Homily for Candlemas

A Sermon for the Feast of Candlemas
Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian
Holy Apostles Anglican Church
2 Feb 2014

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

We celebrate this morning the last feast of Christmas. This is one of the oldest commemorations on our calendar, and we can see this from the great proliferation of names which it has accumulated: The Presentation of Christ in the Temple; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Candlemas; The Meeting of the Lord.
Today, forty days after we commemorate Jesus’s birth in a stable, we read in The Gospel according to St. Luke that Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, as good Jewish parents always did for their first born son, as the Law commanded. Make no mistake, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph make a small, but obedient Jewish family. There they meet an old man named Simeon. Simeon takes up the child Jesus in his arms and he says, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
There is a lot in the scripture readings this morning. But there are two main things i want to focus on.
First, Throughout this Epiphany season, our readings have concentrated on the revelation of Christ. On Epiphany itself, we read how a star led the gentile wise men from the east to bethlehem, where they offered gifts and fell down and worshipped the Christ child.
The next Sunday, our Gospel reading was the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple, staying behind after his parents left to hear the teachers and converse with them.
On the Second Sunday after Epiphany, we fast forward twenty or so years to Jesus’ baptism; where, upon his rising from the water, the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and the Father says from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Last Sunday was the Wedding at Cana of Galilee, where Jesus performed his first miracle. We are told in the Gospel according to John that Jesus manifested forth his glory in doing this, and that because of this sign, Jesus’ disciples believed.
Today, Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple. A devout and holy man of Jerusalem, named Simeon came in at the same time. Simeon’s desire was to see the Lord’s Christ, which he had been told by God that he would see before his death. When Simeon takes the child up in his arms, he says:
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, etc.
Simeon then says to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…” He also also says to her, “A sword shall pierce your own heart also.” Jesus’s earthly life, his birth, his preaching, his death, and his resurrection, this earthly life is the hinge on which history hangs. There is a reason we count years AD, or Anno Domini… “The year of our Lord.” Mary, the mother of our Lord, is presumably the only person who saw the entirety of this life. And this is the woman to fed carried Jesus in her womb, nursed him at her breast, saw him take his first steps, and saw his entire life, up to and including his hanging on a cross and his rising from the dead. It is incredible enough to read about it and to experince it through the life of the Church two thousand years later. To witness your own son living that life… A sword piercing the heart indeed…
Before they leave the temple, an eighty-four year old propphetess named Anna meets them and she predicts that he will be the redemption of Israel. This child is barely forty days old. And yet he has been worshipped by the Magi, and identified as Messiah by Simeon and Anna. Not to mention Mary and Joseph. We can only imagine their thoughts at this time.
My second point is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. I’ve known a number of people who have argued, quite heatedly, that Jesus was not Jewish. He must be Jewish. If Jesus is not, then the Gospels do not make sense.
It is for this reason that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are going to the temple in the first place. Mary, being sinless, has no need of purification. And yet she goes up. Jesus, being the Son of God has no need to be “made holy for the Lord,” for he himself is the Lord, just as he has no need of Baptism. And yet, they submit to the law, for as Jesus will say later in his life at the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
And so here my two points tie together. The Epiphany has also been called the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. If you recall, there is some consternation in the Acts of the Apostles and in some of Paul’s epistles as to whether or not a gentile could be a Christian or wether he or she must become a Jew first. Simeon tells us this morning, that Jesus is to be a light to enlighten the gentiles and is to be the glory of Israel, in the New Israel, the church.
We, my brothers and sisters, are to be the New Israel. We are to carry the light of Christ out into the world. As our prayer earlier this morning at the blessing of the candles said, as our candles cast beams of light upon us, so we ask God to send the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts.
There are times when this world is a scary place. There are times I consider getting cable and then hear about Disney channel’s newest idea and quickly decide that, no, I’m fine without it. There are times when the sin that is so evident in the world, or evident in myself, is simply terrifying. I’m sure all you have seen and experienced this. But we cannot despair. We must have faith, and we must have hope. We must have hope, because Christ is the light which illuminates all things, and dispels all darkness. Take your candles out into the world with you, and take your souls, full of the Holy Spirit, and light the world on fire for Christ.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.