Summary: Candle-mas, the story of Simeon is a simple story, but if you look closely, there is a lot about the way we should be living our lives … as either Jesus will appear one day on earth, or we will die and meet him in heaven; either way, we want to be ready.
Word Count: 2579
This sermon was delivered to the congregation in St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 2nd February 2014: by Gordon McCulloch (A Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries).
Summary: "Candle-mas", the story of Simeon is a simple story, but if you look closely, there is a lot about the way we should be living our lives … as either Jesus will appear one day on earth, or we will die and meet him in heaven; either way, we want to be ready.
“Please join me in my prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen. (Psalm. 19:14)
Today is Sunday the 2nd of February, and we celebrate the festival of the Presentation of Christ at the Temple. This is a celebration, sometimes a feast, of an early episode in the life of Jesus.
We Episcopalians or Anglicans are more familiar with the term Candle-mas, where candles were traditionally blessed at this festival; a festival to mark the end of the Epiphany season. It is also known as the “Feast of the Purification of the Virgin” or “the Meeting of the Lord”, as well as many other eastern orthodox names.
What is the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple?
So what is this festival, well it is an important event described in Luke’s Gospel where Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, forty days after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth … and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, as written in Leviticus 12, and Exodus 13.
Now upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered an Old man called Simeon who has been promised by the Holy Spirit that "he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" in person, who then prophesied to Mary. There was also an elderly prophetess called Anna, who also offered prayers and praise to God, and spoke to everybody about Jesus, and the redemption of Israel.
And that is about it really … but … in these verses, if you look closely, they also say a lot about the way we should be living our lives … as we are told that either Jesus will appear one day, or we will die and meet him in heaven; either way, we want to be ready.
Simeon gives us a good template to follow, as he lived his life devoted to God, knowing that he was going to meet his saviour, as he wanted to be ready; … and I know you are going to say, what for? … Jesus was only a baby like any other baby … but you are missing the point … Simeon was really preparing himself for death and the life there after.
So by presenting this baby, Simeon (and us), are preparing ourselves for death. … What a cheery set of readings, Eh!
But it is a good story, because Simeon was true blessed, and he was guided by the Holy Spirit long before Jesus ever went to the cross, and that truly is a blessing on an Old Testament person. So it is really worth looking at this great man, and maybe some of him, may wash off on us.
The first great strength of Simeon was his devotion. Verse 25, “and, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout … and the Holy Ghost was upon him”.
Simeon was “just”, meaning that he was honest … he possessed a moral character. Today we call that integrity; a fantastic attribute to behold, as it gains respect and trust as we all know.
Simeon was also called “devout”, meaning that he was known for "seeking out things that were from God, and doing his best to live up to God’s standards”, and I must say … in case you do not realise it, none of these things are alien to us. We all here do our best, we do not always get it right and it hurts us when we don’t … but that is the influence of the Holy Spirit, refining us all the time. If God did not love us, he would not correct us … and how many times has that been used as a weapon?
Verse 25 goes on to say that, “(Simeon) … looking forward to the consolation of Israel … and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ”. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple looking forward to the consolation of Israel; consolation in this sense meaning the peace and solace of Israel to come.