Simeon and the light

Thoughts at Candlemas

A few moments ago I asked people on Twitter to tell me what Candlemas was all about, since it does not feature in the calendar of my particular church. A few directed me to standard definitions of it online, but then some started to talk about how it feels and what it celebrates for them:

  • Christ the light, the last gasp of Christmas, eyes turn forward to the coming lent and lightened days!
  • Pivot between celebrating God entering the world in Jesus (Christmas) and suffering & catching us up in resurrection power (Easter)
  • A celebration of the light of Christ – revelation of Christ to all people, including the outsiders…
  • For me, heart of it is in Simeon’s words especially in Nunc Dimittis

It is that last definition which sent me back to this segment of a narrative sermon I wrote on Simeon’s encounter with Christ many years ago. The full text can be read here)  Hope you find it helpful…

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Sometimes he wore it like a crown on his head – badge of office, attracting envy and admiration wherever he went.  Other times, it was more like a heavy scarf – cumbersome, but reassuring about his old neck.  Other times still, it was like a restless caged bird – fluttering and battering itself on the paper-thin walls of his heart.  But it was always there.  They lived together, these two.  

Every day, the two of them would make their way to the temple.  In days gone by, he had gone with head held high to play his part.  Nowadays there were younger, leaner men to take his place, and he preferred to watch.  As many blazing summers had come and gone, so he had grown to know this place like the lines on his leathery hand.  He knew every cracked flagstone and every scarred brick.  He knew where the shadows fell on their daily march around the courtyards.  He knew where the poorest would gather to watch without being seen.  And where the rich would strut, preening their robes like peacocks for all to see.  He knew where the smells of the bazaar would tumble over the temple walls like uninvited guests.  And where the waft of incense would tug the soul to higher things.  

These days he liked to sit, rather than walk, in this hallowed place, and nurse the word in his heart.  It had grown stronger of late, like a bell on a buoy at sea, clanging insistent in the distance.  Today it was almost deafening.  He could hardly hear a thing above its din by the time they arrived.  Their eyes were furtive, this young couple, darting everywhere and clutching the baby’s helpless bundle tight, as if the whole world depended on it.  Feeling his very head would burst with the noise, he took the child from them and shouted above the clanging word: “This is the child”. 

And then, in harmony now with the bell’s note, he spoke of promises fulfilled and eyes opened, of light shed from heaven and a sword to pierce the heart of the young woman who stood before him.  Smiling at her, the light dancing in his watery eyes, he returned the child.  

It was over now, the waiting done.  Simeon returned to the house of his birth.  Returned to the arms of his Maker.  And the word, set free from his heart, flew to other hearts and made its home.

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