Ryan Stuart is a member of The Parish Launch Team and will be teaching at our gathering this Saturday, February 1st.
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
– The Collect Prayer for our upcoming gathering, February 1.
For me, one of the most beautiful things about discovering the Christian calendar for the first time is how the story is told of the life of Jesus. With one focused piece at a time, we are drawn into the narrative of how God became a human person, what that looked like in real life and time, and what his work means for our lives today.
Forty days after Christmas, the calendar brings to our attention an event that happened forty days after Jesus’ birth. Luke tells the story of Jesus being presented in the Temple as a newborn child, and what a story it is.
In Luke 2:22-40, Mary and Joseph are simply following the religious custom according to the Law of Moses. Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encounter Simeon, an old man who had been promised to see the Savior before he died. When Simeon comes face to face with Jesus, he proclaims, “I can now be dismissed from this life, for my eyes have seen the salvation of the world!” Luke records the reaction of Mary and Joseph to Simeon’s words. Even after Mary’s miraculous conception and all the accompanying signs, they are still astonished and amazed at what Simeon has to say — “This child will turn the world upside down.” Simeon is one more confirmation that Jesus is what the world has been waiting for and almost given up on. Jesus is the One.
But there’s a new piece that this story holds for us. For the first time, we begin to discover the role of this promised one. This is a huge thing because, among those Jewish people still expecting the emergence of a literal Messiah, there was no shortage of theories as to how he would work and what he would do. Following the birth of Jesus, Simeon is one of the first to give us a glimpse, and what he has to say seems a bit mysterious and unexpected to his immediate audience. “He will pierce souls and reveal thoughts of the heart,” even of his own parents, Mary and Joseph. Simeon prophesies that Jesus’ work will be inside work, not an outside work. He won’t be overthrowing earthly governments or establishing a new political scene. His work is within the hearts of people.
Malachi 3:1-4 is also an accompanying reading for us this week. Malachi’s prophecy goes further with a projected understanding of Jesus’ role. “For He will be like a refiner’s fire, or a launderers soap. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord as in former years.”
As Christians, many of us understand that Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. But sometimes we see that only in the context of salvation. We know that we are forgiven because of Jesus. Our debt of sin is paid because of Jesus. And, while these are both true statements and great news, the greater news is — that’s just the beginning! Jesus didn’t just come for us to be forgiven, he came for us to be changed. He came that we might be transformed, made different than we were before. The Promised One brings the promise of real change for all who trust in him.