Sermon – 7th February 2021

Sermons index

Second Sunday before Lent – Candlemas

Sunday 7th February 2021

As public worship has again been suspended because of the pandemic the service was recorded and made available online. That can be found here.

Celebrating Candlemas
Luke 2. 22-35

Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs

Maureen Hoobs

Before the reading from Luke

Reading from the words of Desmond Tutu – Former Archbishop of Cape Town

“Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all of the darkness.
You see it wonderfully when you fly, and the sky is overcast. Sometimes you forget that, just beyond the clouds, the sun is shining.”

When do we stop worrying about our children? It doesn’t matter how old they are, they still remain your child, your baby, and parents will always feel deeply the problems and anxieties of their offspring. When this passage was recorded, Desmond Tutu was being interviewed in the New York Times and had been asked about his son who is an alcoholic and had been arrested and imprisoned for an attempted bombing. He replied with the words we have just heard: words of hope not just for his own son, but for all caught up in violence, addiction – even those affected by the pandemic or any kind of brooding darkness. When the world seems overwhelmingly dark, can we still hope in the light? Desmond Tutu’s words can give us all hope.

Similarly, the wonderfully inspiring words of the young poet, Amanda Gorman, at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President respectively….
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it….

Being hopeful in a time of darkness and despair is our calling as Christians – not out of some mis-placed pollyannerism; a naieve optimism founded on wishful thinking, but the hope in which we share – our resurrection life!

In a moment we will hear the story of Jesus being taken to the Temple as a tiny baby and being greeted there by two old people who had plenty to be pessimistic and depressed about… But at the sight of the young child with his parents, Simeon and Anna were filled with hope; with faith in the saving purposes of God.

After the reading from Luke

I imagine that Mary and Joseph must have been quite overwhelmed and astonished at attracting all this attention. They were coming – as every couple would have done – to present their new-born, first-born son at the Temple in Jerusalem as the Law told them they must. A tradition dating back to the time of Moses when the first-born of all the Egyptians were struck down by God’s Angel of Death passing over the households. Only the Hebrew homes were spared in the visitation of a variety of plagues that finally persuaded the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews depart from his territory and try to establish their own homeland in Canaan. Ever since Jewish families had offered their first sons to God and ‘redeemed’ them through the sacrifice of a lamb, or two doves or pigeons.

And coming on top of their journey from Nazareth, the difficulty in finding somewhere for Mary to give birth, the visitation of the shepherds etc., – they must have been in something of a daze. Yet somehow it had all been held in the hope of God’s promise that this would be no ordinary child.

For Simeon, a lifetime of faithful hoping and waiting was suddenly fulfilled in this unlikely little family, as he recognized the child who would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles”.

Facing the darkness and yet still daring to affirm the light, is something we are all called to do – and maybe never more so than in this difficult year. It is so easy to get overwhelmed watching the news – seeing the figures of those infected with the virus, the numbers of those admitted to hospital, the totals of those who have lost their lives… And there are all the usual difficulties we face on top of this of course. Family and relationship worries, work issues, money and debt challenges, other sorts of illness or disability… it can all crowd in on us.

The temptation is to look away, to close our eyes, – even for some to deny the reality of what is all around, but it helps us if we name and face the darkness. And it can be hard sometimes, to see any glimmer of light, any glimpse of hope in the darkness – but we are called to keep looking…

So here are some questions for you to ponder…

What is the darkness I am facing today, in my personal life and the life of the world?

Where can I see glimmers of light and hope?