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Luke 2:22-40

The Word of God

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

Now 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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

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

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then 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 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There 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 for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At 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.

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

Luke 2:22-40
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • The newborn child represents the continuity of God’s plan of salvation. God’s providence – his Holy Spirit directing history – has always been at work. This same Spirit rested on Simeon, and today guides Simeon into the Temple.
    • The Temple is itself God’s dwelling-place among his people, and Simeon and Anna belong to the faithful remnant of menfolk and womenfolk, God’s own privileged poor. Anna has been ‘praying and fasting’ – that regime whose power over evil Jesus himself will one day endorse. God’s people have long been praying in expectation of the Messiah – described in this text as the consolation of Israel and its glory; the redemption of Jerusalem; the light to the Gentiles.
    • In the past, the prophets were the carriers of the message of God’s glory. Chosen ones from the beginning of their lives, God’s special favour continued with them. And now the same will happen with Mary’s child: God’s favour resting on him as he grows in strength and wisdom. Jesus is to be the new dwelling place of God among his people: in himself, a whole new epoch both for Israel and for the pagan nations. He will even function as a sword of judgment, described as destroying some and sparing others - with not even his mother exempt from the pain of that crisis.
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    • Jesus was destined to be sign that would be opposed. We are his followers and can also expect opposition. Let us try to welcome it and grow through it.
    • Mary was told that a sword would pierce her heart. She welcomed it and accepted it. We too. Let us try to welcome the pain that comes our way, as from God, and accept it willingly.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • I stand nearby and share the joy of Simeon and Anna, marvelling at what they say about this forty-day-old child of a poor and observant Jewish family.
    • Simeon’s prayer is repeated daily in the Night Prayer of the church. Can I make it my own and accept the prospect of my own death, however it may come, whether quietly or suddenly?
    • How do I feel for his parents when I hear what the future holds for them?
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • At the Presentation in the Temple, Mary and Joseph made ‘the Offering of the Poor’ – two pigeons instead of the lamb which was the offering of the better-off. They met Simeon, one of ‘the Quiet in the Land’ Jews who awaited God’s coming to his people in a spirit of prayer and quiet watchfulness, rather than the expectation of a triumphant warlord. In my prayer I join Mary in listening to Simeon’s lovely but loaded message.
    • Modern minds find the notion of 'purification' very strange. To the Israelite mind certain profane and sacred things, including childbirth, possessed mysterious qualities that communicated themselves to anyone who came in contact with them, and set such people in a class apart from the ordinary. In order to return to the everyday world and activity, such people had to be 'purified.' While such an attitude reflects a primitive mentality, the legislation surrounding purification did set the Israelites apart from other nations and gave them a greater sense of their own identity.
    • As I meditate on the story of the Presentation in the Temple, I let God speak to me especially through the words of Simeon.
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    • The Holy Spirit is very important for St Luke, and that Spirit is never far away. This text links him closely to Simeon, helping the old man to recognise and praise God, and to bless the parents of Jesus. What about me? The Holy Spirit dwells in me too: I am his temple! But is he perhaps only a quiet lodger whom I hardly notice? Have I locked him up? Can he become my mentor whom I look to for advice and support? Can the Spirit and I create life together?
    • The early Christians announced important decisions by saying ‘It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…’ (Acts 15:28). Lord, make me sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings as I make my decisions. Then things will go well for me.
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    • Jesus comes not in splendour, but as a baby in his mother’s arms. Lord, I see you here in the vulnerable flesh of a child, a sign that will be spoken against. Already the shadow of Calvary falls on Mary as Simeon tells her that a sword will pierce her soul.
    • Jesus, you share my humanity in every way. Like you I want to grow and become strong, filled with wisdom. I still have miles to go before I sleep. May the favour of God be with me as with you.
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    • The feast of the Presentation can happen every day if I wish it so. This is because when I pray, I am presenting myself before God. God and I meet directly. When Jesus tells us to pray always, he is inviting us to live out our lives with this awareness of God.
    • Like Simeon, I can take the child in my arms. Perhaps the child wakes up and smiles at me. What goes on in my heart when this happens? Simeon praised God. I give thanks that God is presented to me in such a tangible and vulnerable form.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • These verses tell us much about Jesus' family. He was born under the Jewish Law, and observed it. After eight days he was circumcised, the sign of the Covenant with God. Forty days after birth, his mother underwent purification in the Temple, and gave the offering -- a lamb for richer people, two pigeons for the poor.
    • Lord God, I often resent the law, and I often resent poverty. But I do not aim to be a law unto myself. I love your covenant. And poverty pinches less when it is shared with Jesus.
    • Simeon didn't seem to tire of his prayer life. Sometimes we feel in prayer as if we've said it all to God - our problems, sins, failings seem the same today as last year. We may feel God is tired of it all, tired of us. But Simeon didn't tire of praising and thanking. Maybe that's part of the prayer of old age and perhaps there are times when that is all God wants of us. A lot of prayer is letting the past go, whether it is only yesterday, a generation ago or almost a lifetime ago. The older years can bring us into the wider expanse of God's love and care over the years. Like Simeon we praise God's glory, like Anna we just look at Jesus and praise God. Maybe we can do that in prayer today, no matter what our age.

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