On Sunday, January 31st, Br Michael preached the following sermon at St Peter’s Church, Llanwenarth Citra, at their service of sung matins (at which he officiated).
It is available as a recording here.
May the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart, be alway acceptable in Thy sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer. Amen
“For mine eyes hath seen Thy salvation…”, says Simeon.
I wonder whether anyone here has ever had to wait for something? Perhaps it was a case of saving up until you could afford a new car; the wait before going on holiday; the wait before a child is born; or the wait before school ends? As I may have mentioned before, and certainly the other members of the Community are only too well aware, I’m not the world’s best waiter. Ask any of them and they will, I daresay, tell you that I tend to want things yesterday, if not earlier, and that I can get quite bored whilst waiting. I’m even told that my facial expressions can provide hours of amusement when I become bored.
With most of these mentioned waiting periods, however, there is quite a set timescale. Perhaps you order the car and know to expect it within the month; perhaps you book the holiday three months in advance; perhaps you know when school will end, because it always ends on the 31st July… you get the idea. If those periods of waiting seem lengthy, spare a thought for how Simeon must have felt. At the rather respectable age of 270, Simeon, a blind scholar, who we think helped translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, is able to stop waiting, his hopes fulfilled. He had been promised that he ‘would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah’. Now that moment had come.
Lord, now lettest Thou, Thy servant, depart in peace… for mine eyes hath seen Thy salvation…
Not just Simeon, but the whole Jewish people had been watching and waiting and praying for centuries, hoping that one day, God would send His Messiah to show us the way and to redeem His people. Now, it seemed, that time had come. Simeon and Anna, two of the most respected people, people who’s opinions mattered, had openly acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah. It would be like the BBC asking an opinion of The Archbishop of Canterbury or of The Pope – Simeon and Anna spoke with authority; and, having done that, having announced God’s Son to the world, they could die happy.
Perhaps, to some of you, that phrase “Lord, now lettest Thou, Thy servant, depart in peace” could seem a little morbid, perhaps slightly out of place for the joyful celebrations that were probably going on around them. The fact is, though, that Simeon and Anna felt safe to die because they knew that there was eternal life, as God’s promise had been fulfilled by the sending of His Son. All of a sudden, this morbid little phrase becomes something we can all proclaim – yes, you and me, my friends, can die in peace, trusting in the loving kindness of the Lord, shown by the sending of His Son.
On Tuesday, the Church celebrates the Feast of Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. By some quirk, the lectionary readings have Tuesday’s Gospel reading for today as well. Candlemas is the time when Simeon and Anna acknowledged Jesus as The Light Of The World and it is for that reason that, on Tuesday, many churches in Christendom will be blessing their candles, ready for use throughout the coming year.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel that Christmas, as well as being a time of celebrating, is far more of a time of learning. Mary learns that Jesus is to be born; the Shepherds and the Wise Men learn the location; we learn the love of God through His selfless giving of His only Son. Well, at Candlemas, we learn that Jesus is the true Light Of The World – it is for this reason that the church leaves up the decorations and the Nativity scenes (I trust you haven’t taken yours down at home); and why her Priests wear gold, right up until Tuesday – for Christmas hasn’t ended, it continues, and as it continues, we continue to learn, right until Candlemas.
So, over the coming week, as we remember that Jesus is the Light Of The World, we pray that he will lighten our paths, so we can see clearly the things lying ahead and can approach Lent and eventually Easter, recalling the sacrifice that He made for us.
When a war ends, there is a period of celebration, then what feels like a period of drudgery… after World War Two, after the VE Day parties, there were years of rebuilding, rationing, and bomb sites to deal with, but they were all dealt with while looking forward with hope to a new life and a new order. We, on our own Christian journeys, now look on from the celebrations of Christmas and Candlemas, through the drudgery of Lent, to the new order that comes at Easter. We dedicate ourselves to serve the Lord who serves us and lightens our path, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Lord, now lettest Thou, Thy servant, depart in peace, according to Thy word. For mine eyes hath seen Thy salvation…
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen