

Jesus patently did not see himself as a political and military leader. Indeed his claims are in striking contrast of the messianic portrait in the reading from Jeremiah which is the first reading today.
 However, his claims were clearly offensive to his fellow townspeople. Indeed, he might have had less trouble with them if he announced, like several other populist leaders of his era, that he was proclaiming a holy war against the Romans and would lead a march on Jerusalem.

 As we saw last Sunday, however, his vision of the New Age was drastically different. So he was offensive to his neighbors both because he made and outrageous claim and because the claim was not, as they saw it, radical enough.

 A famous novelist came back to his home town after many years.

  He had pledged to contribute two million dollars for a new hospital. Many of his friends from his school days were invited to a reception for him and his wife. Some of them ignored the invitation. Why only two million, they muttered. He could have paid for the whole hospital with all the money he has. The rest went to the party, but they were not particularly happy about the whole event. Who does this guy think he is?

 He’d been a quiet, unobtrusive little guy when he was in school, the kind of person you’d hardly notice. He generally was not invited anywhere. None of the women in his class would have considered dating him if they had been asked, only he never asked. They had heard rumors that his novels were about the town and about them. They believed the rumors of course, but since they hadn’t read any of his books, they didn’t know for sure. He had to find a freshman to take to the senior prom! So he’d made a lot of money on his novels? Why did that make him a big deal? OK give the money for the hospital, but you should have given more with all you have, but don’t show up in town and expect us to cheer for you. You’re not a big deal now and you never were. Nor were they impressed with the beautiful woman he had married. (They had known her as an obnoxious freshman.) Anyone can look beautiful if her husband has a lot of money. She was still cheap despite all their money. They didn’t join the receiving line, because they didn’t want to have to talk to either of them. However, he had the nerve to walk around the room and say hello to everyone and recall incidents from their school days which they never remembered. They tried to be polite but it was very hard. Then they went home and said to their children.

  He’s not a big deal. He never was.

2. Matthew 5:1-12 - "The True Nature of Happiness"
Some years ago the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer published an article entitled: "How Do You Measure Up As A Man? The article stated that some extensive research had been conducted on the 20th century standards for measuring a man. The criteria were quite interesting and I thought that I might list them for the men here this morning just to see how they measure up.
1. His ability to make and conserve money (That lets me out already).
2. The cost, style and age of his car.
3. (This is my favourite) How much hair he has.
4. His strength and size.
5. The job he holds and how successful he is at it.
6. What sports he likes.
7. How many clubs he belongs to.
8. His aggressiveness and reliability.
Jesus Christ also once set down eight principles for the measure of a person. His standards stand in stark contrast to the aforementioned. There would appear to be a wide gulf between the popular image of the successful person and what God sees as the successful person.
Here's what happened: Jesus had just started his ministry and was gaining in popularity. Large crowds were gathering. He had just picked out his disciples. And in the quiet of the rolling grassy hills of northern Israel by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus delivered a sermon to a multitude. Acres and acres of human faces. The crowd represented a cross section of humanity...
"Mushers" and people who travel by dog sled over snowy, frozen terrain. "Mushers" have a saying: "If you're not the lead dog, the scenery never changes."

That "Mushers" saying has become a centerpiece doctrine of the leadership literature that has been inundating the corporate and church worlds of the last thirty years. If you are not the "top dog," in other words, no matter how far you travel your journey is just going to be a "tale of tails."

Striving to be "top dog" is the goal we are encouraged to achieve from our earliest childhood to our graduate school education. No one wants to be the "under dog" or the "low dog." Being "on top" means getting the best grades in school, in order to get the best opportunities, the best treatment, the best salary, the bst office, the best seats in the house, the best table, the best of everything everywhere you go. Who could possibly not see the advantages that come with being at the "top" and not the "bottom" of the heap?

