A Shorter Communion Service for Candlemas

HYMN - Bright the vision that delighted  NEH 343 - Redhead No46 

1 Bright the vision that delighted
Once the sight of Judah’s seer;
Sweet the countless tongues united
To entrance the prophet’s ear.

2 Round the Lord in glory seated
Cherubim and seraphim
Filled his temple, and repeated
Each to each the alternate hymn:

3 'Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
Earth is with its fullness stored;
Unto thee be glory given,
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord.'

4 Heaven is still with glory ringing,
Earth takes up the angels’ cry,
'Holy, Holy, Holy,' singing,
'Lord of hosts, the Lord most high.'

5 With his seraph train before him,
With his holy Church below,
Thus unite we to adore him,
Bid we thus our anthem flow:

6 'Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
Earth is with its fullness stored;
Unto thee be glory given,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord.'.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. 
In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

We turn to you again. Have mercy on us, 
bring us back to yourself as those who once were in darkness 
but now know the glorious light of Christ our Lord. Amen
.
 
May the God of love and power forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.
Amen

THE COLLECT
Almighty and ever-living God, clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was as at this day presented in the Temple,
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you
with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

FIRST READING - Malachi 3.1-5

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

HYMN - The race that long in darkness pined  NEH57 - Dundee 

1 The race that long in darkness pined
Have seen a glorious light;
The people dwell in day, who dwelt
In death's surrounding night.

2 To hail thy rise, thou better Sun,
The gathering nations come,
Joyous as when the reapers bear
The harvest-treasures home.

3 To us a Child of hope is born,
To us a Son is given;
Him shall the tribes of earth obey,
Him all the hosts of heaven.

4 His name shall be the Prince of Peace,
For evermore adored;
The Wonderful, the Counsellor,
The great and mighty Lord.

5 His power increasing still shall spread;
His reign no end shall know:
Justice shall guard his throne above,
And peace abound below.

GOSPEL - Luke 2.22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

SERMON
So today we pretend that it’s the 2nd February and celebrate the last feast of Jesus’ infancy – Candlemas’ or more properly, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

We heard the story in the gospel reading.  St. Luke tells us how Mary and Joseph took Jesus into the Jerusalem temple to fulfil the requirements of the Law.  Luke seems to be a little confused about the Law of Moses.  The Levitical Law did not require the presence of the baby Jesus, only Mary needed to present herself for purification and to offer a sacrifice.  Her choice of two pigeons, the cheapest of the possibilities, would indicate Mary and Joseph’s poverty.  Luke also seems to be alluding to the principle of the sanctification of the first-born.  However, this required only the payment to a priest of five shekels.

Luke may have been trying to show that the household Jesus was born into was, although poor, devout and serious in the keeping of the Jewish Law, but it is what happens when they are in the Temple that matters far more to him.  They are accosted by these bold people, Simeon and Anna.

Simeon is an interesting character.  He is not described as a priest, or as someone who has any professional or official status in the Temple.  Luke doesn’t tell us that he is old, though perhaps he implies it, Simeon is just a devout and good man.  What makes him special is the vision God as given to him.  He sees in this 40 day old boy, held in the arms of two poor parents, not a helpless bawling baby, but the anointed of God.  Luke tells us that Simeon was inspired by the Holy Spirit, he makes it clear that this was no lucky guess but God-given insight.  And the insight went very far.

Simeon meets Mary and Joseph in either the court of the women or the court of the Gentiles.  And it is to the inclusiveness of God’s salvation that Simeon’s poetry is addressed.

But Simeon’s song, as well as encompassing the whole world, is also intensely personal.  ‘You dismiss your servant’... ‘My eyes have seen’...  It is also very difficult to translate, which, since it is poetry is hardly surprising, its message seems to owe much to the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 60.

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

All this Simeon sees in one newborn baby.  But he sees far more, his words to Mary, specifically to her, are full of foreboding.  

Such a light as the light of Christ is not only a comfort and a joy, it is wide in its revealing illumination, and can be desperately uncomfortable and distinctly not a joy.  Simeon warns that the baby is to be a simeion an ensign or banner that is spoken against.  Mary’s own fate is also touched upon, those who accompany Jesus on his journey will not be unaffected by its end.  From the global Simeon comes again to the personal.  

His words - ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising again of many…’ perhaps lead us to see that falling and rising are inextricably linked - to rise again, one must first fall.  The path to new life must come through the valley of humiliation.  By the end of Jesus’ life even his best friends will have been humbled by failure, and it was only then that they could share in the risen life.

Anna provides both the corroboration of a second witness, and the means of the communication of the prophetic revelation - Luke says that ‘she spoke about it to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.’

Revelation is good - but not good to many if kept to oneself.  And age is certainly no barrier.

So what are we to make of all this revelation?  Just a ploy by Luke to add a third brilliant canticle to his story of the birth of Jesus?  Or is there more, the style and the choice of the words used would seem to suggest that Luke owed to others much of the telling of this incident in the Temple.  But that is by the by, the power of the words of Simeon, ‘Lord letest thou thy servant depart in peace for mine eyes have seen thy salvation’ - often used at the end of a funeral – is that they were not only intensely personal to him, they can also be intensely personal to us.  Because they are, in a very real way, a declaration of the meaning and the purpose of our own lives - to see the salvation of our God.  

