The Presentation of Christ at the Temple
I’m going to start with a quotation from a book by a famous professor:
‘You’ll understand when you see him.’
‘But shall we see him?’ asked Susan.
‘Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,’ said Mr. Beaver.
‘Is – is he a man?’ asked Lucy.
‘Aslan a man!’ said Mr Beaver sternly. ‘Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.’
‘Ooh!’ said Susan, ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’
‘That you will, dearie, and no mistake,’ said Mrs Beaver; ‘if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.’
‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy.
‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
And so the Pevensie children go on to defeat the White Witch with Aslan’s help, but not before appearing before him and admitting their brother, Edward, had betrayed them and Aslan.
When I was a child I had a serious issues with my ears. I won’t go into the details but I was susceptible to ear infections and the regular use of grommets to end the infections led to complications and at the age of 18 I needed to go under the knife before more serious damage was done. I was in no pain, my hearing wasn’t great, but there wasn’t any hope that it could be improved, but the risk of serious complications meant I had to be operated on. I went from being an active teenager in apparently good health to being in significant discomfort and unable to participate in any sports for many months.
Sometimes everything can seem peaceful on the surface, I might have seemed healthy, but in reality there can be serious issues which simply aren’t visible, or aren’t recognised.
Sometimes it takes a tide of people speaking together for an issue to be recognised. The ‘me too’ movement, for example, has brought to light the very real but often unseen or perhaps more accurately, ignored issue of misogyny.
And I believe it is an issue so embedded in our society, that it will take generations of sometimes painful re-learning the way we treat and respect one another before we truly overcome it.
Today’s liturgy is a bit different as we come to the end of the service. This is the final feast of the Christmas and Epiphany Season. During the final hymn we will process to the font, all of us, with a candle lit in our hands. We go to the font because that is where we first enter the church, where we become members of Christ’s body, and where we are given the light of Christ which comes into the world at Christmas. In that baptism we all become members of the priesthood of all believers, each of us is an equal member of that church. It’s also where our Jesse tree is, the family tree of Jesus, and a reminder to us of the family which we inherit as brothers and sisters of Christ. A family which includes all of us and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are, who have or who will be part of the church around the world. We then remember that the light of Christ is not simply the candle held in our hand but something we carry in our very beings, as we blow out our candles in a commitment to that light in the world. It’s not safe, but then Christ isn’t safe! Just ask his disciples.
In today’s reading from the Old Testament Malachi warns that the Lord will come as like a refiner’s fire, burning away the impurities to make the people of God like Gold and Silver. For us this fire is what we call the light of Christ. It shines in the darkness, it shows up the impurities – the time when we fail, when we worship our own power over God’s, when we take advantage of others to server our own desires, when we oppress or deal unfairly with others and when we don’t care for those most in need.
In the great prologue of John it says that the light which comes into the world shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. Far from it, this light burns away the veil of death and sin so that the light can shine on all the injustice in the world. As bearers of the light of Christ we are called to be prophets, to see the injustices which go unnoticed and to shine a light on them so bright that they cannot remain. It is something the Church, in the frailty of human hands, has often failed to do. Too often we have helped support the very injustices we should be shining a light on. Thankfully we have Sarah as our Bishop, but that we have only had women bishops in this country for 4 years is enormously disappointing. In my opinion the church has been heretical in its failure to accept, encourage and support LGBTQ Christians. And there are many more injustices in the world around us which are brushed under the carpet or ignored or which we are scared to rock the boat by bringing up.
Peace with an unarticulated injustice, is not really peace. Just because I looked healthy and wasn’t in pain, doesn’t mean I didn’t need an operation. Just because we don’t think anybody is excluded from our community because of their sexuality, because of their race, because of their gender, doesn’t mean we don’t need to be shining the light of Christ on ourselves and asking if we are truly accepting of every child of god that walks through that door.
Simeon and Anna were both looking for the coming of God’s promised reconciliation. Simeon knew that the coming of Christ would bring to light the true intention of those in power. Simeon knew that Christ would challenge the very nature of human power and authority and would lead to this revolutionary way, which is the church.
Finally, as the service ends and we turn from the events of Christmas towards the coming of Lent we each of us, as members of that priesthood of all believers, and bearers of Christ’s light, bless one another to go out into the world, like Anna, sharing that light through that love by which Christ redeems the world.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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