St Bride's: A Point Of View

Candlemas

Luke 2: 22-35

Read text...

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Candlemas

I am delighted to be back at St Bride's again and particularly to be with this community as David Meara's time as rector and archdeacon is coming to an end.

I am deeply grateful for all St Bride's has given us as a family: during John Oates's time, as a space where I could come - as a vicar in south-east London - to experience beautiful worship one Sunday evening a month and later with David, St Bride's where my son (now living in Sydney) was prepared for confirmation and married, Katie.

We are remembering St Bride today and I preached some years ago about her life. But, as today falls on the Feast of Candelmas and our readings reflect that, I should like to reflect on the Feast of Candelmas today

Some words from the gospel reading:

 Now, Master, you can let your Servant goes in peace,
 just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the
 salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see,  a   
 light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Candelmas. This festival has several names: it can be known as Candlemas, or as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple or, as in the Book of Common Prayer Book, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Whatever name we choose to give it, it recalls the same historical event -- the occasion when Jesus was taken by his parents to be presented in the Temple. When they took Jesus to the Temple Mary and Joseph were told by Simeon and later by Anna that Jesus was to be the source of salvation for all the nations and a light to the world.

The name Candlemas was given to this day, traditionally seen as the end of the Christmas season, because of the reference to Jesus as a light and that on this day candles were always blessed for liturgical use throughout the year.

So what does say to us as twenty-first century Christians?

First, the metaphor of Jesus as the light of the world tells us something about God.

Light is instinctively a good thing. It helps to dispel fear and to show us where we are. We call Jesus the light of the world because in his life, his demeanour, his character and his teaching; in his suffering, in his death and in his resurrection he revealed the true nature of God and Humankind.

He enlightened us.  

Jesus, the light of the world, is the light which illuminates our vision of humankind and God. Jesus is the light which enlightens every human being, by God's grace drawing out the spark of divine light within each one us and preparing us for the day when we shall be enveloped by the light of God.

And so we in Jesus the authoritative image of God and a human life lived in its fullness.

However, as we seek to live authentic lives today, the imagery of light and dark can be challengingly stark.

Sometimes we live our lives largely in a world of grey.

Last weekend I was in northern Sweden to visit a diocese with whom the diocese of Lincoln is twinned. My wife came with me and she took some convincing that this would be a nice way to spend her birthday weekend.
20 degrees centigrade below freezing and three hours of sunlight a day!
In fact we had a great time. It wasn't that cold and without that east wind we get in Lincolnshire the temperature didn't seem too bad.

It was also not as dark as we feared. Unlike the tropics when the sun goes down very quickly, it seemed grey for most of the day and darkness did not come in its fullness until four or five o'clock.

For many of us living most of our life in the grey means that we face a series of complex decisions and compromises most of the time. It is unusual to face a straightforward black and white decision.

Decision-making is not as simple as popular culture would have us believe in that there is a clear choice between an angel and a vampire; between the world of darkness and light; between good and evil.

There are complex and inter-related political and economic issues that have unintended consequences for others - sometimes the powerless and the innocent.

Let us take the world of politics and economics for some examples: low interest rates favour those of us with mortgages, but dis-benefit older people with savings they hoped would supplement their pensions; welcome improvements in life-expectancy increases the number of us surviving but more of us become housebound or ill with dementia; increasing house prizes in London and south-east make some of us feel good, but mean many young people can't get on the housing ladder.

Grey decisions, many made with the best of intentions, but some with unintended consequences.

One of the most fascinating elements of the story of Simeon and Anna was Simeon's ability to discern who Jesus was. He was not surrounded by external phenomena that made it clear that this was the messiah - but Simeon was able, after waiting all his life-time for the moment, to recognise Jesus as the light of the world.

In the decisions you and I have to take I am sure we do our best to weigh up the evidence and do the right thing. But sometimes we get it wrong.

The life of Simeon, in fact more importantly the life of Simeon before he met Jesus is the key to this.

You and I have two ways in which we can foster our ability to see the way of Jesus Christ in the greyness of the world.

The first is to hold the model of Christ as the light of the world before us. He is the one who shows, once and for all, the nature of God and what a mature life can be like.

Of course it is counter-cultural model, because it is about finding ourselves by letting go and losing ourselves and that it what we shall begin to explore in the season of Lent and Easter which is not far away.

The second is to emulate Simeon in the patient waiting of a lifetime. Being about the Temple, sayings his prayers and listening for the will of God.

Simeon spent a life time allowing God to form his ability to discern truth by explicitly spending time listening for his voice.

Jesus is the light of the world. He offers a sight of God and a clear expression of humanity at its fullness - but we need to be able to see that light in the midst of a grey and compromised world.

Simeon and Anna teach us that part of our response to God in Jesus Christ is to wait patiently for him, allowing his Spirit to form into the likeness of Christ - so that when he breaks into our lives we can recognise him.

blog comments powered by Disqus