From the Past to the future
Thoughts on Luke 2: 21-33
I am held in my mother’s arms in the centre of the photograph. Around us are my father, grandparents and god-parents. I am draped in a christening gown which has been used for generations by my family for such occasions in the little parish church which stands rock-sure in the background.
It is a snapshot of a moment in my life. Here was my family. They were the link to my ancestors who were workers for the local landowner, Church of England, Tory on one side; fishermen and Liberals on the other. But something new was going to happen. My father decided I should be brought up in the Baptist way. It took many years before I rediscovered my Anglican DNA!
We all have a heritage. It is the environment and spiritual hinterland from which we emerge. It is a pathway which we cannot choose. It is given us and early in life occasions such as christenings map out our journey into the future. But do they?
It is important to honour that background. The people who bring us into the world are doing what they have been shaped to do. Much of it may be for our good but a time comes when we need to make up our mind about that heritage. Are those early maps the ones we want to use now?
Jeremiah wisely advises his troubled people lost, without a sense of purpose to seek the ancient paths (Jeremiah 6:16). In them they would gain perspective and a sense of belonging to something greater than their small moment in time. But it was the same prophet who spoke later of a new relationship with God, never known before (Jeremiah 31:31-32). The ancestral pathway was a preparation for something new.
The baby Jesus was placed firmly within the demands of Roman law (Luke 2:1-4) and Jewish custom (Luke 2:21-24).
But something new was going to happen.
We cannot blame Mary and Joseph anymore than I can criticise my family. They were doing what was expected and sanctioned by the powers temporal and spiritual. But the ancient paths are about an eternal way as some translations translate Jeremiah 6:16.
As Simeon pointed out the child had a destiny that would change his family forever and question the spiritual destiny of his people. Luke 2:28-35.
The child would grow to question the tradition and challenge the status-quo and through his obedience to God enable the purpose of God for us all to be initiated (Gal 4:4-6).
Revd John Rackley