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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon

1st February 2004

Fr David Shepherd

Candlemas 2004

Space travel is back in the news, even if it doesn't capture the headlines as it did in the 1960's, when we all eagerly awaited those first steps on the moon.
This time it is Mars and the disappearing signals from un-manned craft. Are the Martians to blame, some have wondered?

If space continues to capture our imagination it also true that we can see far less of the stars than once we could. Light pollution is to blame. The stars have faded from view in our lit up cities. You can't see much here in Watford and even if you go into the country the orange glow from built up areas can still be seen in the night sky.

Not so long ago it was very different. The writer and countryman Ronald Blythe recalls watching the light move from room to room, through the nearby farmhouses as his neighbours went to bed by candlelight, the last generation to do so. Theirs were the only lights to be seen in the dark of a Suffolk night. Echoes of Newman's hymn, 'Lead kindly light.'

Candlemas is the feast of light shining in the darkness. It got its name in the middle ages because on that day all the candles required for the services in the coming year were blessed in the mass, hence 'Candlemas'. It was also the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple with is Gospel recollection of Simeon's hymn the Nunc Dimittis and the 'light to lighten the gentiles'. It came at a turning point in the Calendar, marking the end of Christmas with a last looking back at the infant Christ and a looking forward to the passion of Christ. Simeon, remember, foretold that Mary's heart was to be pierced by a sword of sorrow.

Simeon in seeing the 'light to lighten the gentiles' saw God's salvation. After years of prayerful waiting upon the lord in the Temple in the belief that he would see the Messiah, Simeon saw what he was looking for. In the crowded, gloomy temple, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Simeon recognised that the infant in the arms of Mary his mother was the Christ.

How can we see salvation, what does it mean? Here are a few ideas.

The candle flames of Candlemas remind of us of Jesus who is the light of the world. As we pray with Simeon and Anna we see the salvation that is Christ's gift to his Church. As we allow his light to illuminate the darkness of the world so we become open to the possibility of a new start through his loving forgiveness. By God's grace Christian people are lit up. Through them the light of Christ continues to shine.


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Last updated 25/01/04 09:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd