December 29, 2014
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel. 2:29-32
O.K., that was the good news.
Mom and Dad were “marveling” at this word of prophecy from this holy man. On top of that, Simeon gave a blessing to the little family. But then, in an abrupt change of spirit, he pulled Mary aside and we get the impression he whispered this haunting word of warning to her.
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Let’s call it. This is “not good news” for Mom.
Translation: “Mary, I’ve got to be honest. What I’m about to tell you is very good news and yet it will inevitably be very hard news. . . . This son of yours. . . his life will be important beyond your ability to comprehend. . . . in fact, his life itself will be a sign. . . I can’t overstress this. . . . in this child is the salvation of the whole world. . . . BUT. . . . he will cause great controversy. . . . he will be fiercely opposed. . . . some will love him with love like you’ve never seen. . . . many will hate him with a hatred beyond belief. . . and Mary, this will be so hard for you. . . . you will die a thousand deaths over all this and you will yet be alive. . . this is such good news and yet almost unbearably hard news at the same time. . . . I’m sorry Mary.
We so want to put news in one of two categories: good news or bad news. But what if there’s only one category: good news? And what if the good news always had a “hard” side to it? The nature of the Gospel, of the “Good News,” is all good. It’s just not all easy. The Gospel brings with it the promise of ultimate invincibility but it does not offer invulnerability to hardship and suffering.
The Gospel promises “God with us” in the midst of hardship and suffering. The Gospel guarantees ultimate victory over sin and death, but not immunity to them. The Gospel is not a good news-bad news scenario. There’s no such thing as bad news when you know you will ultimately win. It is good news with a hard side.
The Gospel is “salvation in the sight of all nations, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel,” yet “it will pierce your own soul too.” Good News + a Hard Side.
Jesus would later say it this way to his disciples,
On another occasion he put it like this:
I suppose the real question for us is that last question– “Do we believe this?”
On the fourth day of Christmas. . . . .
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