In 1897 vision scientist and psychologist George M. Stratton (1865-1957) created a pair of glasses that turned the world upside down. Actually, he turned the world right-side-up because our eyes project an image to our brains that is naturally upside down. Our brains take an image and invert it - giving us our "right side up" perception of the world. Stratton strapped on his goggles and proceeded to blunder into things for several days. In this new, now "upside-down" world, his brain was seeing liquids "poured up," he saw himself walking on ceilings. Everything he viewed was completely inverted.
But only for a few days. Our eyes are our cameras, but the pictures we take with our eyes are developed by our brains. After a few days Stratton recorded that his most powerful visual organ, his brain, had figured out that something was amiss. After a few days his brain re-inverted the images it was receiving, and the world no longer looked upside down to the scientist. His brain completely flipped the images and presented him with a right-side up world once again. The process took about three days...
1.     Having Lost All, All Is Found

"Having reached the end of the Beatitudes, we naturally ask if there is any place on this earth for the community which they describe. Clearly, there is one place, and only one, and that is where the Poorest, Meekest, and most sorely Tried of all men is to be found - on the cross at Golgotha. The community which is the subject of the Beatitudes is the community of the crucified. With Him it has lost all, and with him it has found all."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
2.     Balance: The Law of Love

Plato once imagined the spiritual journey as a chariot moving through the wilderness of life, with the soul as the charioteer trying to rein in two powerful horses: the horse of anger or passion, and the horse of reason or order. Plato understood that both passion and reason can be life-giving, but only when they are held in dynamic tension, only when each power neutralizes the potential destruction of the other. This morning Jesus tells us that we must balance the passion of anger with the discipline and reason of love. And he tells us that the law of love can best be fulfilled, not through rules, but through relationships.

Susan R. Andrews, The Offense Of Grace, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
3.     The Key to the Beatitudes

The idea of being poor in spirit is the key to all that is to follow in the Beatitudes. I like the note in the Life Application Bible:
"You cannot mourn without appreciating how insufficient you are to handle life in your own strength.
You cannot be meek unless you know you have needed gentleness yourself.
You cannot hunger and thirst for righteousness if you proudly think of yourself as already righteous.
You cannot be merciful without recognizing your own need for mercy.
You cannot be pure in heart if your heart is full of pride.
You cannot be a peacemaker if you believe that you are always right.
You cannot identify with Christ in the face of negative reactions from others without dying to yourself and renouncing your own rights."
All of these beatitudes are rooted in humility, being poor in spirit.
Owen Stepp, Unlikely Blessings
4.     God Shows Through
One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, there's something about the preacher's message this morning that I don't understand." The mother said, "Oh? What is it?" The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the whole world in His hand. Is that true?" The mother replied, "Yes, that's true, honey." "But Mommy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we believe in Jesus as our Savior. Is that true, too?" Again, the mother assured the little girl that what the pastor had said was true. With a puzzled look on her face the little girl then asked, "If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?"

That is what the beatitudes are about - God showing through.
Jerry Shirley, When God Shows Through 
5.     God Means Everything
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
William Barclay says this verse means, "Blessed is the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God. If a man has realized his own utter helplessness, and has put his whole trust in God, there will enter into his life two things....
He will become completely detached from things, for he will know that things have not got it in them to bring happiness or security; and he will become completely attached to God, for he will know that God alone can bring him help, and hope, and strength.
The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized that things mean nothing, and that God means everything."
Mickey Anders, The Beatitudes Are Not Platitudes!
6.     "Best All Around"

I remember in high school having the "Who's Who" for my grade, and one of the categories was "Best All Around." To be considered for this category, the student needed to have a multitude and a wide variety of attributes...and be good at them. Characteristics like being smart, friendly, well-dressed, pretty/handsome, good at sports, and perhaps being musically gifted or artistic are important to have if you want to qualify for the category.
Similarly, if you could make the Beatitudes as a sort of checklist for Christians, they could see the areas they need to improve in. Perhaps if they could check all of the Beatitudes off the list, they might qualify as a sort of "Best All Around" Christian, a great inspiration and role model.
Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes
7.     Better than Average

