This night
we celebrate the festival
the church calls
the Presentation of our Lord.

Mary and Joseph
take Jesus
to the Temple in Jerusalem,
and present him there,
along with an offering,
as was customary
under the law of God.
We do not re-create
the festival this night.
Nor do our ancestors in faith.
For by the time
Saint Luke put ink to scroll,
the Romans had
leveled the Temple
to the ground;
Sacked Jerusalem;
Caused a tremendous amount
of devastation and destruction.
And death.
years earlier,
Jesus own death
on a cross.
The significance of the
Presentation of our Lord
is not in recreating an event.
But in living its
profound promise.
Living its meaning
every day of our lives.

That day in the Temple,
Mary and Joseph
presented Jesus.
That day in the Temple,
Simeon and Anna
held Jesus.
That day in the Temple,
God in Christ Jesus,
was present;
and Mary and Joseph,
Simeon and Anna felt
and celebrated in Christ Jesus
God’s presence
among them.
A presence that would
change the world.

"A light for the nations,"
is how they put it.
"Glory of God’s people."
The unexpected promise
that those who have struggled in life,
can depart in peace.
The Presentation of our Lord
means that God’s presence
is not stuck
in a manger in Bethlehem,
but is among God's people
in life,
and with God’s people even
at the end of this life.
When we lie in a chamber in peace.

That’s what God’s presence means.
Peace in a Temple
and peace in a society that
knows so much destruction.
Peace in a world
that knows so much unrest.
And injustice.
And despair.
By the design of God’s great love,
that peace
is especially present among us
this night.
Among us always.
In you.
You who in this place share
in the body of Christ,
who are the church,
the body of Christ.

For all the various,
—and often-times confusing theologies—
that have come to us
down through the centuries
of who and what the Church is,
this night we touch
the earliest,
most important,
most enduring.

The promise of this night
is that
God in Christ Jesus
does not simply
become us in every way
—God incarnate
in Christ Jesus’
fleshy body—
God who cries
and suffers
and laughs
and struggles.

This night God in Christ Jesus
does not simply
become us in every way,
but we come to share in that
very same body.
Become it.

Not by status or stature.
Not because we deserve it.
Or do anything to earn it.
Not because we are perfect.
Or always right, ever right.
Not by paying for the right to share in Christ.

But by pure gift.

The design of God’s great love,
makes the presence of God
in Christ Jesus,
among us,
among this world,
by God’s gift to us:
that we together
in all our varied diversity,
in all our brokenness,
in all our disagreements,
are one in the body of Christ.
And whole.

The promise of this night
is that in this body
all are valued.
And beloved.
And loving.

The promise of this night
is that in the body of Christ
and reconciliation
and forgiveness
and grace rule all in all.
None among us.
None among the people of the world
would deny a longing
for this promised way of life.

We pray for it.
We’d probably pay a great deal
for its promised peace.
Friends, God places it before us.
As a gift.

A gift we don’t expect.
A gift we might not fully understand.
A gift we might think we don’t deserve.
A gift for me.
A gift for you.

present in God’s holy temple.
You, the body of Christ,
presented for the whole world.
To see.
And to touch.
To know.
And to become.

All of us.
And all of God’s children.
One body.
One people.
One humanity.
The church calls this night the
Presentation of our Lord.
Not to recreate an event.
But to live its profound promise.
Live its meaning every day of our lives.

Live it as you and me
presented as the body of Christ,
presented as the people of God,
so that the whole world comes
to know and to share
God’s perfect peace.

That’s a promise, a gift.
To trust in.
To rely on.
To live.
Now and forever.

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York

Jazz CandleMass

February 1, 2015

Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Saint Luke 2:22-40