Greg's Weekly Word: "peace"
It had to be the weirdest baby dedication ever. Then again, after everything that had happened around the pregnancy and birth, maybe it was just par for the course.
When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple, an old man they'd never met comes up to them and asks if he can hold the baby. A stranger...in a very public place...wants their baby. Ummmm... NO! (is what I would have said.) But Mary and Joseph hand over the Christ child, and as the baby tugs at the old man's beard, Simeon sings,
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)
Simeon can finally "rest in peace" now that he has seen the One for whom he waited his entire life. But for the rest of us...not so much. Because Simeon "blesses" Mary and Joseph, with these words:
This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too. (Luke 2:34-35)
Doesn't sound like much of a blessing. Doesn't even sound much like peace. Definitely not the calm, quiet, tranquil feeling we usually think of. The peace Simeon sees in the Christ child is piercing. And that's because Christ will bring God's peace (shalom) - when God's purposes are realized, and human beings have well-being, and we are in right relationship with God and each other, and there is not simply an absence of conflict or tension, but the presence of love and justice and mercy and wholeness.
Which can bring tension. Because such peace is in conflict with most of the ways of our world. Christ's peace will lead to the falling of many who've risen to the top of our society, and the raising up of many who have fallen to the bottom of life. It will "pierce our own souls," cutting to the core of our identity, revealing who (and whose) we really are. Because pursuing this way of peace - seeking shalom and showing grace and sharing love... working for justice and wholeness and the redemption of all of creation... Well, that won't be easy. And it probably won't be calm or comfortable.
But as we pursue that peace, we will move our world closer to the kingdom Christ came to bring. And as we do, it might move us closer to the kind of people Christ calls us to be.