A while back, I read that 85% of all drivers in America consider themselves "above-average" drivers. Of course, this cannot be true: By definition, I believe only 49% of drivers are above average. However, the survey gives us an insight into human nature: People generally view themselves as better than others. And if they are better than others, then they are doing a good enough job.
This transfers over into religion far more than we are aware, and it becomes apparent in how these Beatitudes are taught. Often one will hear, "The message of the Beatitudes is that, if I do these things well enough, then I will be happy. If I am good enough at these things, then I will be blessed." It's a human standard of measure: "If I am better at this than average, then I'm in good shape." But does this work for sainthood?
Tim Pauls, What It Takes to Be a Saint
8.     You Can't Make It "By The Book"

A small parable: Once upon a time, there was a company who had two junior executives. One did everything by the book, was diligent and trustworthy, always made sure he was covered and, since he always went by the book, rarely made mistakes. The other also was a hard and diligent worker, but he often tested the rules, sometimes received some criticism, and sometimes made mistakes. One day an opening came up for a senior executive position, and the owner of the company promoted the one who made mistakes over the other. Of course Mr. "By the Book" was enraged and asked his boss why - after all, he had a better record, didn't he? He NEVER made mistakes. He ALWAYS followed the book. To which his boss replied, "Yes, but what will you do someday when something comes up that isn't covered by the book. You know the rules, but he knows what we are doing here, and why we are here. He UNDERSTANDS the company. And that's why he was promoted over you."
How do we obtain God's blessing? Well, the answer, of course, is that it's not something we obtain - it's not for sale. It's something he has already freely given to you, but which you can only recognize when you accept it as a gift, and live in it.
Gary Roth, All of God's Blessings
9.     Healthy Are the Poor in Spirit

Some years ago a panel of doctors was appointed by the Federal government to meet together and draw up eight laws of public health that could be printed in pamphlet Form and distributed to the public. After twelve days off exhaustive meetings, the doctors were unable to come to a consensus. It seems that their areas of concern were so diverse: one was a cancer specialist, one a cardiologist, one a psychiatrist, and they all approached the problem from their own discipline. The chest expert was concerned about coal dust from the mines and lint from textile mills, while the psychiatrist was concerned about the effects off urban stress. Finally, Dr. Harold Sladen offered Hospital in Detroit came up with an appropriate idea. He said: Let's just republish the eight beatitudes of Jesus and simply replace the word "Blessed" with the words "healthy."
10.  Blessed Are the Cheese Makers

Here is the infamous bit from Monty Pythons "Life of Brian." All great humor must have one essential element: Truth. This bit certainly has that. Jesus' words when misunderstood has led to some pretty fantastic conclusions. And so, this is dedicated to all those knuckle headed interpretations throughout the years. There are two main characters in the bit who are called Trouble and Bignose. They are at the back of the crowd when Jesus is giving the Sermon On The Mount:
Trouble: Well go and talk to him somewhere else... I can't hear a bloody thing.
Bignose: Don't you swear at my wife.
Trouble: I was only asking her to shut up so I could hear what he was saying, Bignose.
Bignose wife: Don't you call my husband Bignose.
Trouble: Well he has got a big nose.
Jew: Could you be quite, please. What was that?
Trouble: I don't know... I was too busy talking to Bignose.
Man: I think it was 'Blessed are the cheese-makers'...
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1: “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” Years ago, a young man was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at the lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies’ restroom carrying a tiny baby. She walked up to this man and asked, “Would you hold my baby for me? I left my purse in the restroom.” He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd. This guy couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman but couldn’t see her anywhere. Now what should he do? Put the baby down and run? When calmness finally settled in, he went to the Traveler’s Aid booth and together with the local police, they soon found the real mother. You see, the woman who’d left him holding the baby wasn’t the baby’s real mother. She’d taken the child. Maybe it was to satisfy some motherly urge to hold a child or something else. No one really knows. But we do know that this man breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he going to do with a baby? In a way, each of us, is in the same sort of situation as this young man. Every Christmas God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold My Baby for Me, please?” and then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. And we’re left with the question, “What are we going to do with this Baby?” But an even deeper question is just, “Who is this Baby?” If we look at Scripture, we find all kinds of titles and names for this Baby we hold in our arms: Emmanuel, “God-with-us;” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Christ the King, Jesus. In today’s Gospel describing the presentation ceremony, Simeon asks Mary the question: “Can I hold your Baby for a few minutes, please?” (Rev. King Duncan).

