Page 12, 31st January 2003

31st January 2003
Page 12
Page 12, 31st January 2003 — Father David McGough

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People: God, David McGough, Jesus
Locations: Jerusalem


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The Word

this week

The Presentation of the Lord

Malachi 3: 1-4; Hebrews 2: 14-18; Luke 2: 22-40

4 N Now Master, you can let your servant go

in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see."

Simeon's cry of exaltation its he embraced the infant Jesus touches the longings of every heart. The restless yearning of a lifetime longs to be at rest. to find itself in an encounter so complete that it can abandon itself to a love that 'seeks nothing beyond itself.

Like Simeon we search to find such a love, a communion with God that will embrace us in its perfect peace. Only then will our journey be over. Only then will we know what it is to love perfectly and to be perfectly loved, to understand perfectly and to be perfectly understood.

The feast of the Presentation of the child Jesus at the temple brings the celebration of Christmas to its conclusion. The temple at Jerusalem. long venerated as the symbol of God's presence amongst his people. gave way to a yet more wonderful sanctuary. God's only Son dwelt with his people, not in the magnificence of a man-made shrine. but in the vulnerability of our human nature, and in the hearts of those who, like Simeon, believed in Him.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews stood in wonder at this truth. The Son of God did not take to himself descent from the angels, whose world is so far removed from our own. He took to himself descent from Abraham.

The Son of God would dwell at the heart of our humanity. He would be no stranger to the joy and tears. the triumphs and disappointments, that have been the constant companion of our humanity from Abraham to the present day.

Small wonder that Simeon rejoiced to take the child in his arms, and that the child's mother and father stood there wondering at the things that were being said about the child horn to them at Bethlehem. When Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms, he found the fulfilment not only of his own longing, but also the longing of countless generations.

The prophet Malachi, speaking from a generation whose religion had been reduced to empty formalism, had longed for a day when once again God would dwell amongst his people. He had promised that on that day "the Lord you are seeking will enter his temple, he will purify the sons of Levi like silver and guld....then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made."

The child presented in the temple would grow to confront and purify our wayward hearts. By becoming completely like us, he would do so with compassion. Because, in the frailty of our human nature, he had been through temptation, he would be close to us who are tempted. He himself would become that perfect offering which we long to become.

Simeon anticipated the life that Jesus would live, the death and the resurrection that would unfold, when he described the child as one who was destined for the fall and rising of many, to be a sign that would be rejected. We can ignore or reject Christ in our lives, or, with Simeon. we can welcome him.

Longing, and an openness to the HOly Spirit, had brought Simeon to the Temple and his encounter with the Lord. The same longing, the same Holy Spirii leads us to Christ.

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