Presentation of the Lord

Presentation of the Lord | February 2, 2020

Malachi 3:1-4 • Psalm 84 or Psalm 24:7-10 • Hebrews 2:14-18 • Luke 2:22-40

22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

Luke 2:22-40 New Living Translation (NLT)

Think about what it means to wait – to really wait. We live in such an instant culture that sometimes its hard to think how long some things take. Since we are just home from seeing a brand new grandbaby, think about the amount of time it takes for a baby to be born – nine months. Richeldis came in a hurry. Last Sunday night we Facetimed Rebecca and Michael and they were going to the midwives on Tuesday. Early Monday morning (around 4:45) I heard a text message come in. It was too early for some of the usual weather delay texts, or a notification from the bank of our balance. I got up, went to the kitchen to look at the phone. Rebecca was at the hospital – after getting the family up at 4 am. At six, we got another text message, saying “Baby girl.” Wow! Two hours from start to finish. When Robert was born, it was a laborious 36 hours. I’ll never forget, we were there for the birth. Near 11:30 PM, Grant (Michael’s dad), James and I were told Robert should be born in a few minutes…Midnight rolled around and no baby…12:30…1:00…what was going on…we saw 2:00…2:30…3:00. I was starting to get concerned – more than a few minutes had passed since 11:30. Finally at 3:33 on January 29, Robert was born – talk about your anticipation.

This morning we want to look at two more people who waited – Simeon and Anna. They are not related – and they are almost a forgotten part of the Christmas story.  After celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, with its splendor in both the Church and the popular culture, it would be easy for one’s mind to drift and overlook the significance of the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth. But we should look beyond our hustling to banish the decorations to the attic, the obsession over the days remaining in this strenuous winter, and endless chatter about Super Bowl Sunday or even the fact that it is Groundhog Day. The events set in motion with the Annunciation and Nativity continue with the significant presentation of our Lord in the Temple.

February 2 marks forty days since Christmas. For most, the Christmas decorations are long gone – Christmas 2019 is a distant memory. It seems most people can’t wait to put up Christmas decorations and are quick to take them down and put them into storage almost as fast as they stop playing Christmas songs on December 26th.  I was pleasantly surprised this weekend to see that some people – including us – still have Christmas decorations up. In some Christian traditions, the Christmas decorations aren’t taken down until today. Our tree has stayed up on purpose. For most years since Robert has been born, Rebecca and Michael didn’t visit for Christmas until mid to late January. Then we learned about Candlemas and now the tradition is that we take down our tree in February, so you know what this week’s job is. 

Today we find the story of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – forty days after his birth. Mary and Joseph were righteous people and dedicated to the law – so they brought Jesus – their first born to be dedicated to the Lord.  We know that they were supposed to bring a lamb but they were much too poor for that so they used the option of two turtledoves or pigeons. 

In the temple that day was a man named Simeon. He had been waiting and waiting and waiting for the promised Messiah. We learn that he was a righteous man – he was devoted to his faith. He was there that day at the temple when Mary and Joseph walked in with Jesus. Luke tells us that Simeon was full of the Holy Spirit.  I’m sure there were many first born sons being brought to the temple that day. We learn that the Holy Spirit led him to the Temple. I can only imagine his surprise as the Holy Spirit pointed out Mary and Joseph and Jesus.  Simeon is over joyed and asks Mary and Joseph to hold the boy.

He praises the Lord and says these words:

I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)

He blesses the child and his parents. Mary and Joseph are a bit amazed and perplexed at the same time.  While Mary and Joseph know that Jesus has come to save his people from their sins, I don’t think they completely knew all that would transpire.

While we celebrate the coming of the Light of the World – a shadow also passes; a shadow foretelling the suffering that will precede the victory of the Light over darkness. Simeon not only proclaimed that he had seen his salvation, but also told the Mother of our Lord that her share would include a sorrow pierced heart. This announcement confirms the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, but it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”

As we think about Simeon – think about how he waited…would he really live to see the arrival of the Messiah? Now, here he was…but think about holding a baby. I thought about this as I held Richeldis. She is so tiny – even though she was bigger at birth than the other two – she is so helpless. It brought new meaning to the words, “The Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Here was the Son of God, wrapped in our human form. Not only was he confined by our adult limitations…but think about the limitations of a baby…they can’t do anything themselves…they are at the complete mercy of their parents. God the Son was at the complete mercy of his creation.  It gives new meaning to Paul’s words in Philippians:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

The writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:14-18

Jesus came – in flesh and blood – helpless – in every way He was like us – he came to help us – to make a way – to be our salvation. Jesus is the light of the world. 

As we began our service this morning we prayed:

Almighty and ever living God, we humbly pray that as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord! 

As we prepare our hearts to receive the host and the cup this morning, let us reflect on these words by Ellyn von Huben:

This is where it starts to get ‘real’, i.e. moving past the holly, tinsel, and jolly carols. The tiny child snuggled in the crèche a few weeks ago is now revealed to be a sign of contradiction. His gentle obedient mother faces a future of sorrow. Simeon asked to depart in peace. What shall we ask of the Lord as we celebrate his Presentation?

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