2: “Four Chaplains Sunday.” Julia Duin in the Washington Times Sunday, February 1, 2009 told this story. Just after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, an act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice. When the Army ship Dorchester was torpedoed by the Germans just south of Greenland that night, its passengers and crew had 25 minutes to get off the boat. As 902 people went for the life jackets, it quickly was discovered there weren’t near enough. Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned. In the ship’s final minutes, Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, were helping passengers leave the vessel. Then four men appeared all of them without life jackets. The chaplains quickly gave up their own vests and went down with the ship, perishing in the freezing water. Survivors saw them, locked arm in arm, praying and singing the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” just before the ship dove beneath the waves. It was a night as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic but without a blockbuster movie to record the drama. “The Four Immortal Chaplains,” as they are now known, have been honored many times, including on a stamp issued in their honor by the U.S. Postal Service. The first Sunday in February is known as “Four Chaplains Sunday.” They presented and offered themselves completely for the well being of others. (WQuoted by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp)

3: The sword piercing Mary’s heart: There is a beautiful Holman Hunt picture in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City called “The Shadow of Death.” It is the only known work of classical art that shows Jesus laboring as an adult in the carpenter’s shop. Joseph is absent so we presume he has died. In this painting, a day of work has ended, and Jesus has just risen from his bench and stretches in relaxation. The shadow of his body and upraised arms falls on a rack of tools on the wall, and we see prefigured the “very dying form of one who suffered there for me.”  But the most interesting thing about the painting is that in the background we see Mary kneeling before an open chest in which we see the gifts of the three wise men “the gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  No doubt as the years went by, Mary watched her son grow to manhood. Now in Joseph’s absence, Jesus was supporting the family as a carpenter. Mary might have wondered if God had mocked her with a cruel joke that her Son was the One who would redeem his people. So again, and again she would go to the chest and gently touch the gifts, as if to convince herself that the promises were real. This might have been the only concrete contact she had with the golden hopes of thirty years ago. And on this day, as she caresses the golden crown and the casket of frankincense and the vase of myrrh, suddenly she sees on the back wall the shadow of the cross. From that day forth the shadow is ever before her. (Rev. Eric Ritz).  That was the sword that would pierce Mary’s soul. Simeon knew what lay ahead.

4: “A new refrigerator with a 10-year warranty.” An elderly woman in frail health was speaking with her doctor and expressing her hope that she would have the strength to live just a few more months so that she could celebrate the birth of her first grandchild. Sure enough, the day came, and the woman was present and well enough to hold the little child in her arms. When the woman went back to her doctor, he suggested that it would be important to set a new goal so that she had something to look forward to, something to “keep her going”. “Well”, the woman pondered, “my son did just buy me a new refrigerator with a 10-year warranty.” Today in Luke’s Gospel we are introduced to a couple of characters who have been waiting for a long time for a promise to be fulfilled. When they see the Child, Anna and Simeon announce to everyone they see that He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to humanity.

5. Sacrificial presentation: A pig and a chicken were walking down the street together. Every restaurant they passed had signs in the window advertising, “Ham and Eggs.” “See,” said the chicken, “We’re famous.”
The pig grunted. “For you,” he said, “a plate of ham and eggs is just a cackle, it’s all in a day’s work for you, but for me it’s the supreme sacrifice of my life.”

