This Sunday is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The feast draws our attention to the fortieth day after Jesus’ birth, when his parents presented him in the Temple both for Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth (per Leviticus 12) and the dedication of the baby Jesus to the Lord as the first born son (per Exodus 13). While in the Temple courts, Joseph and Mary encounter two elderly prophets of the Lord who see Jesus and immediately recognize who he is, the Messiah of God. The commemoration by the church of the events recorded in Luke 2:22-38 is very ancient, one for which we have firm evidence by the early fourth century.
Traditionally, this feast is marked by the blessing and lighting of candles, as symbols of the dawn of the light of Christ. In an age of electric lighting, the power of this symbol is largely lost for us, but the burning of candles remains the dominant form of artificial lighting throughout human history. Our Lord himself used the analogy of a lamp lit in a darkened house to illustrate the role his disciples were to play in a darkened world (Matthew 5:14-16). It is therefore appropriate that we take this basic human technology and baptize it, if you will, into symbolic service to the church and the Lord. What could be a more basic image of the Gospel than to simply light a lamp in the dark?
But our job does not end there. Once the lamp is lit, once the Lord is revealed, he tasks us to take that light into every darkened corner we can find. That is why at our service this Sunday, we will process in celebration with candles lit as a potent symbol of our taking the Gospel of Jesus out into a world which so desperately needs its light as it stumbles in darkness.
The Feast is a reminder for us to remember that the glory which is revealed in Christ is revealed to the world in this age through us, Christ’s mystical body in the world. What a spectacular mystery, that Christ would so use us in this way! What a marvelous Lord we serve, who invites us into his glory! But remember, friends, a lamp is not lit and then hidden, but placed in a prominent place so that it can lighten the whole house! Go out, therefore, and advance the light of Christ in your homes and neighborhoods and workplaces. Be people of integrity, peace, joy, and justice. Consider the needs of others before your own, and by your humility show this world the true nature of power as wielded by our Lord. Be always prepared to give an account to those who ask about the hope you have. Above all, give glory to God in all things, and cast your future and very selves at his feet. The Lord who calls you is faithful, and he will bring you to glory.
Oh, and don’t forget to bring your candles from home to be blessed on Sunday.
I look forward to worshiping with you all.