Purification Of Mary and Presentation Of Our Lord
February 1, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Luke 2:22–2:33
Christ Lutheran Church
February 2, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
And when the time arrived for their purification as stipulated in the Law of Moses, they took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord … and to offer a sacrifice as also stipulated in the Law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
Now Behold! There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, a man righteous and devout waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Moreover it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. He thus came to the temple, in the Spirit, as the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the customary rite for him, and took him into his arms and blessed God saying:
"O Lord release now your servant in peace, in accord with your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people, Israel! And his father and mother marveled at the things that were said about him! (Luke 2:22-33)
In today’s gospel we see the converging of two key parts of salvation. Two elements that rarely receive mention in the church, but that are as vital to our redemption as the Lord’s death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead.
These two events, the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus, are something like cotter pins or lock washers: small pieces that hold bigger pieces together. They are events so important that the Holy Spirit included them in Scripture so that the church might both learn and imitate them: the very thing we are doing today.
According to Old Testament Law a woman needed to be purified following childbirth, and every first born male had to be presented to the LORD. (Ex. 13 and Lev. 12) It was the Law. But there was no command that these two events had to take place together, and so let take a closer look.
Now all mothers will agree that childbirth is a chaotic affair! That it is painful, stressful, and uncontrollable under the best of circumstances; and under lesser ones injurious or even fatal to mother, child or both.
But why should a mother be religiously purified from the experience? Is there something inherently sinful in it, something less than good and right?
Not at all! Indeed “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Ps. 128) and motherhood a most blessed estate: so then why should she be purified?
The reason is that the distress associated with childbirth reminds us of the penalty God imposed on the Woman when she sinned. When she left her first love and became intimate with the Serpent. He said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” (Gen. 3:16) And whenever the memory of sin enters the equation so does fear and so does despair and only cleansing can calm the troubled heart.
The prescribed offering was either a lamb, or if the parents were poor as the Lord’s parents were, a pair of pigeons or turtledoves would suffice. But in any case life had to be forfeited, and blood had to be shed, because that is how sin is atoned for.
But blessedly not the blood of the sinner! But of a substitute, and that substitute is Christ!
But what we find in today’s remarkable gospel is that St. Luke brings these two separate acts of worship together – Purification and Presentation – though such timing was not commanded.
St. Luke reports that because the Holy Family was poor in earthly wealth that they brought the lesser offering.
But did they, really? No they did not. While they followed custom and brought the turtledoves … by bringing Jesus to the temple they brought the very Lamb of God who purges the sin of the world! The True Sacrifice of which every other sacrifice ever made, large of small, was but a prediction.
Now the Lamb himself was in the temple to be presented to God as the singular sacrifice that purifies you from every sin:
Those of which you are truly guilty and that merit “temporal and eternal punishment.”
Those of which you are not guilty but none the less reside in your mind, and burn in your soul, as if you are.
And even those of which you are totally unaware because no man living is without sin.
Yes, sin in every shape and form was atoned for by this child whom Simeon presented in the temple that day!
Please hear that and believe it even if you believe nothing else! Even if you are the greatest skeptic every to be born in earth’s long history. Believe this because this faith in Christ makes you righteous before God! Justifies you before God. Makes you presentable before God; and provides everything you will ever need in time or eternity.
How important are these two events? So important that the church observes them still today.
By the prayer of confession prayed and the absolution given we are PURIFIED of the trespasses that gather onto our flesh like barnacles.
And in Holy Communion the church still presents Christ to God.
As Simeon took the Holy Child into his arms and elevated him … as he held him up high in the direction of heaven … even so the church takes the same Christ into her arms (by the hands of the celebrant) now under the forms of Bread and Wine, and in Simeon-like fashion elevates Christ to God.
What is the church doing by this elevation?
The same thing Simeon did.
She is acknowledging the gift that God gave the world on Christmas. The gift God gave the world by the Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. The gift he gives his church in Holy Communion – namely the flesh and blood of Christ for us Christians to eat and drink. So that life, not death, might course through our veins. By the elevation she is acknowledging it, believing it and receiving it. It is the ultimate act of faith!
Love given, love received.
Love tendered, love believed.
But there is one more thing we should note today, and that is the Song of Simeon.
In his long career Simeon had presented many babies to the Lord. But when he saw this Child he knew, by the Holy Spirit, that all of God’s promises to him, and to all Israel were now fulfilled. He knew that he could now live in peace and rest in peace, for his eyes had seen God’s salvation.
So have ours!
And so it is no accident, but a piece of liturgical genius, that the post-communion canticle of Lutheran liturgy should be none other than the Song of Simeon.
“Lord, now lettest now thy servant depart in peace, according to thy Word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people! A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”
As Simeon, upon seeing Christ, was now free to depart in peace so are we as we leave the altar full of Christ. Our cups running over with the Light of the Gentiles, and the Glory of Israel that now resides in our very flesh and goes out into the world with us.
There is nothing better than that, and anything else you have or want or desire or hope is less. Is nothing.
And so heed the Eucharistic invitation of Jesus: Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Mt. 11:28)