Both Feast days of yesterday and today are about promises of God and how we react to them. Yesterday, on the Feast of the Holy Family we see Mary and Joseph presenting the Christ-child at the temple. Simeon and Anna both have been waiting for this Child, their Redeemer. They have waited a long time but once the promise is delivered, they are filled with joy and praise. Simeon knows he can now die in peace with the fulfillment of this promise. Everyone can leave and go about their lives.
In today’s Gospel, on the Feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, the shepherds hurriedly arrive in Bethlehem and find the Child in the manger. They share what has been revealed to them by the angels. The shepherds left after paying homage, praising God at the wonders they has witnessed. The promise of finding such an Infant had been true. Mary and Joseph, meanwhile, still pondering their own promises by angels of God, treasured all these things that the shepherds said while probably desperately trying to understand them.
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of discovering the mass in my liver. The promise of God had come months prior – to pray for courage and that the protection of God was always there. I held these words in my heart and treasured them without fulling understanding the meaning until nine months later. Within weeks the diagnosis came and the surgeon was clear from the beginning: I would not survive. I have outlived the original prognosis by almost one year. My time though is coming. I am unsure of how much of this New Year I will see and despite great sadness at saying goodbye to my wonderful life here, I am ready to greet my Beloved when I am called Home. I trust in the promises I have been given.
God’s ways are not our ways and yet if we try to follow them, if we do not give up hope, if we trust the inconceivable could happen, then we, like Simeon, Anna, and the shepherds, might find ourselves praising God from the sheer wonder of a promise kept. This requires waiting and watching carefully. Patience is needed. Looking for God in all things includes recognizing him as an infant in obscure places. Will you keep watch?
When has God made a promise to you?
How have you waited?
God of Promises, keep us watchful in stables, temples, fields and deserts. You appear to us in obscure places and we might miss you but you promise to be always with us, until the very end. That is the best promise of all. Amen.