Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
According to a news report a couple of weeks ago last December was the darkest on record for Moscow with only six minutes of sunshine throughout the whole month
It’s hard to imagine, though the rest of Europe has not fared much better and it’s not surprising that this has adversely affected our mood and sense of well-being. Sunshine and light raises our spirits and literally lightens our mood, releasing vital hormones. Our mental well-being is also affected by events taking place around us, the doom and gloom of world events.
What is true for us in 21st century Britain was undoubtedly the case for Simeon and Anna whom we meet in our gospel reading. Both are holy souls, spending hours in the temple praising God and longing for and looking for God’s salvation to dawn upon the world. In the midst of the world’s darkness they expectantly seek light and hope. They share in the joy and pride of Mary and Joseph who come to the temple to present their son to the Lord with thankfulness. But the scene takes us beyond an all too familiar family occasion. For in his words of prophecy, Simeon unfolds a bitter-sweet future for this child who is ‘destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed.’ I wonder what on earth must have been going through Mary and Joseph’s minds when they heard those words? And then Simeon goes on to say to Mary, ‘and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ All is not as it appears - a young couple bringing their newly born son in thanksgiving. All is not sweetness and light, for this is a bitter sweet moment.
For us who know the rest of the story, Jesus will certainly bring pain and anguish to his mother; when he’s lost in the temple, when he asks who is his mother and brothers and sisters, when he gives Mary the brush off at the wedding feast in Cana. Not to mention those events hidden from the gospel writers of which we know nothing. Perhaps we can see glimpses of our own behaviour towards our own parents in the words and actions of Jesus?
This feast of Candlemas underlines the joy and sorrow of the human condition; of our own life experience with its share of light and shadow. Today we take a last look back to the joy in celebrating the Incarnation and look forward to the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus came down to earth to share fully in our humanity so that we might have a part in his divinity. If we are being true to ourselves and true to God, it’s fair to say that our lives of discipleship do not simply bring light and joy, they also bring darkness and suffering. Our relationship with God brings us no instant cures or a comfortable life but we do know that Christ walks alongside us in our darkness, showing us the next step to walk. He entered our world of darkness and pain to share our experience and redeem us. That is the hope and promise we celebrate today. As we bring to an end the festivities of the Incarnation, so may we take up our cross and follow Christ, knowing that he is with us every step of the Way.