“No Longer a Slave but a Child”
Fourth Day of Christmas, Year B
Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 2:22-40
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Slavery is insidious.
It is an evil institution.
Slavery’s wounds cut to the bone.
It leaves an indelible mark for generations.
The traditions of slavery are not easily forgotten.
A child born of a slave was to be presented to the slave owner,
As if his holdings had expanded and become more valuable.
It was a humiliating tradition,
More hurtful to mother and father than lashes from a whip.
Four thousand years ago,
When our Hebrew ancestors in Egypt
Won their freedom from the Pharaoh
At the hand of the Lord
and by the good work of Moses,
Our tribe never forgot this humiliating rite.
So we recast the practice
Such that no one would ever forget
And everyone would now remember
Where to lay the mantle of thanksgiving.
Exodus 13:2 reads
“Consecrate to me all the firstborn;
whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites,
of human beings and animals, is mine.”
Today we read that Mary and Joseph honor the tradition
By remembering from where they came
And to whom belongs the praise.
They present Jesus in the Temple
Consecrating him to God
Affirming his identity as God’s own.
As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatians,
He is “no longer a slave but a child,
And if a child then also an heir, through God.”
Jerusalem’s Temple was an economy all unto it’s own.
It was a filled place every day of the year.
People from throughout the region gathered
Bringing animals for sacrifice
Removing money for the treasury
Attending rites for purification
Worshipping with prayers and sacrifice
Paying their annual Temple tax.
It was a place to be seen,
And to see
Every aspect of early Jewish life.
A devout and righteous man
Watched and waited every day
For the consolation of Israel;
The moment when God will console
Those remaining few
Who still lived in exile.
This watchful man’s name was Simeon,
Luke tells us.
The Holy Spirit had visited him,
The third godhead of the Trinity,
And revealed to Simeon that he would not die
Until he saw the Lord’s Messiah.
The same Spirit leads him to the Temple
The identical time Mary and Joseph come to present Jesus.
Their meeting was not happenstance.
It was divinely orchestrated.
Simeon takes Jesus into his arms,
Lifts his eyes heavenward,
Praising God, and saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
… for my eyes have seen your salvation,
… a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
The last exile has come home.
The last Hebrew in captivity has been repatriated
The consolation of Israel has come with the Messiah,
God’s chosen one,
God’s own Son,
Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
For those who follow the Christ child,
The Father’s heir,
We have been adopted by the same heavenly Father,
Freeing us from the darkness,
Freeing us from slavery to evil and captivity to sin.
Behold, the Light of the World has come!
As the Spirit ordained the crossing of their paths that special day
In the Temple courtyard
Did a cross shaped image impose itself on Simeon’s vision?
“Your child will be the falling and rising of many,
and a sword that will pierce your own soul.”
This thin wisp of a cirrus cloud
Casting a nearly imperceptible shadow upon the landscape
Would only be seen in hindsight
As a hint of the deeper meaning of Messiah.
Not a freedom fighter, but a revolutionary;
Not a politician or general, but truly a leader;
Not working only for today, but working for an eternity
Of change, of transformation, of salvation.
“Now!” cries Simeon.
“Now my eyes have seen salvation”
Like Anna and Simeon
Have only one response: Praising God!
Like Mary at the tomb
We respond with sheer joy
In the presence of the resurrected Lord,
With praise and thanksgiving we, too, announce to the world
We have seen the Lord
And we have tasted His salvation!
(- from John 20:16-18)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praising God for the Good News of Jesus’ birth!
Praising God for the salvation that has come!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
 For this, and other thoughts on this passage, I am indebted to Dr. Holly Hearon, Professor of New Testament, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, IN, as found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=12/28/2008#
 With thanks for this image to: the Rev Moira Laidlaw, Uniting Church in Australia.