The Lord is my light and my salvation.
It is finally time to take down the Christmas decorations! In some traditions the Christmas festival is considered to last a full forty days until February 2nd, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
All along these forty days our dear Lord Jesus seems to get squeezed out. Observances, traditions and figures which have their roots deep in the Christian faith have come to be divorced from that faith and compete with it. On Christmas Day we find Jesus pitted against Santa Claus, a caricature of one of his own followers and bishops. A week later the commemoration of Jesus’ circumcision and the giving of his name is eclipsed by the remainders of New Year’s Eve. Having struggled for attention against the Sears Catalogue and Guy Lombardo, in the final contest Jesus is pitted against a groundhog on February 2nd. While for us December 25 is primarily the birthday of our Saviour and not the commemoration of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and January first belongs to Jesus and not to Times Square and tomorrow is first of all the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and not Groundhog Day, we should not be smug but reminded that we are a people called out of the world. One of the most important ways in which we mark that distinction is in our specifically Christian Calendar.
So I do not care whether Groundhog Willie sees his shadow but I do care deeply whether people see Jesus Christ. For if we do not, we will live in shadows forever and discover an eternal winter.
February 2nd has at least three names in the West. It is called Candlemas and has become the feast of candles as with Simeon we recognize that Jesus is a Light to Lighten the Gentiles. Forty days after birth, in accord with the law, Mary was purified after her contact with the very issue of life and restored to full communal living and so this is the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin. But it is first and last the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
There are two elders in the Gospel story of Jesus’ presentation and they stand in a wonderful way for the witness of our elders to Jesus Christ. We are told about Simeon that “he was waiting for the consolation of Israel” and about Anna that she told everyone who was ‘looking for redemption’ about Jesus.
If we are looking for something else, something better, for redemption and consolation, forgiveness, a new beginning, healing, salvation from futility and pain, and anger and frustration and death, then like Anna, I want to point to you about Jesus. Likewise Simeon would tell us and the entire world, this is your light and salvation.
Simeon had waited all his life for some sign of improvement, for some encouragement, but none came. Here he was near the end of his life and it all seemed to have lacked purpose and meaning. Must he just accept things, the world, life and death, injustice and pain and loss and suffering as they are? No, for it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. I pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal to every human being the same thing, that it is God’s good will for every one of us that we should not see death, before we have seen the Lord’s Christ. Simply put, God does not want us to die until we have come to know Jesus Christ the Saviour, the Light of the world.
But Simeon is incomplete without Anna. Those who have seen and embraced the Saviour are called to tell others, to speak of Jesus to everyone who is looking for redemption. This means telling others in your own words what you have found in Jesus. We all have a friend or neighbour whose disquiet, or searching or hunger or disappointment we are aware of, and it is to these that we are bound to speak of Jesus. Be on the lookout then for those who are looking for redemption and speak to them of Jesus.
Simeon and Anna stand in a beautiful symmetry for our elders in the faith, for all who have embraced Christ before us and pointed us to him. They stand as well for our common calling, to know Christ and to make him known. May we grow together in both.