31st January 2021 - Candlemas

31st January - Candlemas 2021

 

You might like to consider those very poignant and memorable moments that define our lives - in a world of light and dark.  It might be that:-

  • We are struck with awe and wonder as we look out on the setting of the sun over the sea – streaks of red, silver, violet and rose.
  • The moment when you climbed to the very top of a high mountain like Kilimanjaro and dared to look back and look over the edge at how high you were.
  • The moment when the new born baby, just 30 minutes old was placed into your arms – the mother is too weak to know what is going on as she herself is fighting for her life with Covid.

As you reflect on your life you might ponder what these poignant and memorable moments might be for you?

You might be say in your heart “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”.

On this feast of the presentation of Christ – Candlemas – 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’.   It was a moment which revealed the depth and significance of everything –not just for Simeon but for the world.

Simeon, like Anna, had for many long years 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.  Show the candle.

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.

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,  and 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.  In these Covid times we are especially aware of the darkness and the light.  One this day of Candlemas although we still have the gladness of the Christmas and Epiphany seasons still fresh in our souls, we 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.  As John reminds us in his prologue to the gospel “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 wherever we go..…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…

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.