Sermon for 3rd February 2019 by Rev Ellie Goldsmith

3rd February 2019     Candlemas  St Erme and Ladock

Malachi 3.1-5   Psalm 24.[1-6]7-10  Hebrews 2.14-18   Luke 2.22-40

 

The Old Testament ends with the Book of Malachi – Malachi’s name means Messenger and he was sent with a message to God’s people who had just returned to their homeland from exile in Babylon, around 450BC.

Malachi was reminding them that God had not forgotten his promises, and the one they were hoping and longing for to put things right, would come – eventually!

 

The New Testament appropriately begins with the arrival of the Lord Jesus – the Messenger and the Message, sent from God.

 

Coming as a tiny Baby with tiny feet and tiny fingers, seems quite a contrast to the description Malachi gives of a refiner, a purifier, and a judge.  So, we must hold this in our minds when we read about the grown-up Jesus and the public ministry he started when he was about 30.

 

Perhaps the Reading from Hebrews bridges what seems like a gap – the writer reminds us that Jesus was fully human, so understands our human weaknesses and sinfulness; and he was fully God, so was the perfect one to take on and take away the judgment sin deserves – acting on our behalf.

 

But today it is Candlemas and we concentrate on the Gospel story when Jesus was presented in the Temple at Jerusalem.  We shall of course see some links with Malachi and Hebrews.

 

There were 3 ceremonies at the Temple in Jerusalem that new parents were required to take part in:

  1. Circumcision and naming on the 8th day
  2. Redemption – presented/dedicated to the Lord and then bought back
  3. Cleansing – for Mary on the 40th day with the due offering (doves/pigeons for poorer people).

This is reminiscent of our old tradition of Churching, when the mother first went out to Church with the new baby for prayers of blessing. 

This has developed into the ‘Service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child’.  And babies and mothers usually go back to the hospital or doctor for a six-week check nowadays.

Today’s story is about the 2 ceremonies when Jesus was six weeks old.

And we can so readily picture the scene:  Mary & Joseph carrying their little treasure into the magnificent Temple with a sense of duty and joy.  The old man Simeon meets them, and takes Jesus in his arms – like a dear Grandad!

 

Jesus didn’t have a label on him saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ nor did Mary & Joseph wave flags or shout, ‘This is the one you have all been waiting for!’

So how did Simeon and Anna know?

  • Simeon and Anna had been listening to God all their lives - they were used to listening so they were able to recognise God’s nudge that this was The Baby!
  • They were spiritually flexible and alert; not stuck in their ways or clinging to the past
  • Godly people; people of prayer and hope;
  • watching; waiting; ready to welcome God’s Message and Messenger; they saw because they were looking
  • Feeling of excitement? 
  • Didn’t judge – ‘just an ordinary family’
  • ‘only a baby’ -  ‘Can’t do much now … but he will’
  • They saw Jesus’s potential:  but ‘Who can endure the day of his coming?’ Malachi asked; not everyone, Simeon says.

Anna confirmed what Simeon thought about Jesus; she had the same insight.

 

I wonder what we can learn from Simeon and Anna …

What’s important to you from their example?

 

  • One thing is that Christmas isn’t just for children! 

    It’s for older people too!

(Today is the very last day for taking down Christmas     decorations!)

  • Don’t despair or give up
  • Develop your relationship with God

 

  • Whether we look back to Jesus as we do, or forward – as Simeon and Anna did – we need to come to the same recognition: 
  • Jesus is the One to pin our hopes on,
  • he’s the one to find and follow (the fishermen’s friend)
  • he’ll light our way
  • he can forgive us (yes forgive us!) and give us life and
  • peace at the last
  • AND Hebrews adds, free us from the fear of death
  • And we are never too old to spread the Good News as Anna did

 

And what can we learn from Mary and Joseph on this occasion?

  • Obedience
  • Offer our children to God
  • Ask for God’s blessing as we parent and grandparent
  • Keep trusting where we cannot trace God:  we don’t always understand
  • Keep pondering and treasuring things about our children and about God

 

During Epiphany, we have been thinking about how Jesus was gradually revealed to be God’s Message, the living word that brings light and life to the world.

Today, we notice that something about us is revealed too:

 

the thoughts of our hearts are shown up; his light reveals the truth about us and searches us.  We either come to the light and live by the light, or we hide away.

 

Like Anna, we need to give people that choice, as we carry the light of Christ for others to see and to choose.

 

On this Candlemas day, when traditionally all the Church candles are blessed, please do take a candle home with you; switch it on as a sign of your determination and desire, and

  • use it to develop your prayer life, to get to know God better, and his plans for you;
  • let God’s light show you what helps you to rise up and what makes you stumble and fall
  • use it to pray for others in your family, and for those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; ask God to shine his light on them and to bless them.

     

Even if you don’t know what to say, switch the candle on and remember that Jesus is the Light of the world; he continues to shine!  Alleluia! 

 

 


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