Candlemas reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. This is the message that we and the wider world needs right now. There is light in the darkness of the current age and that light is Jesus. This is the same opening that I used last year! Not that I expect you to remember that.
The world sadly remains in very much the same position; darkness, violence, oppression in many places, etc. We wait, not always patiently, for things to get better or at least to be less bad.
The prophet Malachi speaks to the time when, ‘The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.’ This is partly fulfilled when the baby Jesus arrived at the temple in the loving arms of his parents. Mary and Joseph, being good Jewish parents, bring Jesus to the temple as was the custom of the day. This was to be expected as part of custom and fulfilment of Jewish law. Any presentation was a three-step process: circumcision, redemption and purification.
Circumcision is first commanded in Genesis by God. It would serve as a sign of the covenant (a promise) between God and Abraham. The rite of circumcision was God’s way of requiring the Jewish people to become physically different, by cutting off because of their relationship to Him. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day of his young life.
The Rite of Redemption was a reminder to the Jewish people that ‘the Lord brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand’ (Exodus 13). God had redeemed His people from their slavery in Egypt. Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem in obedience and thanksgiving to God for having redeemed His people.
Thirdly, the Rite of Purification. It is an act of cleansing for the mother after giving birth. When this time was over (33 days for a boy and 66 days for a girl), the mother was to bring offerings to the priest. The required sacrifice was a lamb plus a turtle dove. However, if the mother could not afford a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves. They brought the least and were given the greatest.
In these rituals, Jesus is presented to the people he came to save and redeem. This is where Simeon and Anna fit. They were at the temple the day that Jesus was presented. They are proof of the faithfulness of God. Simeon got himself ready through devotion, worship, prayer, watching and waiting. Anyone wanting to experience the glory of God, want to deepen your relationship, strengthen your faith – be like Simeon and work at it!
The faithfulness of God also features in Anna’s story. I don’t think you can talk about Simeon and then ignore Anna. She was the next person Jesus is presented to. Anna has lived a life of patient hope as she spent 65-ish years in the temple. She didn’t waver, didn’t give up but daily lived with faithfulness and expectation until the day the Messiah arrived.
On this day of presentation, we are reminded again of the ultimate faithfulness of God. We see the examples in the lives of Joseph, Mary, Simeon & Anna. We experience God’s faithfulness in the life of Jesus. We also have to trust in the unseen faithfulness of God, the faithfulness to come. Jesus is the light of the world; even when we cannot or choose not to see it.
We will all be presented to God one day – hopefully well into the future. We have to work at having pure and clean hearts and hands. Between now and then, may the faithfulness of God to us and our faithfulness to him be evident to all.