Salvation and Light
Presentation of the Lord
6-9 year olds
Today we are moving back in time it seems! You might have thought we had left the Christmas season behind because for the last 3 Sundays we have listened to Gospel accounts of Jesus' life as an adult. But today we are going back to an account of Jesus as a baby. Why?
This Sunday is exactly 40 days after Christmas. (If you like, ask an adult to help you check this on a calendar. Count Christmas day, December 25, as day number 1. Keep counting the days. Stop when you get to 40. Are you at February 2?) In Jesus' time, exactly 40 days after a baby is born, a Jewish mother would go to the Temple to offer a gift to God. We can think of this as a way of thanking God for the gift of her baby. Rich families might offer a lamb, while poorer families offer “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” This is what Mary brings to the Temple, so what do we know about Jesus' family?
Also, when Jewish parents have their first boy baby, they have a choice: bring the baby boy to the Temple to present him to God, or pay some money to keep the child all to themselves. God has given the boy to them, and so they offer something back to God--either money as a sign of their gratitude, or the child himself as a servant of God. St. Luke does not tell us anything about Mary and Joseph bringing money to the Temple, so what choice have they made?
Both of these customs take place at the Temple. The Temple is the most holy place in the great city of Jerusalem. It is God's place, and so it is very right that Jesus--God's son, the perfect servant--should be brought there. It is like he is coming home, isn't it?
At the Temple we find out something very important about Jesus. In the midst of all the people coming to pray and offer gifts at the Temple, an old man named Simeon finds Mary and Joseph. He has been looking for their child!
St. Luke tells us that Simeon is very good 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
Can you imagine? This old man, a stranger, comes up to Mary and Joseph and takes the baby into his arms! You have probably noticed how babies draw everyone's attention. They cry, and everyone turns to see. They smile, and a smile breaks out on everyone's faces and they coo with delight! Mary and Joseph, who have been visited in the night by adoring shepherds, might be getting used to people stopping to admire their baby. But this man has something to say about their child. Simeon knows something about Jesus.
Listen to his prayer,
“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.”
Simeon knows that Jesus is God's salvation. That means Jesus saves. He saves us from the sinfulness that keeps us from being the people God means us to be. Jesus removes our sin and fills us instead with the full life of God--the full life that he enjoys through his Resurrection from the dead. Through him we draw closer to God.
He also knows that Jesus is a light for the Gentiles as well as being glory for the Jewish people. Gentiles are people who do not yet know the One true God. What does Jesus the light do for these people?
What about today? Is Jesus still a light for those who do not yet know God? Remember, he shares that light with us at our baptism. Can people know God by our light, by our lives?
Simeon's prayer to God as he cradles the baby Jesus in his arms has become a prayer of the church. People all over the world pray this prayer each night. Perhaps this week, we can make it our prayer.