Forty days after the Nativity
Granted, we don't know on what day Jesus was born.
But equally granted, Jesus was born on a certain day. And eight days later he was named. And forty days after she gave birth, his mother, Mary, presented herself with an offering for purification, according to law and custom. And while the family were in the temple, they had significant encounters with two older saints who recognized who Jesus was. Their words of blessing are part of our scripture. Let us pay attention.
So, since we have agreed in the western Church to set apart December 25 as the Nativity, then Jesus' name day is January 1. And the 40th day after the birth is February 2. Another "Forty day" marker in redemption's story, and in the Church's walk with Jesus.
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
Psalm 84:1 - 4
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may e presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Collect for The Presentation, Book of Common Prayer, 1979)
Malachi 3:1 - 4
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Anthem: from Messiah (recordings from Robert Shaw with the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus) I wish these were available with the bass-baritone Gerard Sundberg, who sang in this annual concert for Shaw’s last years (including the last Shaw performance of Messiah) If you are inclined to listen, be advised the whole string will take about 10 minutes.
Thus saith the Lord:
But who may abide:
And he shall purify (from a different source altogether):
Hebrews 2:14 - 18
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness (music choir singing this hymn)
See the text here.
Luke 2:22 - 40
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
O Christ our King and Savior, who was humbly presented in your Father's house to a waiting world, keep alive in us a welcoming heart and a burning love, so that we may live in the light of the glory of your redeeming power, revealed to all the nations in your birth, presentation, and resurrection. Amen.
(Gordon Giles, The Music of Praise, 71)