Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
CANDLEMASS SUNDAY 31 JANUARY 2021
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
Hail, to the Lord who comes,
Comes to his temple gate!
Not with his angel host,
Nor in his kingly state;
No shouts proclaim him nigh,
No crowds his coming wait.
But borne upon the throne
Of Mary's gentle breast,
Watched by her duteous love,
In her fond arms at rest;
Thus to his Father's house
He comes, the heavenly guest.
Almighty and ever-living God, clothed in majesty, whose beloved Son was presented in the Temple, in substance of our flesh: grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hebrews2:14-end, Luke 2:22-40.
As Mary and Joseph made their offering so may all Christian people offer their prayer and praise for the gift of Jesus Christ.
As Jesus found shelter in an earthly home in Nazareth, may his presence bless our homes and all the families in our community.
Be with the old and grant them still the bright vision of God's love.
May the sick receive healing and comfort and the sight of salvation. We pray especially for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
We pray for those who have departed in peace from this world. May the light of heaven shine upon them.
The Light of Christ
Simeon was an old man, “righteous and devout”. He had lived a life of observance and devotion. He had waited patiently for the coming of the Messiah. Throughout his life he had been “looking for the consolation of Israel”. He was not exceptional, there were many like him. Conscious of the sin of the world, he looked to the coming of the Messiah to renew the Covenant with God. For some reason, we do not know what it was, he was marked out by God to receive a special and particular privilege. He was privileged to hold the Christ-child in his arms and to recognise in that little child the consummation of his deepest hopes and longings; to see in that little child “a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel”. Into a world, conscious of sin yet impotent for repentance, there shone a light of purity. He was also aware that salvation would not be achieved without price, a price of suffering.
The light of Christ dispels the darkness of a hostile and cynical world, and it dispels the treacherous shadows of our own illusions. We too often misunderstand the ultimate security of the love of God for us by thinking that it is something which promises us immediate safety against all risks and dangers, immediate protection and solace: that our faith is like some magic wand that God will wave to make all things well. That is an illusion born of our imperfect humanity. We are part of the world and subject to its stresses and strains. We will be hurt and wounded by its perplexities; we will be anxious and uncertain; we will make the wrong choices; we will suffer loss; we will run earthly risks. We would not be fully human if we did not do so.
Freedom to choose is the essential basis of the moral life that we seek to lead. What matters is choosing right but this involves knowing what is right about the human condition. Freedom of choice cannot exist in a vacuum; it is not an end in itself. Moral choices do not depend upon personal preference and private decision but on right reason and divine order. Our freedom to choose brings with it duties both personal and social. Yet we are flawed. We can imagine moral splendour, but we cannot achieve it.
We can only live our lives fully and completely in the light of Christ. Jesus always spoke of humanity as in need of radical change. Our need is to submit to the sovereignty of God, to embrace that radical reorientation. Eternal splendour flickers, however dimly, in the life of everyone. We know that the road to human fulfilment is in following the endlessly merciful way of Christ. We set out in faith and trust on a journey to perfection at the heart of which is love. But we know that all journeys are perilous, that life can deal us a poor hand, that there will be set backs and failure on the way. Before we set out on that journey, we have to recognise that our humanity only makes sense in the context of the divine, when we are one with Christ. Simeon’s words must be our own, “mine eyes have seen thy salvation”. In the child whom Simeon held in his arms was the sacred gift of life. We must recognise all that implies and promises of suffering and of pain. The child who lay in Simeon’s arms became the man who lay bleeding and dead in his mother’s tender embrace.
Like Simeon, we too are highly privileged. We will encounter the Holy Child and know that he is our salvation. We will hold, under sacramental signs, the Body broken and know that he died for us. Here, we will look upon Our Saviour present with us under sacramental signs and know that he is faithful, that his faithfulness lasts for ever, even until the end of time. Like Simeon, we will behold his glory.
Christ Church, Hampstead 2021