Candlemass and Snowdrops.

Sermon prepared for zoom – 31st January 2021.. Luke 2-25,35

Today the church celebrates the feast of the presentation of Christ; this day is also known as Candlemass day. It was the day of the year when all the candles that were used the coming year were brought into the church, and a blessing was said over them – it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.

I thought I would start by sharing with you this wonderful picture of snowdrops in the snow.

Snowdrops were often called Candlemas Lilies or Candlemas Bells in days gone by.  The snowdrop’s flower looks delicate and fragile, yet it has the strength to stand the coldness of winter and push its way through the cold frosty ground to flower.

 In the harshness of winter, these flowers bob in the wind, as if they were flickering candles. And close up, the white of the petal is entirely unblemished except for touches of green.  Green being the colour of life.

The snowdrop is dependable; We know they flower from mid-January into February, even their name Candlemas lilies tell us this. 

One of the things I find most challenging at the moment is the inability to plan. Things we once thought would always be dependable, change shape and form, often reappearing in a virtual way.  Even preparing this sermon, there was a moment of wondering if we would be in the church building or on zoom. It’s frustrating; it is almost as if everything I am doing and planning is done in the darkness of the unknown.  As if I am holding a small candle that will only light up a small area around it, just enough to take the next step forward, but most of the time, the next step is still unknown, waiting for the light to reach into the darkness.

I remember when I first visited trinity college for their open day to study there the following year. I was barraged with questions, most of which I couldn’t answer:

“Why do you want to study at trinity?”

“what course will you be studying.?

“ will you study full time?”

And

“ would you like a cup of coffee?”

That one I could answer, but most of them I couldn’t actually answer, most of the questions asked left me in tears, the words just could not or would not form.  All I knew was as I was here for a reason, and that was more than enough to cope with. It was as if I had been gifted extreme short-sightedness. What I felt became more important to what I saw. So there I was full of thoughts, no words and lots of tears… not a great first impression. 

I don’t know about you, but this feeling can create a feeling of vulnerability for me. It’s uncomfortable, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from living my life with  Jesus, it’s that when life gets uncomfortable,  that’s when I need to start paying attention,  that’s when God speaks loudest.

Today we celebrate the presentation of Christ, this took place 40 days after Christmas, when Jesus, the Light of the world, was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem by his parents to fulfil the required ceremonies of the law.

We can see this story depicted in the window of St Peters Church.  I would like to journey with you through todays gospel reading.

Try to Imagine Mary with Joseph at her side, working their way through the crowded temple, in Mary’s arms; she carries her new-born son. Mary was doing what every Jewish mother had been commanded to do by Jewish Law after her male child’s birth. Two overjoyed elders greet them, Anna and Simian, who immediately recognize that this six-week-old baby, is the salvation they have been waiting for.

I am always amazed that Simian and Anna recognised Jesus. Over their many years of hopeful waiting, hundreds of babies would have come to the Temple for these ceremonies.

So how did Simeon and Anna know that Mary’s baby was the promised Messiah?

Like us, Anna and Simeon lived in complex and worrying and yet hopeful times, with reasons to be fearful and faithful. Both were looking for salvation, trusting that even in the midst of being occupied by the Roman empire, God was still faithful to God’s promises. They were living in the kingdom of Caesar, seeing its impacts and the suffering around them, and yet they remained deeply faithful.

Simeon had heard messages from the Holy Spirit, and Anna was given to prophetic speech as well as fasting and ceaseless prayer. And they kept their eyes open, trusting that God would transform the world and bring about the justice that was so profoundly needed.

Our gospel for today told that Christ has come so that our inner thoughts will be revealed. With the birth of Christ, God began a new movement in the world. A movement of getting what’s in here out there.  Of breaking down the wall between inside and outside.  It is a movement where it is ok to show our vulnerability and share our tears, hopes and dreams with those that we find around us.

The words of Simeon and Anna’s witness revealed that Jesus has come to reveal what is hidden.

All that we try and keep separate even down to the very inner thoughts hidden deep within us. God comes to us in the midst of our brokenness in our faithfulness and vulnerability.  