To look at life in all its fierceness, its anger and its pain, all its sorrow and bewildering suffering - and yet then to see also the salvation of our God.  To see the incredible paradox of life - the world as we know it, and the God that we come to know as its creator, the journey of accepting, even embracing such a paradox, is the journey of seeing the Christ of God.  The Christ born to heal, to forgive, to teach, to pray, and to be tortured, scourged, lashed and crucified.  

It is the journey of becoming aware that God embraces this world he made so completely that he would become its victim as well as its creator - would become so one with it that it was his blood that would flow to its earth, to join that of his own people.  When we have truly accepted that, taken it into our soul, made it one with ourselves [perhaps only possible through the revelation of the Holy Spirit] then we will truly ‘depart in peace’ – and give glory to this mysterious God.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 
Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS
Let us pray to the Father through Christ who is our light and life.
Father, your Christ is acclaimed as the glory of Israel:
look in mercy on your Church, sharing his light.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ in his temple comes to a troubled world:
look in mercy on the nations, who long for his justice, his peace and his healing.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ, who was rich, for our sakes became poor:
look in mercy on the needy, the sick, the anxious, suffering with him.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ is the one in whom faithful servants find their peace:
look in mercy on those who have died, that they may see your salvation.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ is revealed as the one destined to be rejected:
look in mercy on us who now turn towards his passion.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Lord God, you kept faith with Simeon and Anna,
and showed them the infant King.
Give us grace to put all our trust in your promises,
and the patience to wait for their fulfilment;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

THE PEACE
In the tender mercy of our God the dayspring from on high has broken upon us, to give light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you

HYMN - Christ is the world’s light  H&S 19— Christe Sanctorum

1. Christ is the world’s light, 
he and none other; 
born in our darkness, 
he became our Brother.
if we have seen him, 
we have seen the Father:
Glory to God on high.

2. Christ is the world’s peace, 
he and none other;
no man can serve him 
and despise his brother
who else unites us, 
one in God the Father?
Glory to God on high.

3. Christ is the world’s life, 
he and none other:
sold once for silver, 
murdered here, our Brother –
he who redeems us, 
reigns with God the Father:
Glory to God on high.

4. Give God the glory, 
God and none other:
give God the glory, 
Spirit, Son and Father:
give God the glory, 
God in Man my brother:
Glory to God on high.

The Preparation of the Table

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you, 
and of your own do we give you.

Eucharistic Prayer H 

The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.
When we turned away you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.

You embraced us as your children
and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.

He opened his arms of love upon the cross
and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.

On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his body is the bread of life.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his blood is shed for all.

As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.

As we eat and drink these holy gifts
make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.

Though we are many, we are one body, 
because we all share in one bread.

Jesus, lamb of God: have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins: have mercy on us
Jesus, redeemer of the world: grant us your peace.

As Mary’s body was given for Jesus,
so Jesus’ body is given for us.
Here the Word made flesh
comes to us,
cradled in bread and wine.

[Please come to the table to receive the bread, respecting the necessary distance.]

The BLESSING of the CANDLES

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
He is worthy of all thanksgiving and praise.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe!
You make our darkness to be light.
For with you is the well of life
and in your light shall we see light. Blessed be God for ever.

As the candles are lit

Lord God, the source of everlasting light, pour into the hearts of your faithful people the brilliance of your eternal splendour, that we, who by these kindling flames light up this temple to your glory, may have the darkness of our souls dispelled, and so be counted worthy to stand before you in that eternal temple where you live and reign, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

We sing a HYMN as we process to the crib and font with our lighted candles

HYMN - Walk in the light  H&S 92

1. The Spirit lives to set us free, 
walk, walk in the light. 
He binds us all in unity, 
walk, walk in the light. 
Walk in the light, walk in the light, 
walk in the light, walk in the light of the Lord. 

2. Jesus promised life to all,
walk, walk in the light.
The dead were wakened by his call,
walk, walk in the light.
Chorus

3. He died in pain on Calvary,
walk, walk in the light,
to save the lost like you and me,
walk, walk in the light.
Chorus

4. We know his death was not the end,
walk, walk in the light.
He gave his Spirit to be our friend,
walk, walk in the light. 
Chorus

5. By Jesus’ love our wounds are healed,
walk, walk in the light.
The Father’s kindness is revealed,
walk, walk in the light. 
Chorus

6. The Spirit lives in you and me,
walk, walk in the light.
His light will shine for all to see,
walk, walk in the light. 
Chorus

FINAL RESPONSORY

Father, here we bring to an end our celebration of the Saviour's birth. 
Help us, in whom he has been born,
to live his life that has no end.

Here we have offered the Church's sacrifice of praise.
Help us, who have received the bread of life, 
to be thankful for your gift.

Here we have rejoiced with faithful Simeon and Anna. 
Help us, who have found the Lord in his temple, 
to trust in your eternal promises.

Here we have greeted the Light of the world. 
Help us, who now extinguish these candles, 
never to forsake the light of Christ.

We extinguish our candles
Here we all stand near the place of Baptism. 
Help us, who are marked with the cross, 
to share the Lord's death and resurrection.

Here we turn from Christ's birth to his passion.
Help us, for whom Lent is near, 
to enter deeply into the Easter mystery.

Here we bless one another in your name.
Help us, who now go in peace, 
to shine with your light in the world.
Thanks be to God! Amen.