The scripture (Luke 2:22-40) this week is about expectation and fulfillment of ritual, not to mention prophecy, with multiple characters proclaiming great things about the child Jesus.
Wow. This is serious theater, with amazing characters, one of whom hasn’t left the temple in years, and another that tells of a sword that will pierce the soul.
Poor Mary and Joseph stand by while strangers pass their child around and declare what is to come.
All of this makes me think of our expectations of the Messiah, of the one who is going to come along and make our lives right and set things straight and, by golly, just you wait until this guy gets grown up, and then everything’s going to be all right.
You just wait and see. Things are going to get better.
But do they get better? Is there still injustice in the world? Poverty? Hunger? Disease? Exploitation? Violence? War?
Of course those still exist. And since they do, then how do we understand just exactly what the Messiah is all about? Wasn’t someone supposed to come along and fix all the bad stuff?
Those questions then allow others to raise the question, “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” Or, why is there still evil? ( No matter how we might define the E word.)
But that also challenges us to ask what our own roles are. Have we participated fully in ending injustice? Have we done all that we can to end poverty and war and disease?
It’s easy enough to put it all on the shoulders of another, of the one who is supposed to come along and make everything right.
Or is that truly the role of the Messiah? Perhaps the Messiah is more about showing us the way and providing us with new tools and new ways of understanding—and transforming us!– so that we can go about God’s work of setting things straight. Maybe each of us has a role to play in this grand piece of theater, of preparing the way, of presenting the Lord.
We’ll talk about it on Sunday.