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By the side of your altars, O Lord
Always searching, sometimes finding
George Martin clr.jpg
Rev. George Martin

“The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts.” And, this metaphor is what many of us do; and probably what Mary and Joseph did, when the time came. They brought the child, Jesus and presented him at the Temple, according to the law of Moses; for this was their first born. This is what all good Jewish parents did; and this is what many Christian parents do to this day. They bring their babies to Church. 

It is a way of presenting the child for God’s first blessing. It is also a way of announcing in a visible manner, that the child is here, that there is a new member of the household, and part of the household of the faith. For the parents it is also an opportunity to show to the congregation what they have waited so long to love and hold, and now they want the parish to add to that love and holding. Presenting the child is a most gracious gift the parents can offer. 

Mary and Joseph traveled a long way, coming from Nazareth to the Temple in Jerusalem, a distance of 100 miles, or so. And, once there they knew it would be another great journey to return to their home. It took a great deal of dedication on their part to make the trip.

They made the appropriate sacrifice. According to the law, it was to be a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. It was a part of the ritual. While doing this, a man of Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the Holy Spirit rested on him; that Spirit told him he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. When Simeon took Jesus in his arms, he praised God and declared ‘My eyes have seen your salvation.’ We often sing that same exclamation in churches today. 

Also, there was an old woman, Anna, a widow who never left the temple, spending her time in fasting and prayer. When she heard Simeon, she came and began to praise God and speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

All this took place as they presented to God the father, this son Mary and Joseph were raising; and I am sure they remembered what Simeon had sung in praise; and also what he said as he blessed them, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel...and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” There was much to ponder on the long trip home.  Amen

The Rev. George O. Martin is an Ordained Deacon at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 17th and Adams, Great Bend. Send email to