Sermons from St
Fr John Reed, Candlemas Sunday, 28th January, 2018
Light is something we take for very much for granted, we flick a switch and its there. Whilst watching “The Midwife” last Sunday, there was some discussion about power cuts. Growing up in the same time as the programme, near East London where the midwife is set, I can remember power cuts. And the response was always the same, Dad would reach for the box of Prices wax candles in the airing cupboard. Between the candles and the gas fire, we would get by till that moment when the electricity returned and with it the TV.
Candle light has a warm glow, its often used at dinner parties to create atmosphere. But alongside oil lights, gas lights, and the many forms of electric lights, it can be fragile, prone to a gust of wind or some child giving a quick blow when you don’t want them to. There is an Indian saying; “The Candle says to the darkness I beg to differ.”
Nearly 30 years ago Ruth and I visited Crete, and visited the Dikteon Cave, supposedly the birthplace of Zeus. There was a bit of climb, so everybody else, pleading age and infirmity decided to stay on the bus, so assisted by a donkey two of us made our way to the top with two guides. Today I suspect the cave is lit by electric light, but 30 years ago arriving at the cave we were given a candle each. And what you could see was very limited, enough to ensure you didn’t stumble on the rocks, and a bit of light to see what was coming up ahead.
And after two millenia we still annually bless candle lights, with their glow and their fragility and name the day Candlemas. Our candles symbolise Jesus the light of the world. The old man Simeon as he waited in the Temple day by day in the hope God would fulfil the promise of a messiah, burst into song, using those words we know so well from Evensong. “A light to lighten the gentiles” A child, just one in particular, amongst many first born Sons who passed through the temple, who would be a light for all the peoples of the world. Simeon believed in a God for everyone, not just for the Jewish people. In Jesus Simeon saw a means of “Glory” for Israel, that very quality that flows from God real presence. The glory that Moses and Elijah tremble to look upon. All in a tiny baby from a poor family who came with Joseph and Mary to pay in obedience to God a time honoured sacrifice of 2 pigeons, to redeem from God a first born Son. Mary and Joseph already had much to treasure, Angels, shepherds and wise men with stories of a star.
But Simeon’s words carried the full weight of the child’s future destiny, Jesus would be for the rising and falling of many. The grownup Jesus will be uncompromising, calling each and everyone to decide for him and God’s way. To live in the light and to turn away from darkness. No one gets to sit on the fence with Jesus.
Mary to will know the pain of losing a Son, firstly to a world that needed Gods love and secondly on the cross. The feast of Candlemas is like a gate that closes on the celebrations of God made fully human for the world, and opens on the rigours of Lent's temptation and the events of the Passion.
We have celebrated the baby, but are you ready to meet the grown child?
In Malachi we hear of Jesus coming like “fullers soap”. It wasn’t a brand of soap like Wrights Coal Tar or Dove. It was a process through which new cloth was treated with an alkali made from ash, involving washing, bleaching, soaking and beating the fibres until the cloth was consistent and full. Is this a comfortable image for discipleship. I think we are in danger of superficiality, if we think following Jesus will always be easy. Are you willing to allow Jesus to take your whole life, to shape it to his glorious image? His light is perfect and will ensure our feet do not stumble along the way and that we follow the path of a disciple. Jesus calls us to be like lights on hill tops, for a world that needs light.