Feast of the Presentation of Christ, Church of the Holy Spirit, Nashville

“A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk. 2:35).

This year our youngest child will graduate from college. It’s a significant moment in the life of any parent. As our children get older, they take on more responsibility and they have more freedom. Children may choose to live and work far away from their parents. They decide to start their own families. They take jobs that are different from their parents’ work. They do things differently.

Some things don’t change, however. My own parents pointed out to me that I never stopped being their child. They never stopped giving me advice. My father still tells me what I should do. We feel the same way about our children. No matter how near or far away, they never stop being our children. There are joys and sorrows that come with being a parent. Parents never stop worrying about their children. Parents never stop being parents.

Our Gospel reading today tells us a part of the story of Jesus’ childhood. His parents, Mary and Joseph, brought him to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to present him to the Lord. They make the customary offering to God. While they are there, they encounter two people waiting in the Temple. God has told Simeon that he will remain there until he sees the Messiah. Anna the prophet was also in the Temple, worshiping God every day with fasting and prayer.

When Jesus is brought to the Temple, Simeon and Anna recognize that he is the Messiah. Simeon gives thanks to God that now he can depart in peace. He has seen the One sent by God, to be a light to the nations. Jesus will make God’s name known to the ends of the world. Anna praises God that the promised One has come. She tells everybody what has happened.

Mary and Joseph are amazed by the words of Simeon and Anna. They knew that Jesus was special, but they are still surprised by what happens. Mary had heard the message of the angel, that she would be the mother of the Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit. She had said “yes” to God. Both Mary and Joseph had heard the angels singing at Christmas, but now they hear from Simeon and Anna that God has begun to work. Years will pass, and Jesus will grow up, and God will work through him.

Simeon also tells Mary that a sword will pierce her own soul (Lk. 2:35). Even here, at the beginning of his life, there is a prophecy of Jesus’ death. Jesus will continue to grow, and to be filled with wisdom and the favor of God, but he will always be his parents’ child. Mary’s heart will be pierced and broken even though she knows that God is guiding him. Jesus will never stop being her son, no matter how old he becomes.

There are many challenges that face us in our lives. Our hearts are pierced and broken over and over again, just like Mary’s heart. We have many difficulties and we pray to God to deliver us. There are many things we do not understand, but we know God is powerful to save. We know that God has made all things and sustains the world by his mercy. We know that he loves us.

We also know that God’s own heart is pierced by human sin. God never stops being a parent. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father too. He loves us and grieves over us. He sees us challenged by many difficulties. We are sinners who need his grace. We never stop being God’s children. That’s why God sent Jesus to us, to be our brother and to die for our sins. He knows that we are in need of health and salvation, so he sent his own Son to save us.

God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, to destroy sin and death. He has given us a new life in Jesus Christ. We are sinners but we have been redeemed. God never stops being our Father. Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-32), when the son is still far away, he goes out to greet him. He welcomes him home. He invites his neighbors to join in a festival of celebration because his son has come home.

God is welcoming us home today, and inviting us to feast with him in Holy Communion. We have been waiting like Simeon and Anna for the coming of the Messiah, and now he’s here. Jesus is here today, and we receive forgiveness and new life. God never stops being our Father.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee