Sermon – December 26, 2021 Resolution… Rev. Betsy Hogan
Here's a thing I've been thinking about. The degree to which how we're all generally doing on any given day is coming down to what the daily number is.
It's like as mid-afternoon approaches, the tension rises. Will it be good? bearable? bad? awful? We don't even need to plot our collective mental well-being on a graph because it seems to correlate precisely to the conveniently already-graphed daily case count.
It honestly reminds me of going through old Canadian newspapers from the late 1930s. In that extremely fraught time when England and France were trying to do anything and everything to avoid another war. And finding that instead of just the broad strokes that we all know – concession, concession, promise, promise, peace in our time, yadda yadda –
What the newspapers reflected were these tiny increments of Positive, Negative, More Negative, Positive, up down up down… and on and on and on. Each of which, in the specificity of a particular day, would’ve carried its own emotional weight. And some of which were considered crucially important moments that were heavily felt as they happened – but now, when we look back at 1938, they don’t even figure in the pre-war narrative.
Now, when we look back at 1938, it’s all broad strokes. We don’t have that perspective of being in the moment, recalling what it was like at the time. The up and the down, and all that emotional weight and turmoil.
Perspective is good. Perspective makes things manageable. Perspective is why, at the turning of a new year and fresh off the celebration of Christmas, Anna and Simeon
in the passage from Luke’s gospel we heard this morning are always going to matter. Anna the Prophet and Simeon the Elder, who greet Baby Jesus when he’s brought to the temple by his parents for his eight-days blessing.
Anna and Simeon who have perspective. Who’ve seen it all because they’re both like a billion years old. Good times, hopeful times, good leaders, bad leaders – a Roman takeover and significant oppression, a puppet king in the person of Herod and a period of relative calm and relative peace –
Anna and Simeon have seen times that were bright and times that were really not so bright; they’ve seen good and life-giving and bad and devastating. Anna and Simeon have seen it all, and they know.
We go up, we go down, we go up, we go down – we turn, turn, turn – But the arc of history does bend toward justice. It does bend toward peace. It does bend toward Godness and goodness.
And that’s what Anna and Simeon bear witness to. Yes, literally, to the birth into the world of the infant Christ in whom they recognize immediately – and notably unlike the shepherds and wise men, without any need for prodding by angels! – in whom they recognize immediately all Godness and goodness squooshed up into human life –
But they’re also, simply by virtue of their age, simply by virtue of their having seen it all before and having come through it still solid – they’re bearing witness to how much the capacity to hope depends on having perspective.
On not seeing only whatever small emotionally-wearying piece of reality is currently unfolding, but being able to place it in the fullness of a grand scheme of human history in which many pieces of reality have been incrementally emotionally-wearying, but the arc of history bends toward justice. Toward Godness and goodness.
What Anna and Simeon bring to us, in this moment in the temple, is perspective. And perspective matters. Perspective changes the narrative. It widens the view. It broadens the context. It softens the spikey edges of despair and weariness and exasperation – and it pulls us back, as often as we need it to, into the quiet and steadfast calm of resolution and resilience and rootedness.
We know Anna and Simeon made a difference for Mary and Joseph in all the fraught uncertainty of Baby's First Week. We know they did because that story got remembered. The perspective they brought – the resilience of their capacity to hope, the resoluteness of their faith, the deep roots of trust in the goodness of Godness to prevail always – these mattered.
May they matter for us too. Amen.