I preached today. It is the feast of the presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called Candlemas. It’s a beautiful story, of Mary and Joseph bringing their 6-week baby to the temple to make the sacrifice for him that the Law required – first-born sons were dedicated to the Lord. They brought two pigeons as their sacrifice, indicating they were poor people.
As they enter the temple they are met by the old man Simeon, who has been told by God he will not die until he has seen the Lord’s Messiah. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, he knows immediately that Jesus is the one, and takes the child in his arms and prophesies over him. His song has come down to us as the Nunc Dimittis, or
- ‘Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
- Your word has been fulfilled.
- My eyes have seen the salvation
- You have prepared in the sight of every people,
- A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.’
- He warns that Jesus will be a sign to be spoken against, and that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed. And a sword will pierce Mary’s soul, too.
- It would have felt like that, as she watched her son die on the cross.
- Here’s Malcolm Guite’s sonnet, from his book of poetry Sounding the Seasons:
- They came, as called, according to the Law.
Though they were poor and had to keep things simple,
They moved in grace, in quietness, in awe,
For God was coming with them to His temple.
Amidst the outer court’s commercial bustle
They’d waited hours, enduring shouts and shoves,
Buyers and sellers, sensing one more hustle,
Had made a killing on the two young doves.
They come at last with us to Candlemas
And keep the day the prophecies came true
We glimpse with them, amidst our busyness,
The peace that Simeon and Anna knew.
For Candlemas still keeps His kindled light,
Against the dark our Saviour’s face is bright.