Luke 2:33-40: A Sword Will Pierce Your Soul, O Mary

A maiden mother brings God, pulsing with blood and moving with muscle, into this world.  From her womb, the Lord formed for Himself a human frame.  More than any other in all human history, God united to her in a way like no other.  So, if anyone deserved preferential treatment from God, Mary should be first in line.  Of all people, none is more blessed than she—and Scripture says as much.

So, this mother takes her divine infant to the Temple.  Near the entrance, she receives a blessing.  For St. Simeon hurries up to her.  “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and he will become a sign many will oppose.  A sword will pierce your soul, and so reveal the secret thoughts of many.”  Is this old man blessing or cursing her?

Severe trials will come, testing Mary’s faith in her Son as her Savior, for this mother will witness many who will plunge and descend to destroy Him.  In their rejection and hatred of Jesus, they will mistreat and kill Him.  These hardships will challenge Mary as a mother.  The infant is destined to cause many to rise and fall, becoming something people will rally against, uncovering their concealed intent.

Yes, beloved, these are the bittersweet blessings of the virgin mother.  First, her betrothed husband believes she is guilty of sleeping around.  Once God takes care of this, she must pack and travel to Bethlehem while nine month’s pregnant.  After arriving, her Son, the Firstborn, enters the world.  With no decent place to stay, she sets Him in a wooden box, where the animals graze and eat.

Still more awaits.  The heaven-sent One comes to the lost house of Israel, but many reject Him as the Messiah.  All the concerns He bore about their sins did not concern them.  No, vanquishing the Romans mattered more than destroying sin, death, and the Devil.  Not the Liberator they want, He becomes an annoyance, like the prophets of old before Him.

A blade will pierce her soul.  The Son whom all the ages are to adore, the One who came from heaven, grew in her womb.  To the mother of God, who wears our flesh, the cold steel will, one day, plunge into the depths of her mortality.

At the worst of this hatred, Christ’s mother will find herself beneath the shadow of the killing cross.  On the blood-spilled ground, her heart will ache beyond telling.  Now, if she didn’t realize this, she will come to understand this as the greatest act of love.  So vast in His salvation, her sinless Son will do this for all, including her, including those who despise Him with such vile cruelty.

The perfect Son of God writhes in agony, suffering the condemnation of all sinners.  In exchange for our unholy lives, Jesus will offer His.  In return for the blessing of His perfect life, He will receive what we deserve.  Oh, Mary will weep beneath her Son’s cross and cry as thorns, nails, and spear stab through her Baby Son’s flesh.

Don’t lose heart in your burdens and adversities.  Be undaunted in the face of disease and death.  Find consolation in your loneliness and loss.  For you are not alone.  The one human being, whom God Himself called mommy, suffered such heartache. 

Don’t think such difficulties, grief, or losses mean God loves you any less or is angry with you.  No, such turns as this happened to His mother.  Should life be any different for you?

Though God did not create this madness, the world continues to cleave and fracture.  The result of our fall into sin brings a mother to stand beside the casket of her child, as mothers all too often do.  No wife should find herself widowed after seven short years of marriage, as Anna, but she is not unusual.

No one’s life should be this way: these are unjust.  Such events are evil.  Any person who attempts to sugarcoat them, saying they are not so bad, is either delusional, a liar, or both. 

Yes, something is wrong, beyond our ability to mend.  Throughout the whole of life, these deepening cracks and fissures extend.  For this defect doesn’t only affect others but is also here.  For a man should not lust after a woman who is not his wife, but men do.  A woman shouldn’t fantasize about seeking revenge, about the best way to strike back with venomous words, but women do.

The created world is damaged, and you, too, are a part of this rebellious, woven fabric.  So repent, and turn to Mary’s Child for the solution to your brokenness and sin, for the healing of your wounds and sorrows. 

In Jesus, we begin to realize God’s response to the twistedness of our world.  In Him, we learn the Father’s reaction to death, disease, to unwanted accidents, and vacant chairs around the supper table.  The answer hides in not what we expect or wish.  What we want is for the pain to disappear and the fractures to end.  So, God must do what is beyond us—heal a fallen creation.  First, this blessing spoken to Mary must come.  The slicing sword will also, one day, carve into the reaches of her being.

The Almighty Judge’s resolution to injustice is to suffer the defects of human justice.  To a loved one’s untimely death, the God of all love comes to die when the time is right.  The remedy He gives to the evil coursing in His creation is to be sinless, all to take their evil from them.  To show He is not unaware of our torments, He suffers the grief of separation from His Father, while the blade punctures His mother’s soul.

Only in this way is the world’s redemption.  The sword to come will undo death, strip sin of its power, and restore us in its wake, wiping away our every tear.  All this pours out from Christ on the cross, with His blood cleansing us.  In our crucified Lord, our sins die with Him, as He takes all our penalties for breaking divine Law.  All the deception and perversion we can muster, He swallows down in His death.  The one, innocent Man ever born, dies at the hands of sinners.

So, what our strivings meant for evil, God worked to our welfare.  Though man and Satan strove to destroy God, piercing Mary’s soul and scattering the disciples, God turned to our benefit.  So much to marvel as we ponder the truths about our Savior. 

Now, if you think your days of wonder are over, and you dismiss this as a familiar, boring story, listen up.  Don’t wait for some extraordinary event or revelation to change you.  No, do as Simeon, Joseph, Anna, and Mary did, for they went where God said to find Him.  For them, the holy Temple; for us, where the Gospel comes in the preached Word and present inside the Sacrament. 

Either you are rising on this Holy One born for you, or you are tripping over Him.  No middle ground here, only one or the other.  By His Spirit, God calls you to believe in the Son He sent to stand in your place.  Why?  In Him alone are you forgiven and dressed in His robes of righteousness.  In such faith, Mary went, to face the day, undaunted, when her heart will break.

On a holy Friday, God blessed Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, Adam and Eve, and all the earth.  In the execution of Mary’s Son, death collapsed on itself and suffered defeat.  A blameless Victim goes down death’s gullet, but bursts its belly open, too weak to contain Him. 

The grave is too feeble to keep Christ entombed.  So, on the third day, He steps forth from death, breaking free from its icy clutches.  Now the restoration of creation can begin.  The tears left Mary’s eyes when she gazed on her Son’s triumph and new life in His resurrection.  Every sad tear is now making its turn toward eternal joy.

To listen to Jesus is to understand what God thinks of you.  So significant is this.  “After doing everything required by the Law of the Lord, Joseph and Mary returned to their hometown of Nazareth in Galilee.  The Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s favor rested on him.”

The parents of Jesus faced the same struggles we do in our daily lives, but they did not stop marveling at the wonder.  Rooted and grounded in the Word of promise from God about this sacred Child, their faith trusted that He also came to save them.  Like us, they needed to make a living, raise a family, and grow older.  Nevertheless, the love of God for them in His Son remained constant.

Receive and learn God’s Word with joy, which declares you to be holy and sinless in His saving Son.  Do not be ashamed to be amazed, again and again, at what He needs to say to you.  Like the precious jewel, which becomes more remarkable the closer one examines the stone, so also is the Gospel of Christ.  Rejoice we can marvel, day in day out, as His mercies come new to us every morning.

Be brave, beloved.  The incarnate Savior cannot abandon you now, for He is your brother with blood and bone.  To Him, you are united by new birth in Holy Baptism, which faith holds and treasures, and whom you receive in the Supper.  Now, if Jesus arose from the dead, and His victory wiped all His mother’s sadness away, He will do this for you, as well.  Merry Christmas.  Amen.

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