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A Sermon for the Feast of the Presentation 2010
The Rev. Dr. Bill Doggett©
Christ Church + Washington Parish
(Candlemas sermon Bill preached February 2 at the National Cathedral).
Today has a lot of names. Outside the church, it’s Groundhog Day (and I’m told that
Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow, but I think we all knew that we had plenty of
wither ahead of us without his witness). But in the church, this day has been variously
known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, The Feast of the
Purification of the Virgin, the Meeting of the Lord, and Candlemas.
The Presentation at the Temple,
Giovanni Bellini, 1459.
It comes forty days after Christmas, and was, until the
twentieth century, the traditional day for taking down
one’s household Christmas decorations. The biblical
event it celebrates is the one we just heard about in the
gospel lesson – the day when, in accordance with Jewish
custom, Jesus, as first-born son, was presented in the
temple to be dedicated to God, and also when his
mother,, after the prescribed forty day waiting period,
went through the post-childbirth purification rituals, and was able to enter the temple
too. It is a feast that has been celebrated for a very long time. There are Presentation
sermons going back to at least the fourth century.
One of the reasons we celebrate it is that Jesus and Mary going through all of the
prescribed rituals of their faith is a reminder to us that Jesus was fully human, rooted in
a family, a community, a faith, a history, and in the covenant between God and God’s
people that the Jewish rituals celebrate and affirm.
But the main reason we celebrate this day is because of what happened after Jesus was
presented in the temple. Simeon, a man of deep faith, had received a promise from the
Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah that God had promised.
When Jesus was brought to the templ