the feast of the Christmas Crib..Mary Joseph & the child Jesus..the Holy Family.. ..learning as a threesome to live love & heal in person & in relationship.. ..learning the hard way that it is the people we love most who are the people we hurt most.. for expecting best behaviour from others whilst demanding tolerance for our own weakness & harmfulness let us ask for Our Lords mercy & forgiveness..
“bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins..” Lord have mercy “..teach & advise each other in all wisdom..” ; Christ have mercy “..the Lord forgives you, now you must do the same..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..some years ago now about this time I received a card from Fr Robert in Zimbabwe..on it a beautiful depiction of our gospel, Our Lords Presentation in the Temple..I’ve treasured it ever since..it’s an African scene..a simple timber & mud temple with matting on floor.. Joseph, holding African warriors wooden staff & a basket of pigeons, offering of poorest, stands in background with proud smile..opposite stands elderly Anna, a beaming smile, her hand prayerfully across her heart, focused on child Jesus..her dress decorated with autumn leaves, perhaps reflecting the last stages of her earthly life..& taking centre stage Mary, radiant in a beautiful white & blue dress & a fresh white headdress; she too is smitten by her child who is in Simeons arms..she holds on to hem of Jesus’ white shawl as much as to say “you have hold of him for the time being but he’s mine!”..& Simeon, epitomy of wise elderly leader, his whitening hair & beard, his fine robes indicative of his religious standing, his eyes raised to heaven, his hands cradling & offering the child back to the divine Father..it is a moment of meeting & contrast..the simplicity of surroundings where old meets new..established meets emerging..elders meet youngsters..it’s more than coincidence that John the Baptists mother & father are both old..that Zachariah represents religion as ritual formality & sacrifice; struck dumb by his inability to believe promises which announce the new age of the Spirit which is to come. At the Presentation Simeon & Anna are old..John Baptist Simeon & Anna representing the end of an era, the last of the prophets of the Old Testament, the old dispensation, the last voices before the Word himself [Jesus] appears & the age of expectation comes to an end. It is liminal ground the border between the two covenants..the three of them living on the edge; outsiders looking in?..or insiders looking out?..it all depends on where you stand & pray..insider outsider.. Shepherd or Herdwick remember?..boundary dwellers twixt city & desert, fenced safe fields or open fells..clear boundaries of the known or the dangerous edge of things.. Cardinal Martini Archbishop of Milan spoke of “how even the fundamental affirmations of Christianity are in that mysterious perspective of being seen but not known ; how provisional & imperfect our deepest convictions are, & ought to be, in the face of the mystery of God & the tragedies of human existence. We are travellers on the highway, the wilderness is all around us; it is within us to the journeys end; we travel in hope not in certainty.” A fine mission statement to carve above doorway of this our Temple..or is it a manger? “we travel in hope not in certainty”..could it be then that albeit the child Jesus is presented in the Temple, it is a depiction of the end of the established era & the beginning of the new nomadic era?..calling then, & now,to understand the child not coming to settle into the Jewish religious establishment but a pause to reverence it in loving thankfulness, in compliance & devotion to the written Law of the Lord to date..& now a scene catching a Christ child about to take spirituality out into the wilderness, onto the fells..out of home tem;ple /Church & out into the world..no longer a religion of classification & clericalism, Pharisees & publicans, but now a spirituality of full immersion..now no presentation but a baptism, no longer an overture to a formal religious education but a gap year, with little study & more practical craftsmanship, less theology more discipleship.. the new dispensation, a Holy Family, being presented to the old for its acknowledgement appreciation & blessing..in the new order God too holy to see but “God is with us” Emmanuel ..a reverential self surrender from Simeon & Anna representing old guard.. “now Master let your servant go in peace” always read as Simeons prayer of surrender into retirement...could it be Simeons letting the servant Christ child go?..go out in peace onto the fells into wilderness, a journey out from the Law of the Lord & into an emerging “life of the Lord”..a good place to be then & still now..looking out for next wave of migrants, the magi..are we not in good company & in exciting times?..Swaledales & Herdwicks, companions, one family, on a journey of hope into our desert..”in the face of mystery of God & tragedies of human existence” [HolyFamilyYr B Lk2;22-40]