The Pas Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Candlemas
4 February 2018
Psalm 84 pg 817
God of Anna and Simeon, whose law makes known the gift of life, whose love exposes our hardness of heart: by your Spirit, may we receive your faithful word and know your reconciling presence offered for all the world; through Jesus Christ, the Light and Glory of God. Amen.
The author of Hebrews, for today, has a lot to tell us. He says, “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:15)
And I know we’ll all sit there and protest how this can’t be taking about, describing each of us! After all, we live in a free society.
And we do, we live in a free society. We are free to live out our lives, and to worship how we choose. After all, isn’t that the promise of a multicultural society?
But at the same time, not everyone around us has had this same experience of freedom. At the same time, this freedom is part of the puzzle that we live with and live within.
We can see this in the same vein as when the disciples ask Jesus when he will free Israel, as if after three years of being with Jesus, they don’t yet understand that freedom, the freedom Jesus brings to our lives and our hearts isn’t political, but is rather a matter of the heart, of the mind, instead.
Yet, we still have fears in our lives, in our hearts, and in our faith, and we carry them in our hearts.
There is fear of abuse, of financial insecurity, and the effects of the weather on the environment and the world around us. Are we contributing to these changes, or are they part of a natural cycle? After all we’ve only been recording and following weather patterns for less than 200 years, so do we really know it all?
We have fears of the unknown, fears of making the wrong choices, fears of food insecurity, and fears of not being able to pay our bills.
We are afraid of government intervention in our lives, and of the lack of government intervention in our lives.
We are afraid of drugs and alcohol. We’re afraid of addiction, of love, and at the same time of not finding love. We’re afraid of being alone, or being with the wrong person. We’re afraid of being employed, of being unemployed, and of being under employed.
And the list goes on….
When we open our hearts, and examine the fears that reside there, whether we acknowledge them or not, that parade of fears has the ability to spill forth, and in itself, paralyze us with fear.
The author of Hebrews, today, points out to each one of us that all of our fear, all fear has one source, and that source is not from God. He says, “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:14-15)
Whenever we dare to look ahead, look at those with whom we share our lives, our loves, the devil continues to stand just behind us and whisper in our ears absolutely anything and everything that will stop us, delay us, cause us to be unsure and censure what it is we would say, do, in and for our lives.
And this is what the devil wants.
The devil wants us to be unsure, to be insecure, to be paralyzed by our fears so that we make absolutely no changes that might lead us to the love, the security, the fearlessness that exists in the presence, in the light of the Son of God, Jesus.
And the author of Hebrews, today, calls a spade a spade and puts this action by the devil in the spotlight, but only to point out that the spotlight is the light of Christ, of God, today in and for our lives, in and for the lives of all those who are afraid of the light, but are also afraid of the dark.
But today we celebrate that the light of God, the light of Christ has come into the world. We celebrate with the flickering, wavering light of candles, in our worship service, in our homes, in our lives, not just today, but every day.
Today we remember that Christ was seen by those who are looking for him, by Simeon, and by Anna in the Temple. We remember that Christ is born not just for the children of Israel, but for all of us who believe we are freed from “slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:15b)
And I believe that death, any form of death, is our greatest fear. To be cut off from those we love, and from those who love us, not just physically but cut off from the love of God, most especially.
But, as we’re told, in Hebrews, today, there is hope. Hebrews tells us: “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14)
And in this hope we find the child Jesus held in Simeon’s aged arms, as the tears of joy fall from his eyes, onto Jesus swaddling clothes. We find hope in the light and the love of him who waves a little fat fist in Simeon’s direction, in acknowledgement of the old prophet, in benediction of his faithfulness that he sees the light of God, the salvation for all who believes, and are saved.
At the same time, the author of Hebrews points out that Jesus had to be born in human form, had to experience our lives, through our eyes, from our perspectives so that he would be able to fully understand the fears that grip our lives, our hearts, and our perceptions of our world.
So, what does this mean for you, and for me? The author of Hebrews says that Jesus had to be born, had to be human so that he could, in our darkest moments, put his arm around our shoulders and says, “I understand, lean on me. Here, I am.”
And how much strength, how much support, how much guidance do we glean from such words? From the actions of Jesus life, that led him not just through our sphere of understanding, but also bearing all of our fears, our sins, our problems, and our conundrums, to the cross on our behalf, so that we are able to have a life in and with Christ. A life in and with the Father, and no fears, at all, about what comes after this, today.
“17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:17-18)
And when we join Jesus in the light, we are able to echo Simeon’s words, we’re able to greet the Most High God with a song on our lips, and love in our hearts because in this child, in the Messiah, there is no fear, no shadow, no doubt.
In this child, carried in his parent’s arms, there is only love. A love that fills up and encompasses each one of us, here today, because we have opened our lives, our hearts to the love of God.
And in that love, in that peace that accompanies such an expression of love, there is no fear. There is no room for the devil because we are fully in the light, and the devil prefers the shadows, the darkness, the place where doubts are able to grow.
“33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’” (Lk2:33-35)
And we may say that such is the price of love, and we’d be right. “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (jn 3:16-17)
But God knows we cannot pay this price, ourselves, and so Christ comes into the world, into the temple, into the light that is God’s love for each one of us who loves, and who desires to be encompassed by God’s love.
We talked about prayer with the confirmation class, this week. We know that prayer is our non-stop line to God, no interference, no special connections needed, etc. But how many of us grew up with a fear of the dark? I know I did: witches in the corners, monsters under the bed, or in the closet.
So along with the usual “Now I lay me down to sleep, …” prayer, that our children, our youth are still learning, today. At the same time, I have another prayer that I like when I feel the doubts and the darkness gather around me.
I say: “From ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, may the good Lord protect me.” And he does. He protects me because in the depths of those things that have the ability to frighten me, in the darkness, I turn to him. I put my trust in him, always.
At the same time, I acknowledge, that when I let my guard down, the devil is able to attempt to introduce fear(s) into my life. Now this doesn’t mean I intentionally do reckless things to prove I’m not afraid, but to allow fear to have a grip on life is to limit our reach in the world.
To allow fear to have a toehold, a purchase on our hearts is to deny the light of God, the love of the infant Jesus, and the price of the cross to save us from the worst that the devil can imagine.
“16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way.” (Heb 2:16-17)
It is you, and me, that the author of Hebrews is writing about, today, in the realization that Jesus is born into the world to save the world, to open our eyes and our hearts, to look to all of Abraham’s descendants, those of the covenants with God, and to open our hearts, our minds, our eyes, and our arms to the fears of the world, and declare that we live in the light of God, we live in the shadow of the cross, and no fear, no barrier exists between us and God, forever.
And this is huge! This has so much meaning for our lives.
Just the knowledge, not just in our heads, but in our hearts, as well, that we are loved so much by God, by Jesus, that Christ died for each one of us, that we might have life, and live it abundantly.
A life filled with love and free from fear, and we have the ability to spread that love, that light all around us, spreading the love of God with it, every day.