Sermon preached on the Feast of the Presentation - Candlemas (2 February 2016) by Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Pastor

Worship
Today at the Cathedral View More
No sightseeing openings today
7:30am Morning Prayer - transferred to St Martin, Ludgate
8:00am Eucharist - transferred to St Martin, Ludgate
11:00am The Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service
6:30pm A Celebration of Christmas

Sermon preached on the Feast of the Presentation - Candlemas (2 February 2016) by Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Pastor

Canon Tricia considers moments that define our lives - in a world of light and dark 

The moment when the setting sun set the waters of Lake Titicaca shimmering in silver, violet and rose bands.

The moment when adrenaline fuelled heady fear gave way to relief at being back on solid ground when walking around the rim of the active volcano, Mount Bromo, in Indonesia.

The moment when the new born baby, just 30 minutes old; the daughter of a woman fighting HIV was placed into my arms by her mother.

After each of these, and on other occasions too, I’ve said to those who know me best

“you know, if I’d lived only for this moment, it would have been enough…I’d be ready to depart…this moment has shown me how wonderful, how significant, how poignant life is”.

I wonder what those moments have been for you?

On this feast of the presentation of Christ we catch a glimpse of one such moment – in the life of Simeon. A devout and holy man, Simeon was in the temple when the infant Jesus was brought by his parents to be presented to God.

In that moment, on that day, Simeon took the baby in his arms and recognised him as

‘a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people, Israel’.

A moment which revealed the depth and significance of everything –not just for Simeon but for the world.

Simeon, like Anna, had been watching, praying and waiting, hidden from our sight … but on that day, they stepped out from the hiding darkness into the spotlight, with a message of astounding hope…that in this baby the fullness of eternity focused into one location in time and space…God at last appears in his temple…not as overlord, destroyer or dictator but carried in the arms of humanity,  a vulnerable pilgrim, like every other pilgrim there that day, like anyone of us.

God made small, revealed to the small people. Presented and made present.

Simeon declared that the light to the nations has come…and his words give rise to the other name for this feast of the presentation: Candlemas.

There is something fluid and alive about a candle flame which sets it apart from other sources of light. Dependent on the air around it, it grows bigger or fades according to the availability of fuel, of oxygen … it is vulnerable, at the mercy of violence which can so easily snuff it out.

The candle flame is then a fitting symbol for the people we find in the Temple that day…Joseph, Mary, the humble parents, Simeon and Anna. The anawim. Yahweh’s humble poor.

Yet it is they, the small people, who hold the light in their hands…it is they, who recognise how much the world needs this light and it is they who, even in the darkness, raise up voices of hope because they see the impact this child will have on the darkness.

A candle is also a fitting symbol for the Christ-child presented in the temple that day… vulnerable,

so easily extinguished by violence, giving light though being consumed.

The light has come but it will not be without cost, it never is,

for the calling to be and to carry the light requires a willingness to embrace the darkness. And there in the temple, all those years before the deep darkness would fall around this child, as he hung on a Roman Cross, Simeon warned Mary of the pain that was to come; of the darkness which would fall as a sword which would pierce her soul and a spear that would pierce her son’s side.

The darkness is not easily beaten back...and over the next 30 or so years what was to play out in the life and ministry of Christ was this drama of light and darkness.

For us light and darkness mingle too…even in the Church. And here with the gladness of Christmas still fresh in our souls, we very soon turn from contemplating the crib to considering the cross.

And in our lives, in our world, light and dark mingle still.

And still Christ offers himself to be consumed as the darkness is held at bay.

Light is in any case always seen more clearly against the darkness. Just as love is seen even more clearly against hate.

‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’.

And we are sent to carry it with us, to carry it out from here…and when we cannot carry it for ourselves we need one another to carry the light for us.

We are invited to be bearers of this light…but not without the same cost that fell to him

Pope Paul VI observed:  

‘Christ says ‘I am the light of the world’

And we are the light…if we receive it from him…

But how do we make it shine?

The candle tells us; by burning and being consumed in the burning’.

Prayer

O God, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh.

God presented and present here now.

May we who look on outward and visible lights be blessed by the inner light of Christ,

May we share your light as we offer ourselves in consuming love. Amen.