Summary: 700 teeangers at boarding school sit in an evening chapel service that they have not chosen to come to. This Candlemass sermon (with lots of props) seeks to present the Gospel to them
Today is sometimes called “Candlemass” This morning at mass at my own church, we had candles EVERYWHERE. It was a pyromaniacs dreams - On the altar, under the altar, behind the altar, on the window sills, in every spare space and in people’s hands - Candles.
It goes back to the bible reading we have just heard when the old man Simeon prophesies over the baby Jesus “He shall be a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel”.
The bible also tells us that Jesus is “the light of the world” and that “the light has come into the world and the darkness has not overcome it” and that “The true light is coming into this world and the darkness is passing away”.
So today as we remember the words of the old man Simeon over the baby Jesus “a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel”. And we celebrate this great Bible truth that Jesus IS the light of the world.
So - several thoughts about light.
Firstly - LIGHT IS THE OPPOSITE OF DARKNESS
[as I finish saying this, an accomplice flicks the light switch and the chapel is plunged into darkness]
If I left these lights off for half an hour, changed the light bulbs for even brighter ones, and then suddenly turned them back on, you’d blink. It would hurt your eyes. The contrast between the darkness you had just been experiencing and the light would an immense shock
[get lights turned back on again before teenage audience start to misbehave]
If I had left all the lights off for long enough, blown out every candle and blacked out all the windows, at first it would seem pitch black. But then gradually your eyes would start to adapt. Imagin living all your life in that gloom. You would not even notice that it was dark. You’d be so used to it. But then suddenly someone switches on the light and the contrast would be immense. Well actually …. that’s how things are.
We don’t notice the fact that our world is dark. We have got so used to it that our eyes have adapted. We don’t notice the hurt and pain and mess that our world is in. But if you compare the darkness of the world with the holiness of God, if you flick on the light, you’d notice the difference. Jesus, God, is described in today’s passage as “the Glory of your people Israel”. And as St Paul tells us in the letter to the Romans (3:22) its a glory from which we have all fallen short. If you compare our lives with the brightness of God’s holiness, then however good they may appear - then compared with the brightness of God’s holiness, our lives are dark indeed.
LIGHT AS THE OPPOSITE OF DARKNESSS
secondly, LIGHT EXPOSES THE DARKNESS
Eight months ago I moved into a new house. My predecessor had had very dim light bulbs in the rooms. Gradually over time these 40w bulbs have broken and I’ve replaced them with 100 or 150w bulbs. And you know, it hasn’t been a pleasant experience.
I put in the new bulb - and it is SO much brighter. And in a room that I thought was clean, I notice dirt. dust. cobwebs.
Indeed [take out a previously hidden torch] if I take out my torch here and start shining it in detail around this chapel - well the chapel may seem clean, but shine a bright light in every nook and cranny, and I’ll soon find - dirt. dust. cobwebs. Light exposes the darkness
So when Jesus comes into our world, he exposes the dirt and the darkness in our lives. He exposes the cobwebs and spiders in our souls. As Simeon said in this bible passage “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, so that the inner thoughts of men will be revealed” I can shine this torch onto your head as much as I like but I can’t see into your brain. I can try on you … or you … or you … or you [move torch beam around] but I still can’t see into your brains. But there is one who can see into every one of our minds. “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, so that the inner thoughts of men will be revealed”
The headmaster; the teachers; the prefects. They may not have caught on. But deep within our hearts, each one of us knows that there are things we have done that are wrong; things that are hurtful;things that are mean; things that are spiteful. Indeed you may have been appointed to some high honour in the school. Maybe you have been made prefect or even head boy. Yet however much other people may admire you, deep within your heart you know that there are things you have done that are wrong.