Light in the darkness – a sermon for Candlemas All Age Eucharist

A light to reveal God to the nations: that’s what Simeon saw when he looked down into the face of the tiny child Jesus, one of hundreds brought to the temple. What an amazing moment that must have been. A light which would reveal God’s presence, which would show up the human capacity for sin, but which would show too God’s infinite power to redeem us by unimaginable love. All this, Simeon glimpsed in a moment, in the face of a baby.

At Ark we start our worship each week by lighting a candle. I’ve brought it with me today [child to hold candle] and as I light it I ask: why do we light a candle? [ask children for answers]

There are many reasons to light candles when we gather to worship together, at Ark or in church, or anywhere else. One of them is to remind us that Jesus, as Simeon recognises, is the light of the world. The small flame of a candle reminds us of the great light of God’s love for us, made incarnate in Christ.

That focus on light as a symbol for Jesus is why this day in the church calendar, when we remember the presentation of Christ in the temple, is also called Candlemas.

Candlemas is also a turning point in the church year, when we leave behind the season of Epiphany, with its reminders of Christmas, and begin looking forward towards Lent and Easter. There is a quote displayed in the Quiet Garden at the moment: “The candles invite us to praise and to pray / When Christmas greets Easter on Candlemas day.”

And so even as we celebrate the light of Christ in the world, we start to look ahead to the darkness of Lent, Good Friday and the cross. Even as Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he foresaw that his way would be difficult and painful. But the candles we light remind us that darkness does not triumph – the light cannot be put out.

The light is not only in Jesus, it is in us too. [children take candles, which are lit from main candle] See how much light there is now. The light is getting bigger, spreading out. All this light comes from one light, and the one light does not get any smaller. I wonder how so much light can come from one tiny light.

The light is not just in Jesus, but in all of us. Even when we blow our candles out, the light is still within us. The candle we receive at baptism is a reminder of the light of Christ, in which we all share.

We are all called to carry the light of Christ out into the world with us – as the baptism liturgy says, to “shine as a light in the world to the glory of God”. Sometimes that means telling people about what Jesus has done for us. Sometimes it means serving others as we would serve Christ. And sometimes it means just being there, holding the Christ-light for others so that they know they are not alone in the dark.

Sometimes it feels like that isn’t enough. Sometimes the light we bear seems like the tiniest tealight in a pitch-dark football stadium. It must have seemed like that to Jesus’ friends after his death, but in the end a new light dawned, the glorious light of the resurrection, and they could see that the light had never really been put out at all.

So wherever we go and whatever we do, let us try to be aware of the light of Christ which we carry with us. Let us look for ways to show others the love of God which enlightens us. However dark the darkness seems, the light still shines. The sun will rise. The son is risen. Alleluia. Amen.

Laying on of hands

My hands,
Marked and scarred,
Strong and slim,
Bear my life’s experience.

Hands which have held the hands of the dying,
Lifted a child to see into the coffin of a classmate,
Stroked the shaking shoulders of the distraught,
And clung desperately to my beloved.

Hands which have made and played,
Written, created and woven,
Hands which weave patterns in the air,
In counterpoint to the story I speak.

Hands too which have lashed out,
Snatched or slapped in childish anger,
Typed unwise emails in haste,
Posted words which should never have been written,
Waved away what should have been important,
Formed signs which were not signs of God.

All this I hold in my hands,
The loving and the hateful,
The extraordinary and the everyday,
All this I bring to this moment.

But this touch,
This wordless prayer,
Stands alone in eternity,
Unfettered by past or future,
A pausing place, making space
For the almost imperceptible hand of God.