presentationAnother Christmas has passed. The glow of the season dimly lingers on. While many pack up their lights for another season, others want to hold on, even for the briefest moments, to the promise of Christmas. Peace on earth. Goodwill toward all people.
 
To those who know Christ firmly hold that the Spirit of the season lives on, for that peace and goodwill is Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, the Spirit of Christmas not only lingers, it grows stronger. For God favors his child with wisdom and grace. And through his child he favors us all.
 
In Luke’s gospel, Joseph and Mary brought the child Jesus to the Temple for two reasons: the child’s presentation and the mother’s purification. Luke used the ceremonies, the place, and the witnesses to further proclaim Jesus as the Christ.
 
According to Leviticus 12:3-4, boys were circumcised eight days after birth.. According to Jewish tradition, this ceremony declared the son legitimate (i.e., “presented”) before God and the community. [2:22-23] A child’s mother was unclean for thirty-three days. Only after that period could the mother celebrate the rite of purification with an offering. [2:24] While Luke referred to the circumcision of Jesus eight days after his birth in 2:21, he combined the presentation aspect of circumcision with the purification of Mary in one ceremony, extending it to the family (see 2:22; “their cleansing”). Luke, in fact, used the purification ceremony to emphasize the presentation of Jesus, just as Hannah presented (i.e., dedicated) Samuel to God at the Temple (1 Samuel 1:22-28). The question remained, what type of service would Jesus give? Luke portrayed the rituals in the Temple to advance his theme. Jesus would serve God as the Jewish Christ of the underclass.
 
The monologue of the witnesses emphasized the messianic theme. Simeon, the Spirit-filled man, announced this child as the promised One who would bring about the Day of Judgement (when the nation would be saved). Simeon prayed to see the Messiah. The Spirit assured him that his prayer would be answered. [2:25-26] His Canticle was a prayer of thanks and proclamation. The child he held in his arms brought him God’s peace (his Shalom; see the Translation note for 2:29). For this Simeon gave thanks. But this child was salvation of the nation [2:30] who would return honor to God’s people [2:32]. At the same time, the non-Jews would witness his rising [2:31]. He would enlighten them with God’s wisdom [2:32].
 
Next, Simeon turned to Mary and proclaimed the child would cause the fall and rising of many. The fall and rising can refer to scandal and faith. It can also refer to condemnation (God’s judgment) and resurrection (his salvation). He would be a sign many opposed, but their actions would reveal their true intent. The scandal-judgment of Jesus would cause Mary deep pain. [2:33-35]  
Finally, the people in the scene stressed the underclass, the large majority of those living in the ancient world. Notice those in the passage. The poor Jewish couple, Simeon who did not seem to have family, and the widow Anna who lived alone. While Joseph could support Mary with a trade, Simeon and Anna had no apparent income. As a Spirit-filled man, Simeon followed God’s lead. As a prophetess, Anna acted as social critique and religious icon. While Simeon appeared to live day-to-day, Anna was nearly homeless as a widow (unless her children or her extended family supported her; widows were synonymous with the homeless in the ancient world).
 
Notice who was not in the passage: priests or other Temple officials. Steeped in money and privilege, these Sadducees would later oppose Jesus in his Temple ministry. In their absence from the passage, Luke emphasized God’s presence with the common people. The Temple aristocrats were not needed as mediators. The child would be the mediator.
 
The Messiah, the mediator, we await is already here. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see this presence here and now in our daily living. Like Simeon and Anna, our very lives exude the expectation of Christ’s redemption and its fulfillment in the here and now when we allow the Spirit to act within us.

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