28 Jan, 2024

By the Rev’d Kim Parker

Season: Candlemas (The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple)

Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20 | 1 Cor 8:1-13 | Mark 1:21-28

I runga i te ingoa o te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today we celebrate the Presentation of Jesus to the temple also known as Candlemas and it is here we meet the holy family taking part in an important ritual for their new born son some 40 days after his birth.

The Candlemas Feast dates back to the fifth Century and it is a reminder of the coming of light in the darkness of winter for the Northern Hemisphere Anglicans who as they look forward to the arrival of Spring bless their candles which represent the light of Christ filling darkness with warmth, radiance, and hope (1). Although our seasons are in reverse the symbolism should not lost as we sit here and celebrate the same Feast Day in our light filled church on this beautiful summer’s day. We could perhaps look forward to the cooler less humid weather as our days get shorter!

Today’s Gospel contains a lovely and famous canticle, the Nunc Dimittis or Song of Simeon, which for those of you who are familiar with Night Prayer will know and which has traditionally been sung at Evensong “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

Candlemas also marks a turning point in our church calendar. It points us both backwards and forwards in the Church’s Year. It points us backward to Christmas because this marks the end of the Christmas season and forward to the season of Lent as we begin to prepare for Easter.

Here in Aotearoa, New Zealand we now “formally count our Ordinary Time as starting from this celebration, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and Candlemas: “Ordinary time is the period after the Feast of the Presentation of Christ until Shrove Tuesday.” To be clear though Ordinary doesn’t mean – humdrum, regular, mundane, or run of the mill or anything less than amazing! There is nothing “ordinary” about Ordinary Time. The term Ordinary comes from the word “ordinal” as in “ordinal numbers”. Cardinal numbers tell us “how many?” “Ordinal Numbers” tell us the rank, i.e. “what position?” Ordinal Numbers are first, second, third, fourth, etc. (2).

In this morning’s Gospel we have heard Luke’s account of how two young parents take their precious baby boy to the temple. Both Mary and Joseph are faithful to the teachings of the Torah and as was their custom they arrive at the temple for the ritual presentation of their child. Here they offer sacrifices on behalf of their first-born child as required by the law of Moses whereby they give thanks to God for the gift of a son. At this time the custom was to take a lamb for sacrifice, however, if your finances didn’t stretch to a lamb then the acceptable alternative was a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. This meant even the poorest in the community could acknowledge and honour their faith commitments and present their child at the temple. “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Luke’s narrative of a young couple with their new baby being presented at the temple is a story of hope and human potential. Which is what our faith is about isn’t it? The elderly Simeon saw this potential in Jesus and he recognised God in him and all the good that this baby would bring to the world. You can only imagine what that would have felt like for Mary and Joseph to have a man of God, a prophet, speaking of their child as the Messiah whom the Holy Spirit had revealed “for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people of Israel.”

Salvation now takes on the face and body of a human baby. This is “God’s shrewdest device. As Luther put it, God became small for us in Christ; he showed us his heart, so our hearts might be won (3). Babies have the ability to melt the hearts of even the most jaded of us. Jesus the son of God has now come among us to live and experience life with us experiencing hurt, loss, wonder, joy and sorrow. He experiences life just as we do i.e. the amazing messiness of life and all the “stuff” of what it is to be human.

This morning’s epistle to the Hebrews articulates for us the exact nature of Christ’s humanity and divinity “he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest and he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Simeon and Anna had seen this, “they had seen God in Jesus and they saw the good he would bring about, that is, the power of the Messiah” present as a wee baby (4).

For those of us who are parents we all think our children are special, beautiful, and clever. As a new mum at the age of 23 my first baby was so special and beautiful that I was worried that the other young mums in my room at the hospital would be disappointed that their babies were not as beautiful as mine! When I told my mother this she wisely said that we all think our babies are the most beautiful.

I am now a grandparent and while expecting my very first grandbaby I had decided that I liked the idea of a chic name – you know – something like Ge Ge. You know what they call me. Granny! Not chic at all but when I hear “Granny” it is the language of love.

Becoming a grandparent is one of those experiences that has the potential to shift your perspective on life and I love being called Granny now. I look at my grandchildren and I wonder how my own beautiful child suddenly became not just an adult but now a parent. Like Mary and Joseph our hopes and dreams for our children are full of promise and potential and we support and love them along the way. We know Mary gives her boy her unwavering support, love and eventually she suffers profound loss “and a sword will pierce your own soul too” prophesied Simeon.

When Simeon says “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people of Israel, his words remind us that Jesus is not only a light for a selected group but for all. Embracing the light of Christ means we choose to follow “The Way” and commit ourselves to follow Christ’s example to love our fellow humans, to have compassion and to offer forgiveness. Christ’s divinity and humanity transforms us each day of our lives. We have a responsibility to share Christ’s transforming light with others just as Simeon proclaimed the light to those around him. We are called to be witnesses of the Good News and by celebrating diversity, love and grace remembering that there is no distinction between Gentile or Jew.

As we celebrate Candlemas today, let us embrace the light of Christ, allowing it to illuminate our lives and touch the lives of others. May we continually walk in the light of Christ, sharing His love and His truth with a world that is desperately in need of it. Let our candles be a symbol of our commitment to be bearers of Christ’s light, dispelling darkness and showing others the way to redemption and eternal life. May we shine brightly for His glory and the joy of all people.


andlemas also marks a turning point in our church calendar. It points us both backwards and forwards in the Church’s Year. It points us backward to Christmas because this marks the end of the Christmas season and forward to the seasonof Lent as we begin to prepare for Easter.

  3. David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, 1st ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 166.
  4. Tanya Linn Bennett, Abingdon Preaching Annual 2020: Planning Sermons and Services for Fifty-Two Sundays (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2019), 12.

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