December 19, 2020 Advent Reflection


Luke 2:21-24

“After eight days had passed, it was time…and he was called Jesus;… When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him… to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord)… and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord.”


Is there spiritual benefit in following a calendar of repetitive rituals for religious events?

Joseph and Mary checked all the boxes – Jesus was circumcised and named on the eighth day – then taken to the temple on the 40th day to be ‘presented’, and a sacrifice of thanksgiving be offered, as required by the Law of Moses.


We know they raised Jesus into the Faith – a trusting relationship with the God of Israel. For them, it was more than just the minimum. Some people today go to church only when it’s convenient or on special occasions (a baby’s baptism). Sometimes they’re known as C & E people (Christmas & Easter). I have at times, questioned the value of religious routines and prescribed practices.


And yet, I have come to see that the repetitive routines have their benefits. Religious practice that has some schedule to it is sometimes, just what we need!

To be honest – my heart doesn’t always want to go to church. Some Sunday mornings, I’d prefer to visit ‘St Mattress’, or ‘Bedside Baptist’. But I go – it’s now a lifetime habit, as is some daily time in spiritual reading & prayer. Even when I’m not feeling ANY spiritual fervour. So why keep it up?


Oscar Peterson the great jazz pianist, when he was at home in Oakville, went to his piano every morning, and played – for up to 2 hours – scales, finger exercises, everything and anything. He confessed that it was necessary to keep him playing at an acceptable level of competence.


Most successful athletes have to do their ‘road work’ even in the off season. Run, bike, work out – to maintain their fitness and skills.


And I’ve come to see the benefit of following the religious calendar to fulfill the obligations of the spiritual – even for those of us who are active in church. We get weary at times, and it can be hard to celebrate ‘on cue’ whatever the special date or holy season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. Religious ritual can seem meaningless, mechanical, devoid of depth or purpose or passion.


Yet I am now convinced that ‘going through the motions’ has value. In doing that, we are maintaining a stance, an openness, an attitude toward the truth that, whatever I’m feeling about it at the moment, ‘this is important’!!

We are making a declaration, for faith and our commitment to our spiritual health. And inevitably, something will ‘spark’ within us, and rekindle the fire of spiritual vitality – a sense of the Holy returns, a satisfying peace settles, and our hearts are strangely warmed.

I know that religious ritual was not the only thing that caused Jesus to grow ‘in wisdom and stature’. But it didn’t hurt. Joseph and Mary checked all the boxes of their religious practice. Thank God.


“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord they returned to Galilee… The child grew and became filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.” Luke 2:39 & 40


Shared by Orville James


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