A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, on The Presentation of our Lord & Candlemas, February 2, 2020
My kids grew up in a tight group of neighborhood friends who were all about the same age. Now they’re all in their late 20’s, early 30’s. The girl who grew up across the street from us just had the first baby of the group. She lives in Denver, and when we were in Colorado a couple of weeks ago, we got together to meet their new son, Finn. Finn was a month old, very tiny, and in just a few minutes he wrapped us of us in the Foote family around his tiny little finger.
One thing I noticed that day was: when baby Finn came into the room, he rearranged the generations. Suddenly, our kids were no longer the kids. Finn was now the child, the 25-30 year olds were the adults, and Hale and I became…elders!
It made me remember how babies are change agents. They’re change agents in their families and their communities; the world is always being renewed because human life is continually being renewed with new little humans like Finn.
One of the mysteries of the Christian faith known as the Incarnation, is that God became one of us by being born as a baby into the human family.
In our gospel passage today we see the baby Jesus already making waves in the world. Mary and Joseph take him to be presented in the Temple. It was probably a perfunctory thing to do—buy your turtledoves and move on—but that day it turns out differently.
Simeon, an aged holy man, was guided by the Holy Spirit to come to the temple that day to meet the baby Jesus. He recognized the baby Jesus and took him into his arms. Simeon blessed the holy family and spoke to Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed –and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Then Anna, a female prophet of great age, came up to them. “and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Today on the Presentation of our Lord, we witness an Epiphany. Simeon and Anna recognize the Christ child for who he is, the Christ child who is destined to reveal truth, and God’s love in the world.
Whenever people encountered Jesus, they recognized him, and truth was revealed. We see this over and over in the Gospels. Last week we saw Jesus meet four fishermen, ordinary people, whom, like Simeon, recognized Jesus’ truth and power and they immediately follow Jesus.
Jesus emerges in the midst of Judaism of his time, and he comes to change the wider world by revealing truth, and love. He is a great teacher, and he is something more. He embodies the holy, as an infant, a youth, a man who gave his life for the love of all. As Christians, we believe that Christ lives in each one of us, the mystical body of God.
Here at All Saints’, we’ve been blessed to have two baptisms recently. At the end of the baptismal liturgy we give each person a baptismal candle and say, “Receive the light of Christ.”
Today with our tradition of Candlemas, we celebrate the light of Christ coming into the world, by blessing candles and holding them aloft during our procession. These candles remind us of our baptism, and of the light of Christ that we hold within us. Please take them home with you as a reminder of the light that you carry into the world.
The tradition of Candlemas began in medieval times, when candles were the only source of light, especially in the dark days of winter. Medieval symbolism saw in the Candle wax, wick and flame an analogy to Christ’s body, soul, and divinity.
February 2 is 40 days after Christmas and the winter solstice. Candlemas was the final feast of the Christmas season. By February 2, nature was stirring. It was the day bears were supposed to come out of hibernation. And by February 2, we recognize, like our ancestors, that the sun is setting a little later each day. In folk tradition, Candlemas was the day when people made predictions on the weather similar to our Groundhog day. “If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.
Candlemas celebrates the kindling of the light, and the renewal of life come into the world.
Each one of us was once a baby, like Jesus, like tiny baby Finn I held in Colorado. And like Jesus, each of us is a kind of change agent, because God created us unique individuals called into the world to embody truth and love. Through our birth we brought renewal to our families and to humanity; through our baptism we are lit with the light of Christ, and we are called to rekindle it throughout our lives.
As a parish, we are a constellation of people and light that comes together on Sunday morning, and today our light was made visible in the light of the candles held high. One of our tasks in the coming months is “how can we shine our constellation of light more effectively as a parish, in our neighborhood?”
We know that the truth needs to be revealed in our world right now. Our country is in the midst of a great struggle for truth. We are thirsty for truth and for those who will stand up for it. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to embody what Jesus stands for: truth, and the power of love.
How can we embody the light of Christ? How do we open ourselves to renewal and new life? How do we shine our light of Christ in the wider world?