Luke 2 22 – 40
Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: “Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,” and also to sacrifice the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” prescribed in God’s Law.
In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see: A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and of glory for your people Israel.
Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother, This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel, A figure misunderstood and contradicted – the pain of a sword-thrust through you – But the rejection will force honesty, as God reveals who they really are.
Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.
Mary and Joseph wanted the protection of the Lord that every other mother and father asked for their child. Their visit to the Temple was something overlooked as ordinary to all the others.
Even the witness of Simeon and Anna, now preserved throughout history, would not have been all that important. After all, if the scriptures were taken seriously it wouldn’t have been just Simeon waiting in the Temple. But what value are the prophetic yearnings of an old man and woman? How often do you hear the elders wishing gifts and talents on the futures of the young, and raise a smile? Does a woman really need to hear that her new born child will, one day, break her heart?
The Presentation that seems so unique and wonderful is a confirmation that Jesus is one of us. A child presented to his community, as we all are, to receive God’s blessing; the hopes and dreams of those who have waited for the next generation to rise in faith, and the tentative, ever care-ful love of a mother and father for a child who is truly God’s gift.