A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul
Note: This is a guest post from my friend Josh Wright. Josh graduated from Southern Nazarene University with a BA in Theology and Philosophy and from Nazarene Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. He is an Associate Pastor at Metroplex Church of the Nazarene, and he also works as a hospital chaplain. He and his lovely wife Shelley are thrilled about the birth of their son, Isaiah, but their dog Jojo is still not sure how to feel. They are confident, however, that he’ll come around.
On December 1, my life changed forever—my wife gave birth to our first child. For months and months leading up to the birth, I heard from friends, family, and various other acquaintances about how much my life would change. I nodded politely, hearing them but not really listening. I understood that it would be an adjustment. Babies change things, after all: routines, priorities, your lifestyle in general, etc. What I didn’t understand was the sword that would pierce my own soul.
When Jesus’ parents went to the Temple to have him circumcised on the eighth day, they met a righteous man named Simeon. Simeon yearned for the reconciliation of Israel, and was guided by the Holy Spirit to Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Since it had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Messiah, when he saw Jesus he took the baby into his arms and said:
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
If that was where the encounter ended, it would be a nice, sweet story. Here is a righteous man who longs for the culmination of God’s work through Israel, and now that he has seen it, he thanks God for the peace it has instilled in him. But, Simeon continues, and the words he speaks to Mary carry an altogether more sinister tone: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The next time you see brand new parents who are celebrating a milestone in the life of their child, I can’t recommend you tell them that because of their child, a sword will pierce their own soul. But, if you did decide to tell them this, it would be the truth.
I am fortunate that for the first two weeks of his life, my son has been incredibly healthy. That’s not to say there haven’t been struggles or obstacles to overcome. There have been. But, his life has never been in peril.
That’s not to say, however, that I haven’t been worried that it was. I was in the hospital with my wife and son from Monday to Friday the week he was born, and I rarely left their side. But, on one of the rare occasions that I did leave the room, I received a text message from my wife that simply said “Come back.” I panicked. I rushed back to the room, with every possible worst-case scenario rushing through my head. By the time I got back to the maternity ward, I was all but convinced that my wife and child were dead. But, when I got to the room, they were both fine. He was fussy, and she needed help. After we calmed him down, I spent several minutes crying, hands trembling. And the second part of this second quote from Simeon came to mind.
I had always considered that second word from Simeon to be in reference to Jesus’ ministry and passion narrative. And it is. But, that night in the hospital, I discovered a second meaning. To have a child is to have a sword stabbed into the core of who you are. And every time that child hurts, every time you’re worried for their safety, the sword twists, even if only for a moment, even if everything is actually okay. And that perspective has completely changed the way I think about Christmas this year.
Before I’d personally been responsible for a newborn baby, I had always pictured the nativity as this sweet thing where this beautiful baby is cared for by a loving mother and father. And it is. But you never realize how helpless newborns really are until you spend all day with one. And, I can’t imagine first-century Palestine was a place where babies were safer in a culture without sanitation or awareness of the existence of germs.
But, even without thinking about germs, I’ve come to the realization that there was a time when the Savior of the world couldn’t support the weight of his own head. There was a time when the Prince of Peace couldn’t be trusted to sleep without smothering himself. There was a time when The Great I AM, by whom and through whom everything was made, was unable to do anything at all for himself. In all likelihood, there were times when his mother cried because he wouldn’t eat. There were times when his father’s heart stopped because he took a second too long to breathe. A sword pierced their souls, and the world was never the same.
At Christmastime, we often approach the season with a Norman Rockwell-esque expectation of a life that plays out like a greeting card or half-hour special designed to teach us the “true meaning” of Christmas. We want easy days, certainty, and comfort in the reality of salvation and hope made flesh. Those moments exist, but they’re not where we live most of the time. We live in the chaos, in the uncertainty, in the pandemonium. Emmanuel is with us, and he brings peace on earth and goodwill to all people, but he also brings fear and trepidation.
Despite his helplessness and tiny innocence, he lays our souls bare, revealing who we are deep down inside. For Unto Us a Child is Born, and the world will never be the same again.
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This is a blog for challenging assumptions, building faith, and developing a stronger community. The two channels of this blog – Faith and Narrative – push us to know ourselves and the world around us more intimately. Want to learn more about us?