Mary's Major Award

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

 

My 14-year-old had a sleepover this weekend. She and her friends stayed up late watching A Christmas Story, the movie that ruined my ability to read “fragile” as a two-syllable word. I couldn’t resist sneaking into the room for the scene with the “major award.” 

Christmas is about a fragile gift. God’s ultimate gift to man, the one we commemorate with gift exchanges, must have seemed awfully fragile to its first recipients. Few things are more delicate and dependent than a newborn. Anything from Joseph’s clumsy swaddling to the cold night air could have ruined the world’s most famous birth story. How incredibly risky it was for Jesus to come as an infant! 

I wonder if Simeon thought about that when he held the gift in his shaky, old hands. Wheezing with excitement and gratitude, Simeon took the month-old infant Messiah from the cradled safety of his mother’s arms. Did he bobble the hand-off? Was Mary nervous? And when the old man looked the Ancient Of Days in the eyes, and declared that he was ready to be “dismissed” from life, did Mary worry that it would happen that instant? 

I wonder if this temple scene was the first of hundreds of times that Mary would wrestle with her instinct to protect. When an old man held her baby, when her little boy climbed a tree, when a teenaged bully picked a fight, did Mary feel that the salvation of the world depended on her helicopter presence? 

Certainly, there were other protectors. Legions of them (see Psalm 91:11-12). But that doesn’t mute the bawling fragility of the incarnate infant. God entered the world he created meek, naked, fragile, and utterly dependent. 

Though he is the Light of the World, Jesus is more than a leg lamp. Though the kingdom of God is like a pearl of great price, it is more than a major award. But like that lamp, the greatest gift in history came to us in a fragile package, surrounded by hay; the central, glowing figure in the greatest Christmas story.