Summary: God has brought life out of death, delivering us from darkness into light through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.

LUKE 2:22-35


“When the time came for [the ceremonial] purification according to the Law of Moses, [Joseph and Mary] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’ Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.’

“And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’” [1]

J.R.R. Tolkien, the brilliant writer who gave the world “The Hobbit,” once wrote that his goal as an author was to give his readers “the consolation of the Happy Ending.” [2] Tolkien went on to identify that consolation as taking place at the point in the story when all hope appears to have been lost, when disaster seems inevitable. At that precise moment, joy breaks through, catching the reader by surprise. In a 1964 essay, Tolkien called that instant “a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” [3] Tolkien even coined a word for the moment when the light of deliverance breaks through the darkness of despair. He called that moment “eucatastrophe.” In coining this word, he was referring to that moment when evil fails and righteousness suddenly triumphs; at that moment the reader feels Joy—“a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears.” How brilliantly descriptive. Each of us can see precisely what he is referring to with those words. Our own experiences and our desires are in concert with what he has written.

Is the Joy of Eucatastrophe merely a literary device given to manipulate the reader's emotions? No. This same sudden glimpse of Joy, Tolkien wrote, can be found in our own world: “In the eucatastrophe we see in a brief vision … a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.” Evangelium is Latin for “Good News,” the message of Jesus Christ.

“The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history,” Tolkien explained. “The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins in joy and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality.’ There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.” [4] Amen.

THE EVANGELIUM — The Good News of Christ is the account of how God intervened in history to rescue fallen mankind. Paul has written in the Letter to the Christians gathered in Rome, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” [ROMANS 8:22-23]. The Apostle is saying that we who have believed are not merely hoping that what we have believed is true; he is saying that we have absolute confidence born of something more than mere hope.

The outline of the Word may be summarised in three words—Ruin, Redemption, Restoration. The biblical account begins with the statement, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” [GENESIS 1:1]. Shortly after this initial account of God’s creative work, Moses summarises creation week, writing, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” [GENESIS 2:1]. When Nehemiah had led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he dedicated the work of the people. Central to that dedication was the prayer which Nehemiah offered up to the Lord GOD. As the people stood to praise the Lord, Nehemiah opened his prayer by testifying, “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you” [NEHEMIAH 9:6].

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