‘And it’s from the old I travel to the new,’ so the words of the famous hymn go. No, they are not describing the transition from one year to another, but instead, they perfectly capture a truth at the heart of the gospel: that in Christ, we see a new beginning. Yet when we read the description in Luke’s gospel of the presentation of Jesus at the temple, we could be forgiven for thinking that nothing would change!
‘After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 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 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.’ (Luke 2:21-24, 39-40) Jesus was brought according to the Law of Moses; presented at the temple as it is written in the law of the Lord. It was only when they had done everything that the law of the Lord required that Mary and Joseph felt able to return home.
Do not be fooled; however, for once Jesus began his ministry, it became clear that he brought a decisive break with the old. ‘You have heard it said,’ he told the crowd, concerning various points of the law, and then continues, ‘but I say to you,’ after which he set out a new and revolutionary interpretation of established wisdom. This was a break with the past, a parting of the ways between old and new, but it was not a complete parting, for he was also able to say, ‘Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.’ From the old had come something new. Turn from the birth to the death of Jesus, for thirty-three years later, he was presented to God in Jerusalem once again, only this time there were no sacrifices offered on his behalf – he was the sacrifice! Here supremely is the Christ who brings new life out of old, transforming what has been into what shall be. He continues to do the same in our lives today, taking what we are and reshaping our lives daily into a new creation. How far have you let go of the old self and put on the new one? How open are you to Jesus refashioning your life?
This could be your prayer this week. ‘Lord Jesus Christ, take what I am and re-create me by your power, so that I may be the person you would have me to be, for I ask it in your name. Amen (Nick Fawcett)
Shalom to you, my friend.