Wednesday, February 05, 2020


Luke 2:21-40

21After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
      according to your word;
30for my eyes have seen your salvation,
      31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
      and for glory to your people Israel."

33And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

February 2nd famously is Groundhog Day in this country. Other February 2nd events include the Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of Mary in the Jerusalem Temple. Today is Candlemas—a word similar to Christmas, but rather than Christ's Mass it's Candle's Mass, a day to bless candles for the coming year. In addition, today is St Brigid's Day, and Imbolc falls on approximately February 01, 02, or 03. Imbolc is one of the cross-quarter festivals in Celtic spirituality, in the nature practices of some pagans. Cross-quarter refers to the mid-point between seasons, and conveys a sense of special things happening in creation during those mid-points.

The church's year of grace still is in the season of Epiphany when we celebrate Jesus as light, redeemer, savior for all people everywhere, all creation; Candlemas is a specially festive day of light. Although on Advent 1 we began RCL (Revised Common Lectionary) year A that features Matthew's gospel, today for Presentation-Purification-Candlemas we hear from Luke.

Because it's also appointed for the First Sunday of Christmas in Luke's lectionary year C, so you may have heard it a few times, today's gospel reading brings us a very Jewish Jesus with his parents fulfilling the requirements of the ceremonial (sacrificial, ritual) religious law that Luke refers to as "Law of Moses." Please take note that in this passage law doesn't refer to the Sinai Covenant of the Ten Words or Commandments. Although all the gospels and everything about Jesus is about Jesus as light, savior, redeemer, of all the world, unlike Mark, Matthew, and John, Luke doesn't get very specific about that kind of universalism until the book of Acts, his volume 2. People often cite Acts 10:10-15 when Peter is told no food is off limits, but Acts generally expands into universal salvation as the narrative unfolds. However, here at the outset of Luke, we hear Simeon announcing "...salvation ... in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

Luke uniquely brings us three canticles or New Testament psalms; each of these has a particular place when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours / Divine Office / Canonical Hours.

• Luke 1:46-55 Magnificat – Mary's song in response to the angel's announcement she will become the mother of Jesus. This canticle belongs in Evening Prayer or Vespers, typically sung at nightfall. On Saturday, March 7th we'll sing Holden Evening Prayer because the LA Marathon will run past the church building on Sunday morning. Come to church at 5 for Vespers, followed by supper, bible study, and dessert bake-off!

• Luke 1:67-79 Benedictus – John the Baptist's father Zechariah's song in response to the news of his son's upcoming birth. We sing or chant this canticle at Morning Prayer, a variable format that generally combines elements of Lauds and Matins.

• Luke 2:29-32 Nunc Dimittis – Simeon's song in response to recognizing the presence of the savior of the world before him. Nunc Dimittis is the canticle for Compline or night prayer, and we sometimes sing or pray this canticle as we conclude the Eucharist. Martin Luther and John Calvin both include the Nunc Dimittis in at least one of their Eucharistic liturgies.

From the actual bible text we know the ages of some characters in scripture, but as Pastor Peg pointed out there's no mention of Simeon's age, but most artists illustrate him as an old man, probably because Anna really is quite old?

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