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Presentation of Christ 2nd February

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  • Revd Father Paul Gibson
    Luke 2:22-40, Hebrews 2:14-end (shortened version) On the Friday before Christmas we said Evening Prayer with local residents and tourists. Afterwards I went
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 1, 2007
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      Luke 2:22-40, Hebrews 2:14-end (shortened version)

      On the Friday before Christmas we said Evening Prayer with local
      residents and tourists. Afterwards I went to meet a family sitting
      in our church venue. There were three generations of them,
      grandparents, parents and an uncle, and a tiny baby. She was wrapped
      up warmly in a white shawl, and her mother held her white shawl, and
      her mother held her out to me as I approached. They told me that
      they had promised they would bring her to the chuch if all went well
      with her birth, and so here they were on this winter's night
      thrilled to bring their first baby to the church but slightly
      disappointed that there was no choir and music. After we talked the
      father took his new daughter to look at the Christmas tree and I
      watched as he stood there for a long time in silence, holding her up
      so that she could see the lights.

      It was only during Morning Prayer next day that I realised the
      similarity with the event we remember on the 2nd February, when Mary
      and Joseph brought their new first born baby to the temple in
      thanksgiving for a safe delivery and to present him to God. They
      were there to fulfil rituals, set out in the Old Testament, which
      Luke combines. One involved the redemption of the firstborn, another
      the purification of the mother following the rigours of childbirth,
      marking her re-entry into society and its religious observances from
      which she had been exempt whilst she recovered.

      Then there was Simeon, a devout man who seems to have been
      particularly sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading and who, on this
      day, aware of the Spirit's nudging to go specially to the temple,
      had come not knowing what he would find. When he saw this
      unremarkable baby, Simeon knew that he had seen the coming of God's
      salvation and therefore his own time on earth was drawing to a
      close. And so he placed himself in God's hands, just as Mary and
      Joseph were doing in presenting Jesus at the temple. Jesus, as a
      baby, was passive but Simeon was actively bringing himself to a
      place of trust and relinquishment. Then he blessed the parents and
      spoke hard words to Mary about her son and her own suffering as a
      sword would pierce her soul. Tonight, as we are surrounded by candle
      light and all is quiet in this beautiful building, we need to
      remember that the gospel makes demands upon us. Simeon's peace and
      Mary's disturbance have their roots in the same place.

      But there is another person, with yet another reason for being
      there. Anna is one of those people who find a home in a sacred
      space. The temple is where she belongs. When I hear of Anna I think
      of the old ladies in churches on the continent, often dressed in
      black, just sitting there in the cool, and especially of one lady I
      know who has made Salisbury cathedral her second home. Anna
      represents all those people who find shelter in sacred space, as
      many people do in this cathedral. She just walks past at the right
      time and, perhaps because she heard what Simeon said rather than
      because of any particular revelation she had herself, she too
      praises God and also speaks about it to the people around.

      So we have four people and a baby, all of whose lives were touched
      in some way by this unplanned meeting in the temple. Out of it came
      a song that has been sung through the centuries, and the festival we
      know as Candlemas, or the Presentation of Christ in the temple. For
      us it marks the end of the Christmas season, and it opens us to
      themes of presentation, purification, meeting, light for the world.
      These are joyful and hopeful themes. But Presentation is also the
      hinge when we turn from Christmas to look towards Lent, Holy Week
      and the passion of this child, the light of the world. And so there
      is a bitter-sweetness about tonight, a poignancy as, like Mary, we
      take in the fact that the joy at this child's birth will soon have
      to embrace, too, the pain of a sword piercing the soul.

      Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna had very different reasons for
      being in the temple that day and you may recognise your reason for
      being here tonight in their stories, or you may have yet other
      stories to tell of why you have come. The intersection of their
      stories in this one brief encounter assures us that no gathering in
      God's presence is random. In the same way that Mary and Joseph
      presented Jesus to God, we have prayed tonight that we may be
      presented to God with pure and clean hearts by that same Jesus
      Christ, God's son and our Lord. And so our response is, like Simeon,
      to be willing to be presented, to be still before God in this holy
      place and open to letting events unfold.

      I close with some words by Jarolav Vajda, which we can use as a
      prayer as we present ourselves before God.

      Now the silence
      Now the peace
      Now the empty hands uplifted
      Now the kneeling
      Now the plea
      Now the Father's heart in welcome
      Now the hearing
      Now the power
      Now the vessel brimmed for pouring
      Now the Body
      Now the Blood
      Now the joyful celebration
      Now the wedding
      Now the songs
      Now the heart forgiven leaping
      Now the Spirit's visitation
      Now the Son's epiphany
      Now the Father's blessing
      Now
      Now
      Now.

      Revd Paul Gibson
      www.st-sebastians-inclusive-church.co.uk
    • Kenny G
      WOW! What powerful words and presentation to God! Thanks for sharing! I constantly look for ways to be in the presence of God and in relationship with the
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 1, 2007
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        WOW! What powerful words and presentation to God! Thanks for sharing!
        I constantly look for ways to be in the presence of God and in
        relationship with the Christ. Kneeling, feeling, silence and singing,
        whatever shuts out the cacophonous noise around me and shuts me in
        with my lovely Lord!

        Now the silence
        > Now the peace
        > Now the empty hands uplifted
        > Now the kneeling
        > Now the plea
        > Now the Father's heart in welcome
        > Now the hearing
        > Now the power
        > Now the vessel brimmed for pouring
        > Now the Body
        > Now the Blood
        > Now the joyful celebration
        > Now the wedding
        > Now the songs
        > Now the heart forgiven leaping
        > Now the Spirit's visitation
        > Now the Son's epiphany
        > Now the Father's blessing
        > Now
        > Now
        > Now.
        >
        > Revd Paul Gibson
        > www.st-sebastians-inclusive-church.co.uk
        >
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