6. Final presentation: In ancient Rome in the days of Nero some poor Christian was being chased around the coliseum by a ferocious lion. The faster he ran, the faster the lion ran. Eventually, it was obvious that the end was near, so the poor fellow fell to his knees and prayed aloud, “Dear Lord, make this lion a Christian!” With that, the lion fell to his knees and began to pray, “Bless us, O Lord, and this Thy gift which I am about to receive…” The end was near!
Lord Jesus, as an infant You were brought to the temple by Your parents out of religious duty. Help all parents to take their duties to God seriously, to inculcate their faith in the next generation by their words and by their actions, so that the faith will be handed on where the faith is first learned—in the family and in the home.

12 Additional anecdotes

1) The Story of the Presentation of the Lord: At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany, the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later. Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship. This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification. The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas. At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas. ( .

2)  “The shadow of the cross.” There are two other well-known pictures, each with the same title, “The Shadow of the Cross.” In the first and most well- known painting, the cross-like shadow of the grown-up Jesus is pictured. In a second painting, Holman Hunt depicts the interior of a carpenter’s shop, with Joseph and the Boy Jesus at work. The Boy Jesus pauses in his work, and as he stretches his arms the shadow of the cross is formed on the wall. The third picture is a popular engraving which depicts the Infant Jesus running with outstretched arms to his mother, the shadow of the cross being cast on the ground by his form as he runs. Both pictures are fanciful in form, but their underlying message is true. If we read the Gospels just as they stand, it is clear that the death of Jesus Christ was really in view almost from the outset of his earthly appearance. At first sight there seems little in them about his death, but as we look deeper we see more. It was part of the divine purpose and plan for him from the first, and very early we have a hint of the cross in the words of the aged Simeon to the mother of our Lord: “A sword shall pierce through thine own heart also.

3)  Painting presentation of Jesus in the Temple: In the museum of the cathedral in Cuenca, Spain, hangs one of many artistic renderings of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Included in this elaborate and colorful scene are representatives of Judaism, namely, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna and the source of Christianity, namely, Jesus. Although the Jews and all things Hebrew had been officially expelled from Spain in AD 1492, the artist, Juan de Borgoña (d. AD 1535), illustrated Luke’s account of the Presentation with the stated intention of portraying the necessary continuity between Christianity and Judaism. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).

4) The Presentation of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by Bishops Methodius of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilocius of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated with great splendor until the sixth century. In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverance from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

5) “Well, have you ever heard an Amish parent yell?” A scholar was conducting a study of an Amish village. The Amish are a branch of the Mennonite church who live in traditional rural villages far from industrialization and technology: no computers, televisions, refrigerators and telephones. In his study of the Amish village school, the researcher noticed that Amish children never screamed or yelled. That surprised him. So he decided to check it out with the schoolteacher. He told the teacher that he had not once heard an Amish child yell, and asked him why that was so. The teacher replied, “Well, have you ever heard an Amish parent yell?” The inference is clear: Like the parents, so the children!
We are all familiar with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day which we celebrate every year. Why is there not a Parents’ Day where we celebrate father and mother together as a couple? Today should be a good day to focus on both parents together, as we see both parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, together make the long journey to Jerusalem to present their firstborn Child in the Temple as the law of God required. In the image of Joseph and Mary presenting Jesus in the Temple, we have a wonderful model of husband and wife united in practicing the faith and in raising their child in the faith. (Fr. Munacci).

6) Whatever we are waiting for shows up sooner or later: A major part of our lives is spent on waiting. We wait for the baby to be born, we wait for our children to grow up and be independent, we wait for our retirement; indeed, we spend a lot of time waiting. Besides that we also have to wait for people who are late, we wait for the bus or train and whatever. But there is something interesting about waiting. Most of the time, whatever we are waiting for shows up sooner or later. Simeon and Anna had waited for a long time, and finally their hope was fulfilled.

