Luke 2:22-40 | Holy Family Sunday, Year B
Gossamer Threads through the Ages
At the Nativity, the shepherds and Mary and Joseph had more in common than they may have realized.
Shepherds lived with their sheep and knew them intimately. Many flocks would roam together in a field, yet the sheep would only come when their particular master summoned. If one of the flock were in trouble, a shepherd would move heaven and earth to rescue it. Yet, for all the care they gave their charges, the shepherd knew the sheep were being raised as a sacrifice.
A gossamer thread connected Mary and Joseph to the shepherds who came on bended knee. The Baby Mary held, the One she and Joseph would grow to know as a much-loved Child, was also destined to be a sacrifice. It might not have been until the Presentation at the Temple that Mary and Joseph had a glimmer of His fate.
With wisdom that only God can bring, Simeon intimated the future bloodshed of the Child. Until Simeon’s prophecy, Mary knew only what Gabriel had said about her Offspring: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdoms there will be no end” (Luke 1:32). When John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, Mary must have further envisioned a life of earthly greatness for her own Baby.
Now, at the temple, while holding the infant, Simeon first reiterated Gabriel’s lavish foretelling leading “the child’s father and mother [to be] amazed at what was said about him,” (v.33). But then he revealed the flip side of greatness: “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce)…” (vs. 34-35). Simeon’s words might have been the first suggestion Mary had that the Messiah she carried, the One God had sent, was not necessarily the Messiah the Jewish people expected.
A devout Jew, Mary would have also expected the Messiah to be a political savior who would lead her people to rise up against the oppressions of Rome. Scripture doesn’t say, but Mary was human, and she must have experienced disappointment as the years brought Jesus’s destiny into focus. Imagine how she felt when the Son who had “astounded” the temple leaders at age twelve with His teaching (Luke 2:47), became an itinerant preacher reliant on the kindness of others for His bread.
Yet Mary was let go of her expectations. The gossamer thread that had connected her to the shepherds held strong, and she modeled parenthood for the ages and set aside her own desires to allow Jesus be the person He was meant to be. What threads also bind us and hold us close to the Holy Family at the Nativity?