Today is Epiphany in the Christian Calendar. It brings to an end the 12 days of Christmas. And so according to the Christian Calendar it is now time to put away those Christmas trees and Christmas decorations. No more Lord’s a Leaping, No more maid’s a milking... no more partridges in pear trees!
But what is Epiphany all about? The word itself means a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.
In the Western Christian calendar, Epiphany usually refers to the revelation of Christ to the Magi, Also known as the three wise men – the revelation of Christ to the Gentile world. It is a sign that the promise of Christ is not just for the Jews but for all people.
Last week we considered the first few verses of Jesus being presented at the temple. This week instead of looking at the story of the Magi, I would like to continue at the temple where we meet two elderly characters – Simeon and Anna.
For both of them, seeing the Christ child is a moment of revelation. An Epiphany moment.
As we explore this text we will find that it contains a number of key themes that are of particular emphasis in Luke’s Gospel.
- Prayer - More than any of the other Gospels, Luke’s Gospel emphasizes prayer. Luke describes Jesus constantly withdrawing to spend time in prayer. At his baptism, Jesus is described as praying. In this passage, Simeon and Anna are people of prayer. Anna in particular, since her husband died after just 7 years of marriage, has devoted herself to a life of prayer at the temple. Simeon’s name – Hebrew Shimone – means to listen. Simeon has devoted his life to listening deeply for the sign of God’s movement among the Jewish people. And here in meeting the infant Christ, his life of prayer and listening has been rewarded. He has seen with his own eyes, God’s chosen messiah who will be a light to the nations.
- The Holy Spirit, which in Luke’s Gospel is connected with prayer – Prayer leads one to be moved by the Holy Spirit – both Anna and Simeon, in their lives of prayer – deep listening – are moved, nudged by the Spirit within to go over and see the Christ child in his mother’s arms.
- Justice – fairness: In the NIV translation Simeon is described as being a righteous man... but a better translation is the Greek word dikaios is the word ‘just’ - it means to be equitable in character and action. In other words, he is someone who is balanced and whole, and someone who deals fairly and honestly with other people. He does not allow his own self-interest to get the better of him. To be just is to be fair. To place our own interest on equal footing with that of other people.
The source of corruption in politics and society is when we place the interest of ourselves and of our own group above the interest of others. A just person seeks to put these interests on an equal footing. To be just is to love one’s neighbour as oneself.
That is an important theme in Luke’s Gospel. To be a follow of Jesus is to seek to build a more just and equitable society.
- The important role of women – Woman play a far more prominent role in Luke’s Gospel than in any of the other Gospels. In Luke’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus’ itinerant ministry is sustained by the financial contributions of a number of woman disciples. While Matthews Gospel focuses on the role of Joseph in the birth of Jesus, Luke’s Gospel focuses on the importance of Mary.
- An emphasis on the Gentiles, or the nations – Scholars will tell you that Luke’s Gospel is a Gospel written especially for a Gentile audience. The coming of Jesus will bring consolation to the Jews as we read in this passage, but Jesus coming is actually for all people.
In 2019, may we be a people of prayer, moved by God’s Spirit of Love to build a world in which all people, no matter their gender, creed or colour are treated with dignity and fairness, in the spirit of Jesus. Amen.