7) Bundle of parents’ dreams: Every day, new parents bring their precious bundle home from its birthing place, convinced that their child is the most precious baby in the world, and they begin imaging all the great things this child will accomplish. As they share their dreams for their child with family and friends, there is always someone ready to throw cold water on their expectations. One couple recounting this experience when they had their first child spoke of how indignant they became when anyone would suggest that, first of all, the child would someday make an independent decision about life choices and in addition to that, there undoubtedly would be limitations to what the child might accomplish. Then one day a visiting friend raved about how wonderful the baby was and how lucky they were to have this precious bundle. The friend then offered them this bit of advice, “Love your child with all your heart and soul and present him or her to God every day, asking His blessings. Give the child encouragement in whatever interests he displays. If you do that, you will know that you have been good parents. But if you try to live out your dreams through what you child does, through what he accomplishes, you will only be frustrated when your child makes his or her own life choices, especially if they are not the ones you had hoped to see.”

8) “I know that you know Someone Else is taking care of me”: Bruce and Darlene Marie Wilkinson in their book The Dream Giver for Parents tell about a teenager who noticed that his father worried himself nearly to death, trying unsuccessfully to be everywhere and do everything to protect his child from life’s difficulties. This young man wrote his father the following note: “I am sure you remember, Dad, how you used to tell me stories when I was young and was afraid or insecure. Well, I have noticed that you are often worried about what might become of me when you’re not there to help. Now I want to remind you of one of the stories we read together when I was little. It’s the story of the rooster who got up before dawn every day to sit on the roof of the farmhouse and crow so that the sun would rise. Because that’s what he really believed: that it was his responsibility to make the sun come up. He was always afraid that if he didn’t crow, everything would go wrong. He kept worrying: “What would happen if I fell ill, or even died? How would the crops grow, and the children wake up in time for school, and the frost melt, and the flowers blossom if I weren’t there to make the sun rise? The world would become cold and dark; all the grass and the trees would die and the people too eventually . . .” Then one evening, Rooster attended a party and overslept the next morning. The other animals realized that he was not there to make the sun come up and were just about to panic when they saw a glimmer of light on the horizon . . . It was the sun rising without Rooster! Rooster was miserable when he found out that he had nothing to do with the sun’s rising every morning. And embarrassed! But he was also extremely relieved. “What a weight off my shoulders,” he thought, “that I don’t have to I can’t make the sun come up! Yet, every morning, there it is. There must be Someone Else taking care of all this.”
Dad, you light up my life, but it really isn’t your responsibility to “make the sun rise for me.” I know that you know Someone Else is taking care of me. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004), pp. 102-103) That was a lesson that Mary and Joseph had to learn. And it’s a lesson I hope you and I have learned as well. God will take care of those we love, and God will take care of us. Mary and Joseph went on with their lives following Christmas, and so shall we. They faced life’s many challenges, but they did it with love and with faith in God. It was not easy, but they knew God was with them, just as God is with us. It’s good to know. Indeed, it’s the best Good News in the world.

9) “And what exactly would that be?” There was a fascinating conversation on Rush Limbaugh’s talk show a while back. Having just completed Tom Brokaw’s wonderful book, The Greatest Generation, a book filled with inspiring stories of the WWII generation, Rush had taken the position that the current generation of young adults, those in their 20’s, are, for the most part, a bunch of whiners. He said that while they are constantly whining and moaning about the difficulty of their lives in fact, when compared to the hardships faced by their grandparents’ generation, they’ve actually got it easy. Their grandparents had endured truly devastating events like The Great Depression and WWII. The current crop of young adults, he concluded, doesn’t even have a clue about real hardship.
Once Rush had finished his monologue, a self-professed member of this younger generation of adults called in to offer a different perspective. Bright and extremely articulate, the 23 year-old caller said that, while The Great Depression and WWII certainly created terrible hardships for the people who faced them that he, nonetheless, believed his generation faced an even greater hardship.
Limbaugh asked, “And what exactly would that be?” The caller said, “The loss of hope.” He said that his experience indicated that many of today’s young adults had simply stopped believing that things were going to get better. They didn’t expect to live as well as their parents had lived. They weren’t expecting a brighter future. They have simply given up hope. Most of those in his generation, he said, can’t imagine anything worth dying for…and they’re committing suicide in record numbers because many can’t imagine anything worth living for.” Christ’s presence in our lives is as full now as it was for Simeon. The Christ of Christmas brings hope and so much more.

