Summary: Using the different candles found in a trad. church as visual images to unpack what it means for Jesus to be Light of the World. preached 2/10/2010
"Back in the days before electricity, a tight-fisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his girl friend.
'Why, when I went a-courting young ladies, I never carried a lantern. I always went in the dark'
'Yes' said the young man - 'And look what you ended up with!'" (1)
Light makes a huge difference in our lives.
Light brings life - If you turned the sun off tomorrow, every plant on this planet would die and we would all starve to death.
Light brings warmth and energy. You may be wearing a think jumper today, but when it's Fun in the Park [a big outreach event that our church organises] in the middle of the summer and the sun is shining down on you, you won't want more than a t-shirt - light brings warmth
Light brings joy. I remember the very first winter after I became an accountant. I would leave home while it was still dark. Sit in an office in artificial light until lunch time. Pop out for a sandwich, bring it back to my desk, eat it there. Then by the time I left at 5 or 6 it was already dark. After a couple of months I began to realise this was getting me down. I realised that at lunch I had to go outside and walk around and get some sunlight - because I could not cope with a whole day without seeing the sun. If you are struggling at work - I do recommend - go out into the light.
Light brings life
Light brings warmth
Light brings Joy
And today we celebrate Jesus the Light of the World. Candlemas.
There's an awful lot of candles in the church today. Loads more candles than normal. But for my sermon, I actually want to talk about the candles that are here normally. Five in particular.
• The Presence Candle
• The Prayer candles
• The Paschal Candle
• The Proclamation Candles
• The Personal candles
The Presence Candle
We begin here with this white candle here - by this rather special cupboard which we call the Tabernacle. This candle NEVER goes out. (well only for one day a year, and that's another story) Each week, before it can go out, a new candle is lit to take it's place. You can come into this church any time at day or night, and see this candle burning. A candle that never goes out - and it's story begins 3,500 years ago.
Moses and the children of Israel are wandering through the desert. They are all living in tents. But there is one special tent - called the Tabernacle or the Tent of meeting. Outside it is a pillar of fire. Inside it is a box - The Ark of the Covenant. And almighty God, who can be anywhere - chooses to make himself physically present through that Ark. The presence of God in that Tabernacle Tent is so strong that whenever Moses comes out his face is shining so brightly that it hurts the Israelites eyes and they ask him to cover it.
Well for five hundred years they carry the ark around. Then Solomon builds a Temple. the outer court - the court of the gentiles that anyone can go into. Then the court of the women. Then a court that only adult men can go into. Then the Holy Place into which only the priest can go. Then, in the middle of that - The Holy of Holies- where the ark is. The place of God's presence. Almighty God, who can be anywhere- makes himself physically present in the Holy of Holies. A place where the presence of God is so strong that only the high priest can go in there - and he only on one day a year - and he has to have a rope tied around him, so if he dies while he is in there, they can pull his body out.
So for 1000 years the Temple is the place where God makes himeself physically present to the people.
So in our story today - we have Anna, an 84 year old lady who ever since she was widowed decades earlier, has spent her entire life in the Temple to be close to God.
We have Mary and Joseph bringing the baby Jesus to the Temple - so that they can dedicate him and offer sacrifice in the place where Jesus is present.
And we have Simeon. Now Simeon has a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit. All personal - God inside him. The Holy Spirit "reveals" things to him. The Holy Spirit "guides" him. The Holy Spirit "rests upon him". now you might think that someone who had that intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit (God inside him) would not need a mere physical presence of God in the Temple. NO that's not what the bible says. Because of the Guiding of God within him, the Holy Spirit in his life, he comes to the Temple where God is physically present.