I spoke this morning at our mission on the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord. It’s the last of the feasts of Christmas, even though most Christmas decorations have disappeared awhile ago.
The Feast is based mainly on Luke’s Infancy narrative which begins in the temple with the announcement to the priest Zacharias of the birth of John the Baptist and ends with the presentation of Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph. The two elderly Jews, Simeon and Anna represent the faithful generations that have been waiting for the Messiah.
Previously, Luke tells of the poor shepherds, the outcasts waiting in the dark, who are greeted by the angels. In Matthew, the gentiles are invited in the coming of the magi. Now the long wait of the Jewish people is rewarded as old Simeon takes the child in his arms and utters a prophecy that he will bring light to his people.
We bless candles today to symbolize our acceptance of the light of Christ.
God was present in the Temple of Jerusalem, the Jews believed. They prayed there and offered sacrifices to the Lord. Luke would have us see that God’s Son is one with his Father as he is presented in the temple. He becomes the new temple, God present in our midst in a unique way. He is our new High Priest who unites us to the Father by the sacrifice of himself.
Jesus later claims that role as he teaches in the temple and prays there.
God is present to us in different ways. One window in Epiphany Cathedral pictures Abraham, whom God told to journey to a new land. God sent him on a journey to a new land and promised to be with him on that journey. God sends us too on our journey of life and is always present with us as we go, mysterious and uncertain as our journey may be. We are going somewhere beyond anything we see or hope for now.
Another window in the cathedral shows Moses holding the commandments as he comes down from Mount Sinai. The Jews carried those tablets on the way to the promised land. God was present in his commandments as they made their way through the desert. God is present when we keep his commands. “If you love me, keep my commands.”
When David established his capitol in Jerusalem, he built a temple to hold the Ark of the Covenant. God would be present in this building, which Solomon, his son, made more magnificent. By the time of Jesus, the temple was made even greater by Herod the Great, a master builder and there Jesus often prayed and taught. God was present there.
There will be holy places, like churches and shrines, where God is present. There will be holy signs, holy actions, like sacraments and sacramentals, where God is present.
During this mission, I spoke about seeing God present to us as he was to Abraham. We are made in the image of God; let’s see him there in ourselves and others. God is present on our life’s journey. Let’s see him there.
God is present in sacraments and holy signs, in prayers and commandments. Let us find him there.