This Saturday, February 2, is the day set aside to commemorate the Presentation of Our Lord. It is fitting to spend some time today thinking about Jesus who came and was set aside to do what we could not--restoring us with God.
The appointed gospel text for the Presentation of Our Lord is Luke 2:22-40. In keeping with the Old Testament instruction to consecrate first born males to the Lord (see Exodus 13:2, 12) Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple. Leviticus 12 gives all the details about purification after childbirth In the appointed text we learn of Simeon and Anna who speak powerful prophecies regarding the baby Jesus. The text ends with the holy family returning to Nazareth where Jesus grows in wisdom and strength with God’s grace upon him.
The Bible provides very little details about the childhood of Jesus. After this presentation text our next encounter with Jesus in Luke is as a 12-year old in the Temple during the festival of Passover. After that our next encounter in Luke is with Jesus as an adult being baptized and then going out in the desert being tempted.
I have often wished that the Bible would shed more light into the adolescence of Jesus. But apparently it was sufficient in the Holy Spirit’s estimation to provide us with the accounts of Jesus in the temple when he was 40 days old and again when he was 12 years old. (good Biblical numbers)
Perhaps to this day we fixate too much on what we do or don’t do out in the world rather than what God does in the Temple (which should profoundly shape the former).
When I was going through the initial steps of applying for seminary I had to go to Thousand Oaks, California for an interview. I was petrified. I got to the place way too early and was looking for a quiet place to lurk and pray. I found a chapel that was a deep and dark wooden sanctuary. Around the walls were carved the words of the appointed Psalm for this Saturday. Obviously the words made an impression as I am still talking about them many years later. I invite you to read those words and let them enfold your day today.
Psalm 84 (NRSV)
To the leader: according to The Gittith. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Let us pray…
God, we thank you for Jesus and his place and work in the Temple and in the world. Stir us to linger in your courts and serve faithfully in the world. Help us to know the joy and fulfillment of trusting you. Amen.