All stories begin somewhere. Here is where our story begins:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5)
And that is just the start. The story of light and Jesus the Christ continued.
In the light of the Star of Bethlehem that announced his birth.
In the light of the Glory of the Lord that dazzled the shepherds in the field at night.
At Epiphany with the Light of the Star leading the magi to Jesus.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also called a second Epiphany – set 40 days after Christmas. Always on February 2nd, sometimes falling on Sunday.
In the gospel, the scene we see being played out is a remembrance and honoring of an event from the Exodus of the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt and the yoke of the Pharaoh. It points to Passover, the night the first born of the Israelite families were saved from Angel of Death. Remembering that the first born is truly a gift from God in a most special way. As directed in Exodus 13, the child is presented with an offering of thanksgiving to God – in this case, two turtle doves, the offering of the poor.
There in the temple was Simeon, a holy and devout man who had been promised that he would see the Light of the World before he passed into God’s bright glory. And story continued for on this day, the infant Jesus is brough to the Temple
[Simeon] “took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The Glory of the people of Israel, like the glory that shone to the shepherd announcing the promise of the prophets fulfilled in the infant in Bethlehem. Now the same glory shines to all of Israel.
Just as the star led the magi, now this child is the light of revelation to the Gentile – a second Epiphany leading new “magi” to Christ.
This day has also traditionally been called Candlemas. A day when the household candles and wax are blessed – so that there will always be the light of Christ in the home. It is a ceremony echoing Simeon’s proclamation of “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.”
But that is but an echo of our first reading from two weeks ago, Isaiah 49:6 – “It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
And at our baptism, our parents and godparents testified to the light in their profession of faith and received a baptismal candle, lit from the Easter candle, a symbol of the Light of Christ in the world. The baptismal candle is delivered for you with the word, “Receive the light of Christ.”
Some 30 years after our gospel, on the banks of the River Jordan, John the Baptist received the Light of Christ. “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
And here you are as the story continues from the beginning of the world, to the events of Bethlehem so many years ago, through your baptism, to this day, to this celebration.
“It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant…. I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” A servant can be present, silently present, taking it all in, but never part of the conversation. Yes, we are called to be servants, but we are also called to be more. Called to moments in our lives, when the virtues of Christ already shine through, but we also called to testify. Called to take the light into our world and to testify as did John the Baptist, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” We are called to be witness to the world concerning our faith in and love for Christ.
Today you have presented yourself to the Temple of this church. Just as Simeon took the Christ child into his arms and testified. Receive Christ in your hands as Eucharist. And testify with your “Amen”
Don’t let the story end with you.
Go into the world as the light of Christ.
Only then will the story continue.