By Pastor David Tinker
This coming Sunday will be very special and a little bit different this year. We will be celebrating what is called the feast of the Presentation of our Lord. On February 2 each year the church celebrated the presentation of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem. Ancient Jewish law required that, following the birth of a firstborn male child, the mother must come to the temple after 40 days for purification and for presentation of the child to the Lord. February 2 is the 40th day of Christmas. Christmas Day being day 1; February 2nd being day 40.
The presentation of Mary’s child, however, was different from most. This was the Christ Child, Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah who had been promised. And he was recognized as such by the old prophet Simeon, who knew that this child was “a light for revelation to all nations.” Thus the image of light carries an important part in this day’s liturgy and links itself with the Christmas season and its lights of the Advent wreath, the decorative tree lights, and the many candles of the Nativity celebration.
To mark this particular feast, the ancient tradition calls for 1) the blessing of candles and burning oils to be used during the year and 2) a procession “to meet the Lord,” just as Simeon and Anna went to the Temple and found the Christ there. The liturgy is called “Candlemas” (the Candle Mass).
At the beginning of our liturgy, our children will gather in the chancel for a special children’s sermon to hear about the significance of this day. After the blessing of the candles, they will represent the congregation in procession around the church as we all come into God’s temple “to meet the Lord,” who is the Light of the world.
Check out the readings for this day, especially the Gospel reading from Luke which tells of Jesus’ visit to the Temple.
Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 84; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
Here is another special note about this day. In the reading from Luke we have the Canticle of Simeon, often called the “Nunc Dimittis”. This is Latin phrase which begins this Canticle of Simeon. Many churches use this Canticle of Simeon during funerals. Since my arrival as pastor at Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Carmine we have been using this statement as well. Here is what we use in the funerals:
“Lord, now you let your servant go in peace:
your Word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.”
This Canticle of Simeon is used because of the context of its original use in Luke chapter 2. Simeon was promised by God that he would not die until he had met the Lord’s Messiah. He was likely a bit older, possibly around the age of Anna (noted in Luke 2:36-38). She was 84 years old. Upon meeting the Messiah, Jesus, Simeon could rest in peace. When a Christian, who is a person who has met the Messiah, has died, we remember his or her relationship with God and the fulfillment of God’s promises when we share this Canticle of Simeon.
Original Text by Pr. Thomas L. Weitzel, adapted and added to for use at MLLC and mllccarmine.com by Pr. David J. Tinker