Today’s Gospel reading tells of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. We are still in the midst of the Octave of Christmas. That’s the 8 days in which we rejoice at the wonder of the Incarnation: God made flesh, God with us, Jesus Christ. As I like to explain to people, one day (Christmas Day) is not enough time to express our wonder and gratitude for the Gift of Jesus to the world, all past, present and future. So we take 8 days to do that. Today is the sixth day of Christmas, if you were wondering. The 25th is Day One.
I love the story of Baby Jesus being brought to the Temple, per His family’s faith tradition. And the two old people who have spent their lives awaiting the promises of God are finally rewarded on this glorious day! When Mary and Joseph bring the baby in to the Temple, Simeon and Anna just know He’s the One they’ve been waiting for. The Holy Spirit, I’m sure, gives them the heads up! What a moment of absolute Grace. And, as I was reminded today, Jesus will be back in this Temple near the very end of His life. He will come in to bring the Ultimate Sacrifice to the Lord. He will let the world know that His Body is the True Temple. It’s coming to a climax soon. But the war between good and evil is no contest, people. Good is so much stronger than evil. Good is made up of love and beauty. Anything Good is of God. And God is stronger than anything or anyone. Like I said, it’s no contest. Those who would tell us about the ‘struggle between good and evil’ are sadly deluded if they think that it’s a fight where we should be on the edge of our seats awaiting the outcome. This is not a movie. This is life which only God can give and only God can sanctify. Which He did in becoming a man, a human like you and like me.
God is love and love is stronger than death, too, by the way. See? In every way conceivable, good is stronger than evil and cannot lose in the end. We know ‘the rest of the story’ as believers. So, don’t be afraid. And, if seeing Jesus in His suffering and death makes you sad, that’s understandable. For we helped put Him there, in our own sin and lack of faith. But don’t think for a second that it means God or we are defeated. For that Sacrifice becomes our greatest Triumph! 3 days later Jesus will rise up, body, soul, and divinity. He takes our sin upon Himself and dies for us. We could not save ourselves. So, while we may be sad and feel regret for what Jesus must endure for us all, our overwhelming emotion should be gratitude that God loves us that much. Gratitude because Jesus redeems us.
Jesus’ humility is breathtaking. While shepherds bow before the baby Jesus in the manger, Jesus will be made to bow low beneath the weight of the cross on His way to Calvary. Born in the lowliest of states is humble enough, but torture and death on a cross are even more so. The King of the Universe, Creator of all, does not deserve any of the things He endures from birth to death. But He takes them all on for you and for me.
I think anyone who is interested in the role of leadership within any organization, including the Church, should take a good, long look at the original Servant Leader. It’s not an easy road; it’s not glamorous; it’s frustrating because your followers are not perfect, far from it, actually; it’s demoralizing when you know that the ‘bad guys’ are coming to arrest you when you are innocent of any crime. It’s a struggle every day to get the attention of people for the right reasons. Oh, they love to come for healing and for the spectacle. And they love the free food and the stories, even when they don’t understand them. But are they hearing the Good News? Are they comprehending the thing that you are doing for them, because you love them? Not many.
The disappointment at their lack of interest in what you’re truly saying, or lack of comprehension of even your closest followers is probably the worst thing to bear. Watching a sinful world continue to sin even as you die for it. Who can endure such a thing? The mocking, the insults, the pain – why? If not for love of each of us, as stupid, and selfish, and clueless as we are. We should be humbled. Every day of our life, we should realize we are and never could be worthy of the Sacrifice. But God loves us anyway. And He loves us that much.
Below is the link to a video about “The Deep Love of Jesus.” Listen and thank Jesus that He is worthy enough for all of us. He is the reason to be grateful for our existence, but more for His, and to be joyful that He made us worthy, and kind and loving and forgiving to one another because Jesus is all those things with us.
Remember, the Incarnation (God made man, flesh and blood), leads to the Crucifixion. But don’t ever stop there. For that death leads to the Resurrection. And the first Christians, the eye witnesses, went to their deaths for Jesus. Because they had seen the Risen Lord and would never be the same. If you saw the Jesus who suffered and died back amongst His friends who’d been so unfaithful when He was arrested, yet He forgives and loves them, and tells them why He had to suffer and die and now why He must ascend but never leave them or anyone who comes after them (you and me), I hope you would also want to share that amazing story with everyone you meet. Even those who might not want to hear about Him, even with those who might want to kill you. Because you’d know with every fiber of your being that Jesus, true God and true Man, had died for you. How could you do any less now? Now that you know the truth.
Once again, as with my last post, this may seem like a weird reflection for Christmastime, but not really. Because it’s not about a baby in a manger. It’s about God and good always triumphing over evil. Always. That’s been the Plan all along and it is God’s so rejoice, be grateful! Happy 6th Day of Christmas.