Do you remember that 1960’s TV show Dragnet? Sargent Joe Friday would follow “an actual case from official police files. From beginning to end, from crime to punishment, Dragnet [was] a story of your police force in action!” There was a quote that Sargent Friday was famous for: “we want the facts ma’am, just the facts”. The reason for this observation is because today we hear the Gospel from St. Luke.
Of the four gospels, Luke is all about the facts, just that facts. In the prologue of his Gospel, he explains that he is writing from eyewitness accounts and the word that has been handed down and investigated accurately. Luke wanted to lay things down in an orderly sequence. Just the facts ma’am.
So, it should come as no surprise that the narrative that he puts forward in the Christmas season comes in a neat and logical order. From the birth of Jesus to the visit of the Shepherds right into the circumcision, naming and presentation of Jesus in the temple.
Now don’t get me wrong, with almost every one of these events Luke takes his time and tells a story. It was more than just the facts of the birth of our Lord, and more than just the facts of some Shepherds coming to visit. Just like it was more than just the facts of Jesus being presented at the temple. If you recall there were two stories here, one of Simeon and one of Anna. Yes, there was also the ritual blessing of a newborn child on the eighth day, but these two stories are the center of his message.
Imagine that you are Mary and Joseph, you can not even go to the temple with out someone coming up to you and telling you that your son is special. No doubt we can all relate to this. Simeon tells Mary that her child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel and that her heart would be pierced by a sword. Not the kind of greeting that you were hoping for on your holiday trip to the big city.
If in fact, Luke is trying to present a simple orderly set of facts how do these two stories fit into that purpose? Luke was writing to gentiles that were new to their faith. He was telling them of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
Anna was a prophetess, a mystic who was quite old, especially for someone in that day and age. She never left the temple but worshiped day and night with fasting and prayer. Anna had dedicated herself to the coming of the savior and upon seeing Mary and Joseph with their child she knew him to be the messiah. She immediately gave thanks to God in a way similar to Simeon.
Upon seeing the child Simeon said: “for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” All that we know of Anna is that at seeing the child she “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
This was Luke’s point, this was the facts ma’am, just the facts. We are to be like Anna. Upon seeing and receiving that Christ child we are to give thanks to God and give testimony in word or action to those around us.
In the first reading we hear a litany of what we know and what we have done.
“I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,”
Luke is making a point. Anna and Simeon are not some interesting side characters they are us, we are strong and the word of God remains in us. We are the ones that have been waiting in the temple, we are the ones that have seen the newborn baby and we are called to give thanks to God.
A holy day has dawned upon us.
Come, you nations, and adore the Lord.
Today a great light has come upon the earth.
So spread the word.
There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of 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.
December 30, 2021
December 30, 2021