|Published by David Penny on Thu, 6 Feb 2020 00:00|
Presentation of Christ
Today we celebrate the feast of Candlemas, or The Presentation of Christ in the temple. This yearly remembrance 40 days after we celebrate the birth of Christ has two main themes - Prayer and Shining as lights in the world - the liturgy at the end of the service today deals with shining as lights in the world, so the sermon will focus on prayer
The two people at the heart of the story are Simeon and Anna. Two faithful people who waited patiently for the Messiah to come into the world and be made known.
As the wise men were in a sense representative of all Gentiles, so Simeon and Anna are representative of the faithful remnant of Israel, watching and waiting with Godly living and hopeful hearts. God nudges them to be there in the Temple, at exactly the right time to witness God’s Son being presented according to the rights prescribed in the law.
Jesus didn’t have a big label tied to his swaddling clothes saying “I’m the messiah!” He was just another baby being brought to the temple just like countless others were during the year. Joseph and Mary didn’t wave flags or make a big fuss or shout “Hey everyone, look! here’s the baby you’ve all been waiting for, it’s the Messiah.” From the outside he looked just like any other baby, and Mary and Joseph looked like any ordinary parents, rather poor (Mary could not afford a Lamb and a dove, and brought rather 2 doves or pigeons); and they must have looked rather dusty after their five-mile journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. So how did Simeon and Anna know that this baby was the one they had been waiting all that time for?
Simeon, having been told that he would not die before seeing the Messiah in person, had been a person of prayer all his life, and Anna too, was a person of prayer – having spent most of her 84 years continually in the temple in prayer, and worship of God. In their life of prayer we are able to see why they were able to see that this baby brought to the temple, just like countless other, was anything but ordinary. Their patient prayer allowed them to be so in tune with God that they could hear the promptings of God’s spirit to see that Jesus was the Messiah. For Simeon there was also a vision of the future; the future that would see Jesus crucified, and that in Jesus many would be able to see the signs of redemption. “This child”, he said to Mary, “is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Mary must have wonder what that meant at the time, and she must have looked back after the death and resurrection of Jesus to understand the words of prophetic wisdom that had been spoken.
The other day I was at Crompton House with a year 11 group going through the topics they’d covered in RS - Prayer was one of the topics they wanted me to cover.
Last thing on a Friday - not the best slot to get, but most were engaged.
Talking about how much time they spend on their phones talking to their friends - even though they’d seen each other all day.
In order for relationships to grow we spend a huge amount of time telling people what’s been going on in our life; we keep in touch via Instagram, snapchat, facebook, twitter, txt’s, and for those of us who prefer other, more traditional ways, through telephone, face to face meeting and letters. However we communicate with one another we do so to maintain the relationship, to tell others what has been happening, to hear what has been happening for them.
The last thing I was expecting was my conversation with the young people to end up on twitter - one girl tweeted that she’d heard something really helpful about prayer, and how prayer is like social media with God.
However we approach prayer it is the key to entering a deeper relationship with God through. Of course even when we can’t find the words to pray the Lord’s Prayer is a good cover all prayer, or template for our prayers. One of the most challenging parts to the prayer is: “your Kingdom Come, Your will be done.” To pray in this way means that we want to be in tune with God’s will, to not only to pray about the things or people that are on our hearts and minds, but also to allow God to speak to us so that our prayers are in tune with God. At the heart of prayer is our relationship with God; a relationship that has grown and developed over time; much like a relationship with a friend or partner does.
When we spend a lot of time with another person we get to know how they think, and we understand them better. If we spend time more time with God, our relationship with him deepens, and it is easier to discern his will, to see his blessing, and to follow where he leads.
I think that one of the gifts of God to us as we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Christ is the example of Simeon and Anna. They have the patience and faithfulness to be spiritually alert to the promptings of the Spirit; May we have the same patience and faithfulness to be spiritually alert, that we might grow in our love and worship of God through an ever-deepening prayer life.
As we patiently allow our prayer life to grow, I wonder what God will reveal to us?