10) “Witnessed by Sandy MacTavish.” Sandy MacTavish was one of the town drunks in a small village in Scotland. The local preacher had tried for years without success to get Sandy to go “on the wagon.” In a last ditch effort, the parson called a meeting at the church of everyone in town who had trouble with alcohol. He was delighted when he saw Sandy MacTavish show up and sit in the back pew. He was so inspired that he delivered the most eloquent sermon of his entire career, telling about the evils of drink and the harmful effects it had on both body and soul.  At the end of the sermon, he announced that he was sending around a piece of paper that he wanted people to sign pledging that they would give up drinking. As he watched the list circulate, everyone signed it including Sandy MacTavish. After the service, he was so excited that he snatched up the list without looking at it and ran home to tell his wife about his victory. He unrolled the list before her eyes and sure enough, written across the bottom were the words, “witnessed by Sandy MacTavish.”  Let Simeon and Anna who witnessed to the Messiah as a Baby, shape your response to the good news of God’s love shown to us in Bethlehem. It is what needs to happen once Christmas is over!

11) “Don’t be in a hurry; the teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” 
In the early ’60s, at the height of the civil rights movement, a group of white ministers issued a public statement urging Dr. Martin Luther King, in the name of the Christian faith, to be more patient in his quest for justice and to relax the relentless struggle for civil rights. King’s response came in the form of the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In the letter, King indicated that he had received similar requests for delay, indeed, that he had just gotten a letter from a “white brother in Texas” who wrote, “… It is possible you are in too great a religious hurry … The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Dr. King replied that such an attitude stemmed from a sad misunderstanding of time, the notion that time itself cures all ills. Time, King argued, could be used for good or for evil. Human progress, he said, is not inevitable, but rather …
… it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. King knew that complete justice must await the coming of God. That was the theme of his final sermon in which he proclaimed, “I’ve been to the mountaintop. I’ve seen the promised land.” But he was persuaded that while we wait, “the time is always ripe to do right” [Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in Why We Can’t Wait (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 89.] Simeon and Anna were also waiting for God to come, but they were not passive in their waiting. Simeon was full of devotion and did what was just. Anna kept the lights burning at the Temple with her ceaseless worship. They waited, but, while they waited, they did what they could.

12) Barbicide: There is an amusing true story about a man named Maurice King. Maurice became displeased with his barber. His barber was not particularly adept with a razor. Rarely would Maurice leave this barber’s shop without a new collection of nicks and scratches. Even more disturbing, Maurice became a little concerned that his barber’s tools weren’t as sanitary as they could be. So he invented a germ-killing blue liquid that he began marketing to barber shops and hair salons. Even today, you walk into any salon or barber shop and you’ll see glass jars of this pale blue liquid on the counters. It’s used for soaking razors, scissors, combs and other equipment. What’s the name of this blue liquid? Barbicide. The name is a little inside joke thought up by Maurice King after a particularly bad trip to the barber. I say it’s an inside joke because the word Barbicide means “kill the barber.” Look for it at your favorite barber shop or hair salon. As foretold by Simeon, Mary and Joseph didn’t escape life’s nicks and scratches. Neither did Jesus. Jesus was a child like any other child, and as such he surely had his bumps and bruises growing up. Mary was likely in her late forties when she experienced the unspeakable tragedy of watching her son die an excruciating death on the cross of Calvary. You think you hurt. Imagine how she hurt. “A sword will pierce your soul.” Life can be very cruel even to the best of people. Can people ever get any better than the Holy Family of Nazareth — Mary, Joseph and Jesus? And yet they had difficult lives.