What does the faith of Simeon and Anna have to teach us? They watched, waited and looked forward to the new things that God was promising. This was part of a service where we also renewed our baptismal vows as a way of looking forward to the new things that God is doing.
For the prayers, after the talk and renewal of vows I invited people to come to the front and light a candle from the Easter candle as a way of symbolising the promises that they had made. I then read the words from the baptism service which we use when we present a lit candle to the candidate:
God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness
and has given us a place with the saints in light.
We have received the light of Christ;
may we walk in this light all the days of our lives.
May we shine as lights in the world
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Presentation of Christ; Reading: Luke 2:22-40
“Time flies when you’re having fun”. “A watched pot never boils”. We’ve got loads of sayings that remind us that time feels elastic: it shoots by when you’re enjoying yourself and drags on and on when you’re stuck doing something dull.
Or in other words, it’s only another 326 days until Christmas! Or, to put it another way, it’s 39 days since Christmas. And, on the 40th day after the birth of their child, Mary and Joseph went to dedicate Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem. And that’s what we’re remembering and celebrating today.
Simeon and Anna were watching and waiting. Watching and waiting for the new thing that God was going to do. They were looking forward to something that they couldn’t count down to. They didn’t know whether it was going to happen in 326 days or tomorrow. They were watching and waiting for the coming of God’s Chosen One. They had waited for years and years. Anna had spent 66 years watching, waiting, praying, worshipping. Was that a long 66 years, or a quick 66 years? Did the time fly by?
Anna and Simeon were watching and waiting. Watching and waiting, knowing that when God’s Chosen One came then everything would change. They were looking forward to the new things that God was going to do. They were looking forward to God’s light shining in the world, to God’s freedom being experienced, to God’s love being known. They were looking forward to the new things that God was going to do.
But that’s not always the case for us, is it? We don’t always look forward to the new things that God is going to do. We can get comfortable with how things are, or look back to how things were. And that traps us into thinking that all change is bad, or that the only sort of change there should be is doing the same things that we used to do.
But, that’s not how God works. When Simeon and Anna were looking back to see what God had done, they would have seen Moses bringing God’s people out of slavery into the Promised Land. That was exciting and scary and hard work and new challenges and freedom and having to trust God. And lots of God’s people didn’t like it and complained and struggled.
There’s going to be an opportunity to reaffirm our baptismal vows a little later in the service. If you would like, you can make again the promises that were made for you, or perhaps by you, at your baptism and that you may have reaffirmed for yourself, perhaps at confirmation. It’s a reminder that we’re called to turn away from some things and to turn towards God. It’s a reminder that we’re all on a journey and that any journey is about not ending up in the same place that you had been at the start.
Then we will remind ourselves of our faith and affirm our commitment to doing something about that. I’ll ask these questions:
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil and,
whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all people,
loving your neighbour as yourself?
Will you acknowledge Christ’s authority over human society,
by prayer for the world and its leaders,
by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?
The answer will be ‘With the help of God, I will’. We can only do these things with God’s help. But God is ready and waiting to help. God gives us his Holy Spirit to be with us and help us. It might be difficult but God is with us in the struggle. God loves us too much to leave us as we are, either as individuals or as a church. We are called to know God’s love more and more, to shine with his light more and more.
It’s 326 days until Christmas. What new thing is God’s love, God’s light going to have done for you, for us as a church by then?
So, to end, I’m going to pray the prayer that we pray straight after each baptism:
May God, who has received us by baptism into his Church,
pour upon us the riches of his grace,
that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people
we may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,
and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory. Amen.