‘[Jesus is] a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.' Luke 2:32
Brothers and sisters, Today I want to talk about something that’s really at the centre of what we believe. Something that if we don’t get, then we probably don’t get something at the centre of being Christian. Because, you see, what I want to talk to you about today is that we are meant to take God from the temple, into the world. I want to suggest that that is a, if not the, core part of our faith as Christians. No matter how old we are, no matter what stage of our understand we are, we are meant to take the light of God, out into the world. That is what we are meant to do and that is what we remember this day, at Candlemas. There was a kid on my street growing up who did this thing. We all used to play football in the road, all the other children in this inner city street with Georgian terraced houses on either side. There wasn’t really a park for us to play in or anywhere else for us to go so we would play football in the street and every time a car went past we’d pick the ball up and stand by the side of the road until they’d pass. And there was this one boy who would sometimes come to play, who would bring his fancy ‘proper’ Man-City football, the official one, and he’d sit there with the ball in his arms and not let anyone come near him. He had this really special ball but every time someone wanted to come and play he’d say no and stamp his feet because he didn’t want anybody else to play with his ball. He had this special gift but he didn’t want to use it the way it was meant to be used, he wanted to keep it to himself. Perhaps you’ve met someone like that in your life too? Someone who has had something great but wanted to keep it to themselves instead of sharing it?
Well, in many ways, that is what the people of Israel had been doing for a long time before Jesus was born… they had been given an absolutely amazing gift, of all the people in the world, they had been singled out as God’s people. They had been shown the way to live their lives, they had been sent prophets to lead them to have faith in God, they knew God more than any other people in the world, and yet what had they done with that gift? They had been like that greedy boy, keeping the football to himself, and instead of taking the light of God out into the world, they had kept it for themselves. That’s what the people of Israel had got wrong, they didn’t share the light of God with others. At Candlemas, the tradition is that the candles that are lit in this service and blessed, you take them home and put them in your windows to show you are taking the light of Christ, out into the world. Because, as Simeon recognised in our Gospel reading today, at last God’s gift is being given out to everyone, not to be kept hidden away in the temple alone. Christ came so that everyone, even the Gentiles (the non-Jewish people), could come to know God and so we, as Christians, are called to do exactly the same. Think about it, what is the main thing Paul does after converting to Christianity from Judaism? He goes out and brings the light of Christ into the world. Time and time again in the New Testament, there is a conversion and then a going out to bring that good news to others. It’s who we are. The people who bring the light of the gospel out into the world.
Now, just in-case you’re not sure exactly what we mean by the ‘Light of the Gospel’ we take out into the world… Perhaps many of you wonder how your life has come to this? Perhaps you’re terrified of something in your future or your life is filled with shame and, despite things seeming okay on the outside, things feel seriously wrong on the inside, well look, because of Jesus all your sin and shame can be taken away if you believe in him. Your life and death have a new meaning if you have faith, that’s what Simeon realised in Jesus in our Gospel reading ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation.’ We all, now, can be saved. God isn’t just for the people of Israel or the closed Church community, God’s salvation is to be shared with everyone. How much brighter can the light we have, be? So, do we really want to be the selfish boy sitting in a corner with his fancy ball, with our great gift? I know it might seem like a lot to ask, to ask you to go and tell other people about Jesus but here’s the crux of the matter, either this, God, is worth telling people about or it isn’t. And, ask yourself, it may be hard to talk about these things here but are we going to get stoned to death for it, like St Stephen? Are we going to get arrested for it like in parts of the middle east today? Are we likely to be tortured or killed for talking about our faith? Probably not. So is it worth sharing? If it isn’t why do we bother at all and if God is worth sharing then why don’t we share him? We bless these candles not so that we have a nice thing to burn but so that you can go out and bring that light to everyone else. So that the whole word may know the love of God.
Over the next week or two, we could all find three people to go out and share God with, and if you can’t find them, look for those people on the streets or in your workplace. They’re there. I want to see that not because it’ll make our Church look big and important but because, as Simeon says, ‘my eyes have seen the salvation of God... A light for all people.’ It will start with you, taking the light out and sharing it. We can share the light of God with others in two ways. Firstly, by being a light in terms of showing that our lives have been changed by Jesus and by loving other people in an unexpectedly generous way, whether through serving the community or by giving up a lot of what we own. Or, secondly, we can do it by telling people what Jesus means to us and by inviting them to take part in God’s plan by coming to church and working towards God’s kingdom coming as a community of God’s people, which we can do by simply inviting people to church and talking about our faith. Not either/or, both, that’s the model we get from the Bible; both show Jesus in our lives and tell others about Him. Amen. (Fr Jordan).