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7 Facts You May Have Missed in The Presentation of Christ in The Temple

Tucked away on February 2nd every year is a little-known festival that many Christian people gloss over and is widely ignored — even within churches.

Yet it’s a festival packed with spiritual meaning and profound theological depth.

I refer to “The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.”

Here are nine things to know about this lovely Christian festival.

1. It’s based on a story in the Gospel of Luke

Luke 2.22–40 tells how Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the Temple when he was forty days old.

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22, NIV)

This tells us why the Presentation of Christ is always celebrated on February 2nd, regardless of the day of the week — it’s a Thursday this year — since this is precisely forty days after Christmas.

2. It fulfilled the law from the Old Testament

According to Luke, Joseph and Mary adhered to ancient customs detailed in the book of Leviticus. According to those scriptures (Leviticus 12.1–8), the mother of a male child becomes clean on the fortieth day. The parents must then take the child to be Temple and present him to the priest.

When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering (Leviticus 12:6, NIV)

Fun fact: The purification period lasted 80 days for a female child. If Jesus had been a girl, Candlemas would have fallen on the 16th of March.

3. Mary and Joseph brought the minimum offering required

Those verses quoted above tell the parents to bring a year-old lamb and a burnt offering comprising a pigeon or turtledove. If they could not afford to buy a lamb, they could instead bring two pigeons.

Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple with two pigeons. This tells us that Jesus’ family was poor, according to the Bible.

4. They met a faithful and wise priest in the Temple

They encountered Simeon, a pious and Spirit-filled man, while there. God had promised him he would not die before witnessing the Messiah.

In verses 25–35, while holding the newborn Jesus, Joseph praised God and foretold that Jesus would bring the “fall and rising of many in Jerusalem,” indicating Mary’s suffering.

Indeed, God had told Simeon that he wouldn’t die before encountering the Messiah. Can you imagine the faithful longing of this elderly man — and the inexpressible joy when God showed him that this baby was the long-promised Saviour?

5. They met another elderly worshipper in the Temple

In the Temple, Mary and Joseph also came upon Anna, an 84-year-old prophetess who recognized Jesus as the Messiah (Luke 2:36–38).

She was overjoyed to see the newborn baby, again having been foretold by God about his imminent arrival.

The encounters with Simeon and Anna show that — even in this era where there was lax spirituality and religious hypocrisy — there was a small core of faithful and devout believers dedicated to God.

6. The Presentation has developed into a Christian festival

Some churches celebrate “The Presentation” with a worship service, including the rite of Candlemas.

Candlemas originated in the medieval era as the day they brought the annual stock of candles into the church and blessed them. Hence, it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.

Candles were essential in those days, not only because there were no electric lights but also because they were a source of warmth. For a long time, some people believed candles protected against the plague, disease, and starvation.

For Christians, they were — and continue to be — a constant reminder of something far more significant than themselves. Jesus stated,

I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. (John 8:12, NIV)

When Jesus said this, he was establishing himself — and only himself — as the source of true light for all people on the face of the earth.

7. This story prophesies Christian missions.

One thing is easy to overlook in Luke’s story.

Simeon predicted of the child, “The child will be a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32, NIV).

This is the first time we are explicitly taught that Jesus was to be the means of redemption for the entire world. This revelation explicitly includes not just Jews — but also Gentiles.

These are bold statements from Simeon, but we can trace them back to the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, who spoke of the Messiah similarly.

It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6, NIV)

Simeon, guided by the Spirit, recognized the newborn Jesus as the long-awaited Saviour for the whole creation.

Because Jesus is the instrument through whom God has cleansed us of all our sins, Simeon addressed God with these words:

My eyes have seen your salvation.

God is the one who saves us; we are powerless to save ourselves. Before Jesus performed any miracles, Simeon saw Him as God’s means of saving the people of Israel.

It’s mind-boggling to realize that we don’t have to earn our way into heaven through our efforts. In reality, we cannot.

This is a game changer for everyone concerned about how we can ever be good enough to enter the kingdom of heaven.

God has given us the gift of Jesus as an act of unmerited grace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. (Luke 2:31, NIV)

Almighty and ever-living God, clothed in majesty, whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, in the substance of our flesh: grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Anglican Collect for The Presentation of Christ in the Temple)


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