Face to Face with the Characters of Advent (part 1)


“A sword will pierce your heart”

I have often pondered Mary’s response to Simeon’s prophecy in the temple upon Jesus’ dedication (see Luke 2:25-35). Simeon gave glowing confirmation that Jesus was God’s Messiah sent as the Savior of the world. What joy and delight this must have brought to her mother’s heart! She already knew Jesus was the Messiah, but to have a well-respected man of God announce it with such confidence had to be a high point. Then the crushing blow, “And a sword will pierce your heart.” What must Mary have thought of that last phrase?  Simeon’s prophecy put in motion a period of waiting fraught with expectation and dread. What kind of anticipation mingled with consternation must she have faced as she watched her son, the God-man grow and mature? And three decades later as she stood beneath the cross grieving for her precious firstborn, did these words come back in haunting clarity?

Mary felt the sword pierce her soul in the very event that brought life to that soul. Jesus’ agonizing death on the cross was an absolute necessity in the plan of God for the redemption of man’s soul. Mary needed the sacrificial death of her Son for the payment of her sin, as surely as any of us do. The agony she faced was essential to her ultimate joy.

The Reality of Pain

But that did not mean her grief was easy to bear. Her wait was not over at the cross, even if she thought it was. Three days later the joy of Jesus’ resurrection brought new delight to her pierced and bleeding heart. The wonder and dread of Simeon’s prophecy culminated in the revelation of God’s amazing salvation plan so beautifully wrought in her Son’s life, death, and resurrection.

The painful path God leads me on may seem irrelevant to the joy I seek in His presence. It may be impossible for me to connect the dots. But just as Mary’s joy became complete through the agony of her suffering, Christ is working in me to accomplish complete joy in Him. Thus the wait, even though peppered with dread, is an opportunity to believe Him for good, no matter what new pain lies around the corner.


A Song for Mary

A son, you’ll bear, His name is Christ,
For he will sit on David’s throne,
The God-man come from heaven above,
To make this world his home.

The Creator will be formed in you,
The Eternal birthed into time,
The Almighty sheltered in your womb,
Brings light and life sublime.

You of all woman are highly favored,
Blessed beyond compare,
Yet in the blessing comes a cost,
A grief, a loss, a deep despair.

For lo a sword will pierce your heart.
A sorrow too deep to foresee.
A grief will rend limb from limb,
A crown of thorns, a spear, a tree.

Life conceived will give way to death,
The child from your own womb,
The Eternal who entered time,
Will lie broken in a tomb.

A wretched instant of agony,
Slices right through your heart,
But the sword that pierces deep,
Will carve a brand new start.

The loss you grieve, will be made gain,
Your brokenness made whole,
For though your heart is torn in two,
Your Son has ransomed your soul.

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