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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


2nd February 2003

Fr David Shepherd

Candlemass

February

Splish splosh, February-fill-the-dike,
Sleet in the wind, mud underfoot.
What hint, you ask, of spring? But trust
The honest mistle-thrush, who shouts his song
And builds his nest - a less accomplished singer
Than is the clear-voiced mavis, but he is brave and true.

And trust the aconite and crocus, bright
As wicks of thread which now are lighted up
For ceremonials of Candlemas.

John Heath-Stubbs

Last year we took part in the RSPB garden bird watch weekend. For an hour we were all invited to count the no's of each type of bird landed in the garden. We duly did our bit - not an altogether easy task as the birds seemed to hide from the heavy rain, no doubt in part out of fear of two noisy children. Then there was the problem of identification by inexpert eyes.

True naturalists require a great deal of patience, good powers of observation and a wealth of knowledge. They can read the signs in nature of changing seasons and climate as that poems describes. On a wintry February day there are signs of spring.

There are signs too in Church. The aconite and crocus may tell of spring but they also remind the poet of Candlemas.

'bright as wicks of thread which are now lighted up for ceremonials of Candlemas.'

Candlemas falls at he end of winter, at a turning point in the year. But it also marks a turning point in the Church's Year. It is the traditional end of Christmas. We take a last look at the crib. We read the final part of Luke's infancy narrative, the story of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple. And because of Simeon's prophecy about Jesus' future destiny we begin to look forward to the coming season of Lent, to the Passion of Our Lord.

Candles are blest, lighted, carried in procession, taken home, because Simeon spoke of 'the light to lighten the gentiles', in the canticle which we know as the Nunc Dimittis.

Candlemas reminds us that Christians are to be spiritual naturalists, people who look, listen, hear, who know their Bible's, who pray and know the Lord.

Here then are a few spiritual nature notes to help us in this task.

The Presentation.

Mary & Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord in the Temple, hence the proper name of the Feast. This reminds us that all we are and have ultimately comes from God as sheer grace, as his gift to us. We in return present all we are and have to him as a sign of our thankfulness, a principle that informs Christian stewardship.

'And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee.'

The forward looking prayer of watching & waiting

Both Simeon and Anna were very old. They had spent a lifetime in and around the temple in prayer and worship. They believed they would live to see the fulfilment of Israel's hope in their lifetime. Their faithful prayer of watching and waiting was rewarded when they recognised that fulfilment in the baby Jesus - 'mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'

We are given a model for our prayer and are reminder that we should not underestimate the effectiveness of the prayer of the elderly housebound that keeps the Church going.

Light

Lights were once valuable and precious. In candle form they brought glory into a room and when carried around dispelled the darkness from hidden recesses. In Church they remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. We see his glory and his light scatters the darkness in our world and in ourselves.

Amazement

Mary & Joseph 'were amazed at what was being said about Jesus', a bittersweet message of salvation and sorrow, of a piercing sword.

Amazement should be the mark of the Christian. There is always more to discover about God - ' love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.'

So there we have it, the presentation of ourselves to God, the forward-looking prayer of waiting and watching, light and amazement.

Let us pray.

Lord God, you kept faith with Simeon and Anna and showed them the infant King; give us grace to put all our trust in your promises, and the patience to wait a lifetime for their fulfilment; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

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Last updated 16/01/2003 09:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd