Malachi 3:1–4 (Listen)
3:1 “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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
Hebrews 2:14–18 (Listen)
14 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, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 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. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Luke 2:22–40 (Listen)
Jesus Presented at the Temple
22 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 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 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. 26 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. 27 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, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 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, 37 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. 38 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.
The Return to Nazareth
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Psalm 84:1–6 (Listen)
My Soul Longs for the Courts of the Lord
To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
84:1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 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.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
Psalm 146 (Listen)
Put Not Your Trust in Princes
146:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 102 (Listen)
Do Not Hide Your Face from Me
A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.
102:1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!
3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8 All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the LORD builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.
Psalm 133 (Listen)
When Brothers Dwell in Unity
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (Candlemas) (February 2)
About the Festival
This feast brings the celebration of Christmas to an end, and by the Gospel’s prophecy that a sword will pierce the soul of the Mother of Jesus, the day also looks ahead to the crucifixion. It is therefore a bridge between the Nativity and the Passion.
The Gospels do not permit a bland and sentimental interpretation of the arrival of Christ. Simeon, with the infant Messiah in his arms and filled with the prophetic spirit, acknowledges not only the light to the nations but also the shadows that this light must necessarily cast. The long-awaited Messiah will achieve no easy triumph. He will be the center of storm and controversy that will reveal the secret disposition of many hearts and will bring piercing grief to his own mother. The Messiah, who comes to lead Israel to glory, must go by the path of suffering, and his people must go with him along that same path.
A central figure in the lovely drama that is at the heart of this festival is the venerable Simeon, who representing the expectant nation of Israel, at last, after years of patient and faithful waiting, held the infant Savior in his arms. This meeting is the occasion of his song, the consolation of Israel and the nations. The child was being presented to God by his parents, but in this child God was coming to meet his people, so that he who is the light of the world might make his people lamps shining in a dark world that others might see the right path.
In origin, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by his parents is a festival of the Lord (called by the Armenians “The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple”), but it is also the occasion of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, the day on which the Old Testament law released the Virgin Mary from what was considered to be the impurity of childbirth and demanded a sacrifice of turtledoves from Joseph in exchange for the life of his firstborn son.
In the Eastern Churches, where the feast originated, the day is called Hypapante, “the Meeting” (of Christ with Simeon, and, by extension, of Israel with the Messiah, of God with his people). The day was observed in Jerusalem at the end of the fourth century and was introduced in Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian in 542. In the West, the day seems first to appear in the sacramentaries of Gelasius (seventh century) and of Gregory (eighth century), where it is called the Purification of Mary. Pope Sergius (d. 701) seems to have introduced the practice of a procession with lighted candles on this date (as well as the other Marian feasts), and the procession, somewhat incongruously, was in its origins a penitential rite; down to modern times violet vestments have been worn for this part of the ceremonies of the day.
In the Gospel, Simeon sings that the infant Christ is “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” and so the procession shows the entrance of the true light into the world and the gradual illumination of the world by him. St. Sophronius (died ca. 638) in a sermon for the Presentation exhorts his congregation:
…Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light
Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light.
Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
…So let us all hasten together to meet our God.*
Sometime after the introduction of the procession, the custom arose of blessing all the candles to be used during the year on this festival of light, therefore called “Candlemas” in England, to remind participants of Christ “the light for revelation to the Gentiles.” The day is the appropriate time for candlelight services marking the conclusion of the forty days of Christmas.
A seventeenth-century’ English carol for Candlemas Day (1661) laments,
Christmas hath made an end,
Which was my dearest friend,
More is the pity:
For with an heavy heart
Must I from thee depart
To follow plough and cart
All the year after.
Lent is fast coming on…
All our good cheer is gone…
It grieves me to the heart,
From my friend to depart,
More is the pity:
Christmas, I mean ‘tis thee
That thus forsaketh me;
Yet till one hour I see
Will I be merry.
Because the Presentation is the conclusion of the celebration of Christmas, the Preface appointed in the Lutheran Book of Worship and Evangelical Lutheran Worship is the Preface of Christmas, which easily can be related to the Gospel for the day, although the Preface of the Epiphany with its reference to light is also appropriate and is appointed in the Book of Common Prayer.
Even before the coming of Christ to enlighten the nations, February 2 was kept as a holy day by the pagan peoples of northern Europe. Among the Celts, the day was the feast of Imbolg, one the four “cross-quarter” days that fall between the spring and autumn equinoxes and the winter and summer solstices. The day was sacred to the goddess Brigantia, who presided over the birth of the spring lambs, preparations for spring sowing, and the refurbishing of boats in order to begin the fishing season. In Christian times the Celtic saint Brigid was said to give her blessings on this day to flocks and fields and to the harvest of the sea. Sacred fires in fields and in homes celebrated the return of the sun and looked forward to the coming of spring. The ancient Germans preserved the belief that the weather today would either promise an early harvest or warn of hunger in days to come, a belief that came from Germany to America as “Groundhog Day.”
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
Oratio de Hypapante 6.7. From the English translation of the Office of Readings © 1974 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
From The Light of the World by Jaroslav Pelikan
The cleansing power of the light has penetrated the darkness in the coming of Christ. Those who had received it and had been cleansed by it no longer lived in darkness, but had become “children of light.”… They knew what Christ was because they experienced what Christ did in them and to them. The illumination in which they now lived showed that the radiance had shone in them. And the radiance, in turn, pointed beyond itself to the light with which it was one. As the Church contemplated what the light had brought and as it worshipped the source of its own being, its illumination reflected his light. The Church viewed itself and its world differently because the illumination had come in Christ. It viewed God differently too, because his personal radiance had brought the illumination that transformed and healed every human vision. The gift of this salvation, accomplished by God the light in Christ the radiance, Athanasius found represented in the image of light, as confessed by the psalmist: “In thy light do we see light.”
Over the darkling world the demonic powers had drawn a veil, to keep men from realizing that this was still God’s world. But God had pierced the veil by coming in Christ, who was “light from light” and the very radiance of the Father. By him God had saved and illumined the darkling world, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
Jaroslav Pelikan, The Light of the World: A Basic Image in Early Christian Thought (New York: Harper, 1962), 91-92,110.
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so may we be 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 forever.
Gregorian sacramentary, RS, trans. BCP
Readings: Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24:7-10 or 84:1-6; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
Prayers: For the illumination of the darkness of the world; For the aged; For those who wait patiently for salvation; For those who have become mothers.
Preface: Presentation (RC), Christmas (Lutheran), Epiphany (Anglican)
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.