Recognition : Candlemas 2013

Candlemas: The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

AUDIO

I’d like you to imagine a situation that I’m sure many of you have experienced at one time or another in one form or other

You are meeting someone for the first time,  the place is arranged,  maybe you’re sitting in a coffee shop, or under the clock at Waterloo station,  and you’re watching the people come & go, “ is that them?” “ I wonder if that’s….”

Perhaps you have only the haziest idea of what they will look like, a brief description of their coat, or hair, maybe you have a bit more information – a photo, a vague memory.

And then you suddenly  have that jolt of recognition – you just *know* that’s the person, perhaps the bits of description fit together, maybe they’ve recognised you and you see that in their expression. Maybe they look exactly as you imagined –or totally different.

Whichever it is, however it works, there you are,  you’ve met, and so you go on, to your meeting or your dinner or whatever the next stage of your journey is.

Today’s story is about recognition.

Mary & Joseph bring their baby son to the temple, six weeks old,  they come to perform the traditional thanksgiving,  making a sacrifice of two doves,  Mary comes, as per the Jewish tradition for  a ceremony of purification after childbirth,

It’s not an unusual event, there are no special announcements,  there are probably many such couples every day, coming to fulfil their obligations according to the religious law of the time.

But also at the temple that  particular day is an old man, a faithful   devout  man named Simeon.

He’d felt led to go to the Temple too that day – not for any obvious reason, but he felt the Spirit prompt him to go. And so he did.

And somehow, in among the crowds and the busyness ( for the Temple was not  as we might imagine a great cathedral, hushed quiet and mostly empty day by day) Simeon recognises in  that tiny baby being brought to God by his parents, the very presence of God himself.

He recognises that this child is the Messiah –the one who has been sent by God.

We have no idea how this happened – it could only have been something amazing and God inspired,

Perhaps Simeon recognised God himself in the baby because for years he had grown to know God in his prayer and devotion, his relationship with him was close and personal, and so when the physical presence of Jesus –God himself with us – is there before him, he knows who he is, just as God knows Simeon himself too.

Simeon we’re told had been promised that he would see the Messiah – Gods chosen one, and he would not die until that happened.

He trusted that promise, and he recognised the presence of God come among us, in Jesus.

Today we specially remember and give thanks to God for the gift of Baptism.  Its particularly appropriate to do this on this festival of the Presentation of Christ at the temple, because  as Mary & Joseph brought Jesus to give thanks for him, when we come to Baptism, we  also come to God, to thank him and to dedicate our own lives and those of our children to him.

In Baptism we receive a promise –

We receive the promise of the presence of God with us, and in us,

We are marked with an outward sign of the sign of the cross , which represents that inward, and  permanent mark  on our lives that is God with us come what may.

And we are given new life, symbolised by the water, God the source and spring of life is in us and with us as we travel.

And as we travel through our lives, we need to be mindful of this promise that God has made to us, and like Simeon  we need to  learn recognise his presence with us. God can seem like an abstract concept,  but the reality is he is personal and he loves us and he wants us to know Him and to have a relationship with him.

We can recognise God in others around us –in the love we experience in our relationships,  love that comes from God and  illustrates God’s love to us.

We can recognise God with us in the beauty of our world

In the good in our lives

In the silence –and in the celebration.

Jesus came to be a light in our world – a Light to lighten the Nations as Simeon declared  – that’s why we also have candles today and celebrate that light among us.

We can also recognise God with us in the dark times, as well as the good -

We can recognise him where there is pain and suffering, because He is there with us.

His presence is that light which cannot be put out –even the tiniest pinprick of light is stronger and brighter than the darkness that surrounds it –it is not defeated.

Jesus lived as a human, a boy and a man, he knew joy and pain happiness & suffering just as we do,

And  then almost finally –he suffered death,

And then finally conquered it

He knows our hard times, and he’s shown that God is bigger  and more powerful than them all, even than death itself.

As we learn to recognise God and trust his promise to us as we walk through life, we also remember that not only are we recognising him, but even more He recognises us

In Baptism God says to us “ you are my child and I love you”

Here is the recognition, the love the promise of God to us.

You are my child, and I love you.

Today as we remember our own Baptism, and renew our promises let’s remember God’s promise to us,

his presence with us, let us  learn to recognise him as we walk the journey, and , because of Jesus’s life & death and  conquering of death,   know that we can live in relationship with him and experience his acceptance and recognition of us as his children.

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