We’re seeing the impact that Jesus’ birth has had beyond those who lived 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Here’s a story about one of the first people to meet Jesus, when he was about 40 days old, and how he saw Jesus would change the world:
And 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 male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said 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, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:22-35 ESV)
This man, Simeon, was told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah – God’s anointed one – the true king of Israel. Now, here he was, a baby in Simeon’s arms. In this song or poem, he essentially says he can finally die happy.
But this isn’t just about Simeon. It’s not even just about his people, the Jews, even though t happens at a very Jewish occasion – the temple, with all its purification laws, etc. and a Jewish blessing.
You can see it’s much larger when Simeon says God is doing something about salvation for “all peoples” and specifically a light of revelation for the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well as Israel.
The child Simeon blesses will have an impact globally, eternally. Sometimes that will be wonderful, but other times he’s described as being divisive. Whether we like that or not, we can see Jesus has indeed been divisive – it’s hard to sit on the fence about Jesus – families, friends and other people groups have long been divided by their beliefs about him.
Question: How does the birth of Jesus divide people today? What thoughts might he reveal?
We asked yesterday if you could list of what comes to mind when you hear the word “church”. Our lists probably included buildings, events and services. It may have included organ and choir music, stained glass windows, dusty books, bake sales and more. It may evoke good experiences, or bad ones.
But not how the Bible usually sees “church”. Church is described in several cases as a family. This is why our vision is to become a church made up of many groups who are “like family” with one another.
But you might immediately think this means something strange and cultish, usually because our ideas of family today is pretty narrow. We think of family as the nuclear, immediate family in isolation.
But in Jesus’ culture, in some cultures today, and not so long ago in Western culture, the family was the word used more naturally to describe an extended network of relations, often living in the same area.
That was the context for family in Jesus’ day, and Jesus had plans to develop a new kind of extended family. Here’s a striking moment when he described his plans to create an alternate family:
Matthew 12:46-50 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
On the one hand, it seems Jesus just put down his mother. I just saw “Guilt Trip” where Barbra Streisand plays Seth Rogen’s overbearing mother. She calls several times a day, tries to get him to drink water constantly, and so on. In the middle of their road trip, he finally snaps, and tells her off.
It seems like that might be what Jesus is doing to his mother here. Is he putting her down, in his plans to join another family? Look at it another way. Jesus is actually elevating his disciples to family status. His followers, fellow practitioners of his kingdom, are his family.
She’s not excluded. Later in the story of Jesus’ life and death, we see Mary his mother appearing as a devoted member of this extended family, and Jesus even assigns one of the disciples to look after her after his death, saying he’s her new son, and vice versa.
Jesus isn’t narrowing his definition of family to exclude blood relatives. He’s broadening it, to include his extended family of followers as if they are blood relatives.
Question: Imagine your immediate family suddenly adopting a dozen new members. How would it change your way of life? What would be the pros and cons?
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.