This here is a picture of the Presentation at the Temple. What's that, you ask? Let's see what Luke has to say about it! This is from chapter 2, verses 22-40:
Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, "If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord." So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—"either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
"Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!"
Jesus' parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, "This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul."
Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
That prayer in the middle is known as the Nunc dimittis, or the Song of Simeon. Gustav Holst did a rather nice setting of the nunc dimittis; had things gone as planned, my bell choir would have performed an arrangement of Holst's setting last Sunday during worship, but it got delayed until sometime in January. Which is actually probably more appropriate, since the Presentation took place 40 days after the birth.
Hey, here's a coincidence for you; Giovanni Bellini was the brother-in-law of Andrea Mantegna, who painted the work I featured yesterday. This was not intentional on my part.
Previous Advent posts:
2003: The Jesus Room
2004: Pax with a Miniature of the Nativity
2005: Happy Chanukah!
2006: All's Noel That Ends Noel; Or, Incompatibility is the Spice of Christmas
2007: Madonna and Child
2008: Good King Wenceslas
2009: St. Stephen's Day