Image: Greek icon of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple (detail).
‘Steeped in tradition’
Christmas 1, Year B
Psalm 148; Luke 2:22-40
The figure of Anna (Hannah [see 1 Samuel]) is striking. Scholars surmise she is from a family of exiles (the northern tribe of Asher), scattered yet steeped in the traditions of Israel; steeped in the hopes of her people and culture. She expresses her love for Jerusalem, the Torah and the Temple in her continual worship at the Temple complex.
We are shown a woman steeped in religion, steeped in tradition, and thus able to discern its promise, its openness to the future.
Anna, with Simeon, discerns that God’s Anointed is a baby of a poor couple (they offer the sacrifice prescribed for the poor [Leviticus 12:1-8]), also devout (presenting themselves for “purification”, their child for “consecration” [Exodus 13:1]), also displaced (on the move from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Jerusalem; on their way back to Nazareth).
Anna is like an elder keenly interested/invested in the revolutionary music of the younger members of the congregation.
I say “revolutionary” because all the songs in Luke’s gospel are about revolution – from Mary’s “Magnificat” (“you have deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places”) to Zechariah’s redemption song (“light to those who live in darkness … [guidance] into the way of peace”; from the heavenly host before the lowly shepherds to Simeon’s subversive song (the “Nunc Dimittis”) with its note of reversal: “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” …
Simeon says of the Christ-child: “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that is rejected, so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare …”
Revolutionary because Anna and her younger cohorts anticipate “deliverance”, freedom from all that prevents or diminishes peace and justice.
Revolutionary because a wise elder knows that a living faith is ever embodied in a new generation, in new contexts.
“We share love, friendship, hospitality and hope with each other and with our neighbours … We seek to overcome both exclusion and abuse.”
We listen for a word … mirrung/belonging … understanding.
We pray, serve and grow … as we decolonise.
We read: Christmas Bowl gifts support vulnerable people around the world, helping them to survive conflict and disaster and build stronger, fairer and more resilient communities. Donations are helping those who are displaced and disadvantaged to access what we all deserve: food, medical care and lifesaving support to rebuild their lives.
In Afghanistan, donations will help Act for Peace coordinate with Community World Service Asia so they can respond immediately to humanitarian emergencies.
In Ethiopia, Act for Peace’s local partner, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission, supports refugees from Yemen.
Act for Peace’s partner in Jordan, the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, has been supporting Syrian refugees since the civil war began, providing vital food packages and hygiene kits.
Many Sri Lankan refugees in India, forced to flee violence in their home country, rely on groups like the Organization for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation for crucial support and assistance, including the provision of health workers in the camps.
And on the Thai-Burma border, where thousands continue to flee Myanmar, gifts through the Christmas Bowl can help local partners like the Border Consortium provide practical care so refugees and people who have been displaced can live in safety and dignity.
Christmas Bowl donations can be made via donation envelopes in the church or via our SSUC link: mycb.link/46613/.
Anna and her younger cohorts anticipate “deliverance”, freedom from all that prevents or diminishes peace and justice. A wise elder knows that a living faith is ever embodied in a new generation, in new contexts. Amen.