“And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘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.’” (Luke 2:33-35) Merry Christmas! In this first Gospel lesson after Christmas, we quickly realize that there must be consequences in receiving the gift of our Savior. Having blessed Jesus and identifying him as the Messiah, Simeon turns to Mary with rather ominous words: “falling and rising;” a “sword piercing.” Most of us assume a rise followed by a fall; but Simeon’s prophecy reverses the order. Before we rise, we must first fall. Perhaps the Catholic author, Flannery O’Connor said it most succinctly: “Jesus ruins everything.” According to Luke and Simeon, this includes our natural understanding of progression. In order to become anything, we must first become nothing. In order to be rich, we must first be poor. In order to live, we must first die. Not exactly the Hallmark Christmas card sentiment, is it? And yet, and yet… To hold the baby Jesus, as did Simeon, to look into the beautiful eyes of this child born to die for us is to receive the power, the strength to live a different kind of life. Take the beautiful boy up into your arms and even more importantly, allow the glorious man to take you up into his. Then and only then, having fallen, we may rise in order to share this wonderful Gift with all whom we meet. Merry Christmas and have a great week!