Feast of the Presentation
2 Feb 2014
“Therefore, [Jesus] had to become like His brothers and sisters in every way …” (Heb. 2:17)
In the name …
I know there’s all kind of excitement because today is Super Bowl Sunday, but today also brings a formal close to our celebration of Christmas. According to Jewish custom, a first born son and his mother would present themselves at the Jerusalem Temple on the 40th day after birth. This period of isolation was healthy for both the child and mother. At their physically most susceptible, this tradition protected the mother and newborn from exposure to sickness and disease. With the completion of Mary and Jesus’ home confinement, the Christmas story comes to completion. This is marked by today’s blessing of candles. Christmas is the holy celebration of God entering into our world as one of us. This is why Simeon is inspired to prophesy that the child is “a light for revelation.” Jesus’ birth is God’s fullest revelation of Himself. Jesus is as God is. Or as sacred Scripture says, “[Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” (Heb. 1:3) Candles in church, and the candles that have now been blessed for use in your homes, always symbolize this message that Jesus is the light of revelation for all of us.
And as we close this Christmas season, just what would that revelation be? Let me take a shot at this by something I heard at the beginning of the movie The Life of Pi. I know almost nothing about the Hindu religion. What I do know is that there are literally millions of Hindu gods. What I learned from watching The Life of Pi is that the head god of Hinduism is so perfect and so content in himself that this god is unperturbed by anything. If I remember the analogy correctly, it’s something like he floats in a quiet sleep on a blissful, warm ocean. His perfection is eternal, nothing bothers or affects him. In Christianity some theologians have attributed this sort of eternal, unchanging perfection to God the Father. Some theologians have worked so hard to protect the holiness of God the Father that it comes real close to being the god contentedly sleeping on the warm waters of some celestial ocean.
But that doesn’t seem fair to me. You know today is Ground Hog Day and Punxsutawney Phil used to be the one and only. Now there are several of those prophetic rodents. You can choose which prediction you prefer. That’s the message of those two cartoons at the bottom of your song sheet today. But with Christianity we have God’s full and perfect revelation only in Jesus. He is the “exact imprint of God’s very being,” and His life tells us something quite different about the nature of God than one of restful oblivion. Jesus reveals a God who desires to be engaged with us and our world. His perfection, His identity, His nature involves us.
If we take out the theological digging into the deeper meaning of everything Jesus did, then, for example, maybe, just for a moment, we can think about the message that Jesus embraced children not because they embodied simplicity, trust and innocence, but because Jesus simply liked children. Maybe Jesus didn’t just associate with society’s outcasts, whether they be rich and educated tax collectors or poor and desperate prostitutes, because of a preaching opportunity to say the “last shall be first,” but because Jesus just liked people even if they weren’t liked by too many other people. Maybe Jesus didn’t just help the centurion in order to teach that Gentiles were now welcome in God’s kingdom, but again, maybe it was also because Jesus connected with this man who was so different than He was. Maybe Jesus sat by the well and talked to a woman not only because she was a woman, but because Jesus enjoyed her company even if society said it was wrong. And since Jesus is the “exact imprint of God’s very being,” all of these repeated examples can be the wonderful, uplifting, beautiful message that God likes us. It’s a truism to say that God loves us, but maybe we need to think a little bit more about the revelation that God actually likes us, that we’re not all just sinners annoying God all the time. Maybe Jesus is God’s revelation that He actually likes us.
This past Wednesday the local clergy got together in the rectory to start planning for our Lenten Discussion Series. Pre-Lent is only two Sundays away. Next week there will still be poinsettias up here in the Sanctuary, but then the week after that the purple shrouds start to appear, and we begin talking again about the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice. That sacrifice on the cross is why today we hear Jesus called the “merciful and faithful high priest.” But you know how when you go to get your hair cut and you start talking religion, I know I can’t be the only one this happens to, well I was sitting in the chair a week ago Friday and I was saying that only a small percentage of my week as a priest is filled with priestly stuff and that most of what I do is pastoral. I’m not at this altar as a priest all that often during any given week. And when we read the Gospel stories of the life of Jesus, the “merciful and faithful high priest,” there are chapters upon chapters filled with Jesus and people, and then it is only at the end of the story that there is finally that climactic priestly sacrifice upon the cross. As important and sacred as the sacrifice of the cross is so is every ordinary encounter of Jesus’ life with people like us. I think that’s what the “light of revelation” is about, that God likes us.
We often hear preached at us that we are all sinners, but sometimes we need to be reminded that we are all near and dear to God. Let us find strength and confidence in our faith that in Jesus God has become like us in every way because God likes us. And for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In the name …
Fr. Randolph Calvo