This sermon was first given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 28 January 2018.
We all know Candlemas as the time in the Christian year when we bless the candles that are used in church throughout the year and as the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple when it was customary for parents to present their baby boy in the temple to give thanks to God.
Whilst I was preparing for today, I decided to research the meaning of Candlemas and I found a few interesting things (only problem is that sometimes when you explore the internet you find a lot more that you expect), but I would like to share just a couple that might interest you.
Some of you may know that Candlemas, which is actually Friday, February 2nd can also be celebrated as the mid-point of winter, half-way between the shortest day and the spring equinox, (so hopefully lighter nights are not far away). Some people also believe it can predict the weather for the rest of Winter.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.
Interesting thought, especially considering the weather we have been experiencing these past few weeks.
There were also a number of different customs such as how the Romans used candles to scare away evil spirits in winter, but I think my favourite is a Scottish custom.
Candlemas was the day when children took candles to school so they could have light on dull days in their classrooms. As time went on gas lights took over from candles and children took money to the teacher who was supposed to buy sweets and cakes for the children. (I’ve a feeling it wouldn’t be allow today with all the healthy eating we are expected to encourage), but this is where it gets even more amusing; the boy or girl who took in the most money was declared Candlemas King or Queen and they ‘ruled’ for six weeks. They had the power to make one whole afternoon a week playtime and they could even let anyone they wished off punishment. So, I would imagine everyone tried their best to be friends with the King or Queen especially for those six weeks.
Today we remember that Simeon held a King in his arms. It was a day he had expectantly been waiting a long time for. How long he had waited we don’t know, but I think we can assume Simeon was advanced in years. He had been told by the Holy Spirit, “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah”. (Luke 2: 26). We can only imagine the exuberant feeling that must have been flowing through Simeon as he held that very special baby in his arms with Mary and Joseph, looking on. I would imagine if it was being filmed the director would have stopped the filming at this point and ‘freeze framed’ the joyful expression on Simeon’s face.
Then Simeon utters those famous words of the Nunc Dimittis in which he says; “for my eyes have seen your salvation”, “a light for the revelation to the Gentiles” and he ends with the chilling phrase we all know to Mary, hinting at events to come; “a sword will pierce your own soul too”.
Then Anna arrives and she wants to tell everyone around her about Jesus and the words she has just heard. She’s enthusiastic, a light has come into the world to take it out of darkness. Not a physical darkness, but the metaphorical darkness of being under Roman Rule, a darkness of oppression, of people living without hope. A world that was lost, of people just existing, expectantly waiting for a Messiah, that would rescue them, but now the light was dawning. The expectation is too great for Anna, here in Simeon’s arms is the abundant love of God in human form and Anna wanted to proclaim it to everyone who would listen.
This light was going to change everything, but to do that people would have to listen and God knows us so well through Jesus who shared our flesh and blood that listening is not always one of our best qualities.
Bishop Chris Edmondson in his book; (Leaders Learning to Listen), describes listening as being on three levels, ‘attention;’ focusing on the words, ‘absorption’ understanding the words spoken and ‘action’ which is self-explanatory.
And after visiting the Temple, Mary and Joseph’s action after hearing the words of Simeon, was to return to their own town of Nazareth where Jesus grew up, but I sometimes wonder what happened in Jerusalem with Simeon and Anna after the Holy Family left.
Simeon we know was waiting for his death, but we also know he was looking forward to the consolation of Israel, maybe he was just happy that he had seen the beginning of the light of salvation that was going to save the people of Israel. And Anna after praising God did she just remain quiet? I really don’t think so.
We can all speculate about what happened in Jerusalem after Joseph and Mary left, but we do know what happened to Jesus.
His light did not diminish, but grew brighter throughout his life.
Paul’s letter to the Hebrews describes how Jesus became one of us, he shared our flesh and blood. His death saved all whose lives were held in slavery by the fear of death and his sacrifice made atonement for our sins.
Jesus’ light was for all; a light for hope and for salvation, but what does all this mean to us today.
This last few weeks the days have been dismal and dark, but on Thursday, the sun tried to shine through and streaks of light penetrated the darkness like fingers moving the clouds away.
However, for the light of Jesus to shine in the world, it’s up to us to take it out there, to be part of Jesus’ ministry, because as disciples being in a relationship with God we can’t help but let his light will flow through us.
Jesus told us not to hide our light, but to put it on a stand so that all may have light; in this our year of mission, through Christ, we are being asked to step out confidently in his name to allow the light he has brought into our lives to be shared with others.
Lezley J. Stewart in his book says; “Let us not be guilty of hiding what we have been blessed to receive. Let us rise to the challenge of being a light to the world.”
Simeon didn’t need to wait for the passion of Christ, he was happy to see the beginning of the light of salvation that was going to save the people of Israel. Here was a man who had waited a lifetime for this sign.
A sign we still have today as we celebrate Candlemas, the light of Christ in a world of change where people are still waiting expectantly to hear about Jesus
We all know people who feel they live in darkness whether they are in countries where there is oppression or down the road from where we live. Some are, as we say, going through a dark time and may have lost hope and I’m sure some of us will know someone personally.
So let us listen, absorb their stories, take action and shine as lights in the darkness and remembering the five marks of Mission, Rev. Deborah spoke of last week and focussing on Tell, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. Let our light shine through to those we meet.
As you came into church today, you should have been given a T-light and when you get home, I ask that you light it for someone you feel needs the light of Jesus in them and pray for them as you light it. And when next you see them invite them to church with you, if of course they are able and live locally.
So let us pray:
Almighty God, you wanted your light to be shared with others.
You are the light of the world and you call us to be lights to the world,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
Christine Hardy, Reader
St. Margaret’s Church, Holyrood & St. George’s Church, Simister.