It is this faithfulness that brings us together, and it’s that faithfulness that led Simeon and Anna to be in the Temple at the very same time that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus arrive.  Simeon is drawn there by the Holy Spirit’s prompting, so he’s there at just the right time. It is Simeon who recognizes the child first, and he is so excited he breaks into a prayer of thanksgiving,

His pray overturns all the values that have guided their lives and the people around them up to this point.  Simeon holds in his arms the peace and grace of God’s  Salvation.  A fulfilment of Malachi’s prophecy, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.

Simeon tells us that salvation has come to all, to everyone. he says that Jesus is the one who will reveal our hidden thoughts because Jesus is the one who gives us the strength to share what’s in here with everyone else out there, that we are not alone that we no longer have to hide.

On this holy day, this day of Candlemas, perhaps reflect on the candles in your life. The times that they burn brightly and the times in which they have flickered. Ask God to give you the courage and faith to risk taking the next step and following Jesus on the way that leads to life. And when you next see a cluster of snowdrops, maybe spend a few moments to reflect on how they can be seen as a symbol of hope in the darkness of winter.

 Hope in the wonderful love and faithfulness of the Lord while you trust that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 Let us be glad and full of hope, like Simeon and Anna.

Sermon prepared for zoom – 31st January 2021.. Luke 2-25,35

My first sermon.

Be Generous, Be Patient, Pray, Listen

If you’re wealthy be generous. If you’re worried be patient. If you have some possessions share them with others. If you have problems, give them to Jesus.

Our lives are full of noise yet we often fail to listen. We learn to stop listening, we become consumed in the noise of the modern world. We have to many options, to many choices.
Our lives are so full of noise we often forget  we can hear in the silence.

I’m not saying noice is bad far from it. We all have a favourite piece of music that we enjoy listening to. But what gives you that buzz of excitement every time you hear it?
Connects with your emotions deep enough to stop what you are doing and to just listen.

For me I find that  buzz of excitement in the silent darkness just before dawn.
Siting outside in the garden or woodland waiting listening for the moment the first bird sings.
It’s that explosion of airborne joy. You can hear the Robin, Blackbird and sparrow so clearly. Yet they remain invisible in the twilight of the morning.
The first time I did this it was my 16th birthday . I remember being amazed by the energy of the bird song. The teenage me just heard birdsong.
The difference is today when I get up early and sit quietly in the darkened woods. I listen to  God. Its one of the few times and places I can be really still. Stillness in the presence of our Lord. Stillness in the anticipation of a new day that’s about to dawn.

God speaks out of the silence. It’s not just silence. Its a stillness full of positive energy and life. A sacred space where I can just be. A space that God speaks his word.
It’s as if everything is on hold in this silent place the atmosphere is charged: than the first bird sings. This little oasis of creation speaks and rejoices in the new day.
Imagine if we equally rejoiced in the new day shouted it out “We are loved”
Our voices also beautifully in tune with creation. Our message being heard above the chatter of our busy lives around us.

Listening to the reading today James is asking us to be Generous, to be patient and to pray.
He’s not asking us to be generous with our money, he’s asking us to be generous  with our hearts. Giving a homeless person a pound as you walk past is easy.
Stopping and spending time with them is generously that comes from Christ . It’s being with this person valuing them . A person like us, loved by God.
It costs nothing to stop and listen with our hearts .

When we stop to listen we must do just that – STOP.  We can’t solve all their  problems  but what we can do  may go a lot deeper than mere problem solving we  can  come alongside the  person in their  difficulties.
This involves listening to the story they have to tell, hearing their complaints, their fears or sorrows. It means empathising, feeling what they feel, and joining them in opening the Bible to seek hope and strength.

James asks us to go out to the people that have wandered away from God.
He asks us not to write them off, “but to bring them back.”
How do we do this ?
It’s a big question and one that’s constantly  being asked .
How do we Bring back those who have wandered away from God. The size of the question does not excuse us from taking any action. We know that we can’t involve ourselves in every problem, every situation in which there is need; but we can do something.
Maybe that something is to take an interest in one person or one family or one cause.
To give our time.
To share our resources. Simplify our own lives .
To pray for those in need of our help.
To bring them into the silent spaces that God holds open for all of us.
To live in the now.
For each moment holds the greatest possibles of the future.
In that moment.
listen to the voice of love.
That whispers your name.
It is the voice of the one who is love calling you.
To go and tell what you have seen and heard.

James 5

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