Hello everybody. I hope that wherever you are and however you are feeling today God would grant us a few minutes of his peace so we can hear and receive his message to us. Even in these strange times as we worship whereever we can, be assured that God hears us, and that God is with us as we worship this morning.
Today is the nearest Sunday to the 40th Day after Christmas which is the day known as Candlemas – the day we celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the Temple as we shall hear about later. This day was traditionally known as Candlemas as people in many churches used to bring their candles to be blessed on this particular day before being used through the year – the candles of course being a symbol of Jesus Christ- the light of the world.
Candlemas marks a turning point in our church year just as it does in our natural world – being half way from the shortest day of the year to the spring equinox – the day when we start to get more daylight than night time – the first day of spring.
As you know in the church year we pack in remembering all the major highlights of Jesus’s life throughout the year through the readings that are selected for us by the Church. Candlemas is particularly significant because today is the last day of looking back towards Christmas and looking at Jesus early life as we have been doing since Advent and begin to turn towards Easter and the cross – the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Lets take a moment to pray quietly that God would reveal himself to us today and then continue with some worship.
Take some quiet time to say sorry to God for anything you wish.
Sing or listen to one or both of these…
Children’s version of today’s bible story…
In today’s passage from Luke we find Joseph and Mary visiting the Temple in Jerusalem – to take part in the ritual cleansing of a new mother, who would have been considered unclean for 40 days after the birth of her child, and to present Jesus in the temple as any parents would their first born son as was the religious custom. They took a couple of pigeons or doves to release as a sacrifice – nothing flashy, they were not rich people.
Maybe they got dressed up in their best clothes, like we would for a Christening, maybe they were going to have a little celebration afterwards – a special meal or something – who knows. They were just doing the best they could for their son as custom dictated
In the Temple we hear that there was a man called Simeon.
We are not told that Simeon is an old man, but assume he had been told by the holy spirit that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah. On this particular day the Holy Spirit had guided him to be in this exact position at this exact time. We don’t know where he has come from or what has happened to him in the rest of his life , only that he was righteous, but when he takes the baby in his arms he tells those around him that he has now seen what he needed to see, that he can now die in peace – he has seen salvation.
How amazing is it that Simeon recognises Jesus for who he really is at all. We don’t know how long he has been waiting since his word from God but – he must have seen many 40 day old babies carried in by their mothers and fathers. Did he ever suspect at all that it would be a baby or was he waiting for some altogether more obvious saviour. It’s a credit to Simeon that he was alert to God’s possibilities – that he was awake and aware when the time came, that he hadn’t given up or was looking the other way. Clearly God prompted him when Jesus came, God gave him some sign that this baby above all others was different – would be different.
And Simeon begins to rejoice – he praises God that he has now seen the messiah God promised that he would see before his death- the messiah that would be “a light for the revelation of the gentiles and the Glory of your people Israel” He is clearly a devout man and his rejoicing words have become the Nunc Dimittus, the song of Simeon – the words of a prayer that were used for centuries in church prayer books – as all would say at the end of a service: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
But Simeons words are not always happiness and joy as he turns to Mary and his tone changes:
“ This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
Simeon witnesses that yes this is the Messaiah but he prophecies that Jesus is not in for a smooth ride – not only will he do great things but he will be “spoken against” – he will be attacked and that his parents will end up bing devasted “a sword will pierce your own soul too”
And there was another person in the Temple: Anna. We are told that she was 84 years old and yet had only lived with her husband before his death for 7 years – so assuming she married around sixteen, as girls then would have, she must have been a widow for over sixty years when we meet her in the Temple.
Anna is a spiritual lady ( called a prophetess in some translations) who has dedicated her life to prayer -spending all her waking hours in the Temple. She is a truly devout lady who has focussed on little else but God since she lost her husband. She also recognises Jesus the messiah and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
But something that strikes me is that this isn’t a massive crowd scene – Simeon and Anna don’t go running and shouting through the Temple yes they tell those around them but– hoards of onlookers don;’t descend on the family – this is not a mass crowd moment like Palm Sunday. Anna and Simeon appear to tell those around them but most people in other parts of the temple probably never knew it happened and merily went about their business. Would they have believed that this little baby was the messiah they were waiting for? Whould you?
Both these people of faith, Simeon and Anna are witnesses to the extraordinary – they are both people of good character who have no reason to lie – they are here in this story to testify to the truth -that this IS Jesus
We have Simeon – Every day alert in in the knowledge that he would be shown what God had promised and Anna – dedicating her life to God without being in expectation of this moment but ultimately being rewarded for her faightfulness with this incredible event – holding the son of God himself
These two older people , both clearly near the end of their lives show us that God is never done with us – we should keep going – right to the end of our lives in the knowledge that God doesn’t work to our timescales, but he does keep his promises . We must trust, as Simeon did, even if the promise of God takes longer than we would like. Simeon and Anna were still testifying to those around them that this was indeed the Messiah – still both willing to tell the truth about their faith out loud, however old. Still being used by God whatever their age.
I think of all the things I read on Simeon and Anna this sums it up best:
If nothing else, the story of Simeon and Anna challenges us about what ministry – our work for God – is and who can do it. We see in Simeon and Anna the fulfilment of the life work of two devout people of faith. The Christmas stories are all about the spiritual awakening and the recognition of God become incarnate as a human being. Young and old are singing God’s praise. A young woman- Mary- sings that her soul magnifies the Lord, for God has done great things for her, even as she faces stigma and fear. Angels sing Glory to God in the highest and good will to all on earth. Burly shepherds respond. Its easy for us to think we are too young – as in Mary’s case — or too old — as in Simeon and Anna’s case — or the wrong sorts of people — as in the shepherds’ case.
The point is that God can use any one and everyone who is willing – God will pour out his spirit through anyone who is open to him. Our challenge is to be open to what he has for us as Anna and Simeon were – no matter who we are.
Prayers of Intercession
Spend some time in prayer with your family group or on your own and prayer for whatever and whoever is on your heart.
In response to reaching the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, the Archbishops invite all to call on God in Prayer. Starting on 1 February we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love. For more information please visit Prayer for the nation | The Church of England (https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/prayer-nation)
Today we pray together this prayer from the Archbishops for all who are touched by the pandemic :
as we remember before you the thousands
who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
End your time of prayer with…
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
So as we come to the end of our time together today we thank God for the example of Simeon and Anna and we say together the words of Simeon in the modern version of the Nunc Dimittus – The Song of Simeon:
Now, Lord, you let your servants go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”