2009-02-01 Kelvin Holdsworth

Here is the sermon from this morning. (Note that I've been having technical problems for the last week or two and getting the sermons off one of the two video cameras has not been succesful).

I want, this morning, simply to say a couple of things about the feast day which we are celebrating this morning. Specifically, I want to talk about Simeon and Anna whom we heard of in the gospel reading.

They are heroes of faith. Significantly, they are elders in the temple. And we celebrate today their recognition of Jesus Christ.
I’m very pleased that I work in a congregation which contains within it a wonderful balance of younger and older people. But perhaps I must define those terms.

Firstly – young people. Someone once asked me what age I meant when I was referring to young people. The answer is obvious. It means anyone younger than me. And always will.

Similarly with older people. The term older people means anyone 20 years older than me. And always will.

As for me, I feel that I must now by definition have reached something called midlife. And will never be middle aged.

But let us turn to the gospel reading and think about it. Its important. This feast we keep (anticipating by one day) marks the turning point in the Church Year when our eyes turn away from Christmas and begin to look towards the events of Holy Week. We meet today forty days, after Christmas Day. We have heard the message of the angels. We ran with the shepherd to the manger. We worshipped with the kings. We remembered his baptism. We have heard the voice from heaven saying “This is my beloved son”. But today we get something different and distinctive. A gospel reading which is at once homely and of global, even cosmic significance.

I think that is one of the reasons that I like this feast. It is that combination of the ordinary and the cosmic.

The simple ordinariness of the family making their way to the Temple to make the sacrifice after the birth of their first born.

The simple ordinariness of them being greeted by Simeon and Anna – the Welcomers in the Temple.

The simple ordinariness of a child being taken and cradled and blessed in a holy place.

These are things we see. These are things that still happen in very similar form.

Yet this child. This child who was brought to the Temple in whom Divinity and Humanity mingled as in no other. This child was someone special. Someone with great, even cosmic significance.
And what we hear in the gospel is tinged with that cosmic significance.

Here is a child who will change the way things are for ever.
Here is a child whose significance reaches way beyond his own people out, out into the whole world.
Here is a child who will bring light into the world and glory to Israel.

It is that blessing of light which we celebrate today. No doubt people have lit lamps and candles at this time of year to drive away darkness since time began. And we do the same today, sharing in the song that Simeon sang. Sharing in the news that that a Saviour. A saviour of the whole world has come at last.

When we light up candles in procession today (and they will be lit up throughout the world), we make a proclamation. We proclaim that the glow of faith shines on here and everywhere. We proclaim faith in a God who has come to save and brighten up the world. A world which still reflects his glory day by day.

Every year when I read the story of the Presentation in the Temple, I find myself thinking a lot about Simeon and Anna. Older folk in the Temple who were watching and waiting and hoping for the Lord.

Simeon and Anna. They are familiar to me. Simeon and Anna. I have never known a living church proclaiming the gospel in which there were not Simeons and Annas still. Almost every church community has been built up and maintained by those who have lived their faith through the generations by quiet acts of service that so often go unseen. Simeon and Anna are well known to me. They live lives of faith day by day, week by week and year by year.

Simeon and Anna live on in many churches. They are active in this cathedral church. And today, on this Festival day I salute them.
The thing that I love most about Simeon and Anna in this story is that even late in life they were open to the idea that God might do something new. Not only did they keep saying their prayers, but they kept their eyes open too. A familiarity with God meant that they recognised God in Christ long before other people did. They were open to this God who surprises us. And goes on surprising us right to the end of our days.

They were not the only ones to be surprised, of course. The message that Simeon gave these parents, Mary and Joseph as they brought their beloved son for a blessing could hardly have been what they were hoping for.
Mary had to face the news that her own soul would be pierced by who her Son was and what he yet had to do. I can never read that line without a shiver going up and down my spine. Mary probably felt that she had had enough surprises over the birth of this precious baby – yet Simeon suggests that there is more to come.

As we read of that young mother, can our hearts not go out with her.
Do we not stand in the Temple with her today. Do we understand the mingling of joy and pain – of incarnation and passion that must be written on her heart.
There has been a birth.
There will be tragedy.

The Lord is here. His spirit is with us.
We live in a world of pain and trial.
The God of universe is a wee baby boy.
The Lord of life will be taken and handed over to be dealt with as a common prisoner.
Both written on Mary’s heart and probably written on her face too.
Yet, we jump ahead. There will be time enough in a few weeks to think about what will happen in Jerusalem in the last days of the child’s life.

For now, let us allow them to make their way from the Temple. Return, eventually to Nazareth. For the child will grow. Will become
strong. He will be filled with wisdom.

And the favour of the Lord is upon him.



  1. When you were reading the Gospel I was half expecting you to burst into song and sing the Nunc Dimmitus. Did you notice that Frikki played a setting of the Nunc as you were led to the pulpit.

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