Tomorrow is a very important day. It’s the Presentation of Our Lord! You thought I was going to say Groundhog Day, didn’t you? Don’t worry, I’ll get to Groundhog Day.
The Presentation of our Lord is a holiday on the church calendar that falls on February 2 every year. Why February 2? Well, February 2 is 40 days after Christmas. According to the Jewish tradition, newborn boys were to be brought to the Temple forty days after their birth to be presented to God, along with a sacrifice of a sheep or two pigeons. (Baby girls waited until day eighty.) The Presentation of our Lord, also known as Candlemas, celebrates this moment. (Side note: historically, some Christians continued celebrating Christmas until this day– so if your decorations are still up, you can call it traditionally festive, not lazy.) It’s also one of the oldest Christian festivals, celebrated since the mid 300s CE.
The whole story is found in Luke 2:22-40, which I highly recommend reading if you’ve got three minutes. While in the Temple, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus met two people: Simeon and Anna. First, there’s Simeon. He’s a righteous and devout man, who has received a message from the Holy Spirit: Simeon will not die before he sees the Messiah, or Christ. Though Luke doesn’t tell us how old Simeon is, we might imagine that he’s getting up there if he’s holding onto a promise that he won’t die until he’s seen the Messiah. Or maybe he’s a young guy who just happens to have a laser focus on what God has promised him. Either way, when Simeon sees Jesus, he takes the baby in his arms, cradling God’s promise, and declares, “This is God’s salvation! This is the light to reveal God to all the nations, and glory for Israel.”
Nearby, there is the prophet Anna. Widowed and old (eighty-four, to be precise!), she has one purpose in life: to worship God every day in the Temple. Whenever I read this story, I imagine that Anna and Simeon saw a lot of each other. She was in the Temple all the time, worshiping God, and he was on the constant lookout for the Messiah. I bet Anna and Simeon said hello every morning, got lunch together every Tuesday, and regularly prayed together for the salvation of Israel. Over and over, things were pretty much the same all the time. The coming of Jesus changed things for Anna just as it did for Simeon. Anna went from a life of worship in the Temple to a life of proclamation, telling about Jesus to everyone who would listen.
Jesus changes everything. Even at forty days old, a mere babe-in-arms, he changes everything!
Now, I promised that I would get around to Groundhog Day. Here we are. If you haven’t seen the Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day, the premise is that self-absorbed weatherman Phil is stuck reliving Groundhog Day over and over until he finally achieves the perfect day, a feat that requires him to learn to care more about other people than himself. When it finally happens, Phil turns to his colleague Rita:
Phil: Do you know what today is?
Rita: No, what?
Phil: Today is tomorrow. It happened.
-Groundhog Day, 1993
Because Phil’s focus changed from himself to others, his whole life changed. He became un-stuck, no longer repeating the same day over and over.
This is what Jesus does. Jesus made Simeon and Anna un-stuck by his mere presence. In Jesus, Anna and Simeon recognized the Christ who brings salvation. For them, their same old today was transformed into God’s promised tomorrow. Their lives were changed! All because of Jesus.
Jesus came to get our lives un-stuck, too. When we’re repeating the same habits, the same sins, the same problems, the same days over and over, Jesus shows up and sets us free. He is the light that brings God’s tomorrow, God's salvation to all the nations, and to you, too.