Trust and faith are the words of the day. In the Old Testament, Abram is told that his wife ,Sarah, in her old age, would conceive a child and that their descendants would number like the stars. St. Paul in the second reading reiterates the story of Abraham and his faith in God for a son, only to have God test that faith with the command to sacrifice that very son. In the Gospel, Simeon abides patiently in faith until he can see the child Jesus with his own eyes. He then prophesies that this child “is destined for the fall and rise of many.” Mary and Joseph must have wondered what that meant. But they went home knowing that they fulfilled the dictate the law of the Lord by presenting their firstborn son at the Temple.
Every church has some depiction of the Holy Family, be it a statue grouping or separate “side-altar” statues of Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus. This time of year the Holy Family is also front and center as presented in the crèche as part of the Christmas décor. It is a symbolic message of the loving relationship we need to bring to our own families. Today, many family compositions are present in worship. There is the iconic family make up of mom, dad and children, but also included are the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. This is especially true during this season when relatives come together to celebrate family. However, we are also a church family, a community family, a family of friends and neighbors, a family of believers.
Simeon’s prophesy gave a glimpse of that broad relationship when he recognized that Christ, the Messiah, was a fulfillment of the God’s promises to Israel. This foretelling of the Messiah not only pertained to Israel, but to all of humankind, including the Gentiles. This message of inclusiveness was not lost on the Jewish ears hearing this narrative. Simeon’s faith in his old age that he would see the Messiah before he died as he trusted in God’s promise to Israel is a reminder of the constant love of God for all of us.
Just as a baby depends on the unconditional love of the parent, extended family and the world, we also must trust God as the unconditional lover, the one who will be with us at all times. Like that helpless baby, we place our trust and faith in God as member of the family of God.
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.