The Presentation of the Lord
Sing along/listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiX3kVxm5Ks
The Collect and Readings can be found here:
Sing along/listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQqqgj3L8cc
‘The Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to his temple.’ Words from the prophet Malachi.
The last weeks and months have been tumultuous to say the least, particularly when it comes to politics. There’s been the continued Brexit deadlines, now difficulties in the EU with the vaccine, calls for Boris to go, but none of that has really beat the intense and rather unbelievable scenes from across the Atlantic, in the USA.
Who will ever forget the frantic style of the Presidential election? The refusal of President Trump to concede, and then the shocking scenes a month ago when the Capitol was attacked by angry protestors leaving death and destruction in its midst. Then, the calls for an immediate removal from power, and a record second impeachment by the senate?
Contrast all of the media hype of those days, with the scenes of a fortnight ago: the beginning of the Biden presidency. Now without vocalising my own political opinion – which matters not one bit – there was – in the reporting and in the style – a fundamental change.
The capitol, that place they call the ‘sacred temple of democracy’ was decked in stars and stripes, the marine band built the suspense with American anthems and the cast of celebs appeared pledging their support.
They were all pointing to one thing, and one thing alone: hope. And more than that – hope in one man – the new president. And then, on inauguration day he appeared, Biden entered that temple, and at his presentation a new era began.
For many of his supporters, it was a moment for tears; in their minds, a time of light and life will commence with him. The speeches honouring him recalled how the temple of democracy will be cleansed by him after four years of corruption and vice, in effect, his supporters said that the presidency was all but vacant during those eventful years.
For countless people, they were seeing in this man, their salvation. Amanda Gorman, the poet laureate said, said: ‘When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? … ‘There is always light, only if we’re brave enough to see it’.
The Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come into his temple.
Today, as we celebrate the feast of Candlemas – we see another taking possession of the Temple. We do not see a man advanced in years enter to music, we do not see people crying all around, we do not see the celebs of the day performing to mark this new beginning. We see the child Jesus come to what was his own: the Temple itself, and in so doing, transform it.
The Temple that Jesus enters into with Mary and Joseph has a greater significance than the ‘temple’ on Capitol Hill. This Temple on the holy mountain of Jerusalem, was literally the dwelling place of God. The Americans might describe their building as a sacred place of democracy – but the Temple was literally, literally, the sacred place – for in the Jewish understanding – it was the place that was named for God. It was the place where his presence was experience. The temple was an extension of heaven. And still, it was a place, because of the sins of the people, because of their corruption, that the intensity of God’s glory had left – he was present – but not in the splendour of the past – in times gone by God’s glory had dwelt in the Temple, now, the prophet Ezekiel tells us: his glory had left for heaven. That is, until today.
Today the prophet Malachi, in our first reading states clearly: that the Lord will enter the Temple. Today, God’s glory returns.
It returns not in the cloud, not in in the fire, but rather in a bundle, the bundle offered to Simeon – the bundle of a tiny child. And who is this child? Simeon says: ‘salvation’ he literally, ‘sees salvation’ in his arms. Enter Anna, the one who never left the Temple. She too sees in him something different: in him there is the ‘redemption of Jerusalem’. Both Simeon and Anna, recognise in him, the return of the glory of the Lord.
In a time of darkness, or ‘never-ending shade’ the glory of the Lord had returned. Not in the cloud, not in the fire, not in the stones of the temple, not in the inner sanctum, but now, forever in the flesh and blood of this child Jesus. Simeon says that is he who is the light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel. The glory had returned to the temple. And that glory would then go out to all people – for the mission of this child was not for Israel alone – but for all people – God’s glory would be known by all the earth. The extension of heaven in the temple would be replaced by the dwelling of heaven in one man, Jesus Christ.
And now time of life and light commences with him. He is presented today in the substance of our flesh so that he, and he alone can begin his work of bringing unity and peace, not just with one another, but most importantly, with God.
Christ comes to put an end to the reign of sin – he comes to end corruption. He comes to restore man to God. And bring God to man, himself as the ‘faithful High Priest’.
It is he who will make the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people’. The sacrifice, once performed with the blood of goats, will now be replaced with the blood of another, his own blood. God reveals in his son Jesus Christ, not only his glory, but his grace – grace made known by the offering of his own self.
That work begins today with his revelation, and is completed on the altar, not on the golden altar of the temple, but on the wooden altar of the cross.
‘We ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? … ‘There is always light, only if we’re brave enough to see it.’
Let us see it him, the light which lightens the gentiles, the glory of his people Israel, the merciful high priest who offers himself as the sacrifice; and because of all of things let us place our hope in him, the true and only salvation. Amen.
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