The Culmination of Christmas in the Presentation of Our Lord
This Thursday (2 February) is the Feast of the Purification of St. Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord. It marks the culmination of the Infancy Narratives, and in that respect it really the final culmination of the Christmas Season. By the same token, especially in view of St. Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis, it is a beautiful Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ, “a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of [His] people Israel” (LSB 200). In the Christ Child, the Babe, the Son of Mary, we come face to face with God in the Flesh, and by His grace we are granted to depart this vale of tears in peace and joy, since He has accomplished our salvation.
There are two events commemorated on this festival day, as also in St. Luke 2:22-40. There is the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary following the birth of her Son, in accordance with Leviticus 12:1-8; and there is the Presentation of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in accordance with Exodus 13:1-2,11-15. Both of these events are significant, as are the ways they are kept and the way St. Luke records them. It is for the Purification of St. Mary that the “pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” are offered, the sacrifice of the poor who are unable to afford a lamb. So, we may discern that the Holy Family was of little means at that time. But it is also the case that, in bringing the Lord Jesus to the Temple, they were in fact bringing the sacrificial Lamb of God.
The Presentation of our Lord is also of particular interest in this regard, because St. Luke records that event without any mention of the silver that was normally given as the price of redemption for a firstborn son (Numbers 18:15-16). It was the sons of Levi who were dedicated to the Lord for service on behalf of all the other sons of Israel (Numbers 8:9-20). Although Christ Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, St. Luke does not say anything about the redemption price, but describes the Presentation of our Lord as the fulfillment of God’s promise, the coming of His Christ, who “is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel” (St. Luke 2:34). He is not redeemed from sacrifice or service, He is given to the Lord for sacrifice and service, for the redemption of Israel.