We’re halfway through winter, literally and figuratively, and there’s light to be shined, work to be done, with the grace and help of the One we follow, tested as we are so he can help us in our testing.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Presentation of Our Lord
Text: Luke 2:22-40
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unlike Simeon and Anna, we’re in the middle of our time of waiting for God.
These ancient saints diligently served and waited, worshipped and prayed, and at the ends of their lives were blessed to witness the coming of God-with-us, Christ in the flesh. Simeon’s beautiful song anticipates his own departure and rest, because God’s light has come.
But we’re not at the end. We’re still in the middle of winter, literally and figuratively. Literally, because it’s been roughly six weeks since the solstice, and about six weeks are left till the equinox. (That’s why our ancient forebears looked in hope to the end of winter on this day.)
But we’re in the middle of a lot of winters. The middle of a COVID pandemic, wondering when this will become an endemic with a less overwhelmed medical system. The middle of a long-overdue awakening in our country to the systemic ways racism and sexism and other evils are embedded into our culture and world, wondering when healing and justice will come for all people. The middle of a tremendous test of our democracy’s existence, wondering if voter suppression and threats of violence and civil war will end this American experiment.
In the very long winter this world now faces, we gather tonight to remember the light we celebrated forty days ago on the darkest of nights. We gather to see fire and eat bread and smell beeswax and taste wine and sing songs and hear God’s words that sustain us in the winter, until the spring comes.
But we can’t take our rest like Simeon and Anna.
We don’t bless our candles for the year today and praise God’s light coming into the world as a sign that our work is done.
We celebrate the coming of God’s light into the world in Christ knowing how much of our world is still covered in the shadows of night and evil. We rejoice in the warmth of God’s love we know in Christ Jesus knowing how cold the world still is to so many of God’s children, crushed by how we’ve built this world. We delight in Christ’s resurrection and the promise of life to come, knowing how pervasive death is for so many – actual death, but also the death of hopes and dreams.
But there is a promise in this day that gives us hope.
This world is not alone in this winter of evil and suffering.
We leave here tonight not just with memory of tonight’s light and warmth. We leave here with the grace and presence of Christ who has already lived through wintry death, who is the risen embodiment of God’s spring.
Hebrews says tonight that Christ can help us as we are tested by the cold and fear, because Christ was also so tested. We go out into the middle of our many winters with Christ our Lord who knows how to hold hope and light in the deepest cold and ice and hatred and fear, even death. Who is our strength, our courage. Who is always with this world, no matter how long winter lasts.
So sing with Anna and Simeon tonight, but with different understanding.
Sing, not at the end, but in the middle of all things. Sing, “now let your servant depart in peace,” as your invitation to Christ to go with you as you depart into the wintry world that desperately needs God’s light and warmth. That you might become that.
Sing, “a light to reveal you to the nations,” to ask for Christ’s light and fuel to keep that light burning in your heart, so others may see. But also so you don’t despair at the depth of the winter.
Sing, “your Word has been fulfilled,” not as the end of all things, but as confident hope that in you and me and all God’s children God’s Word is living into the world bringing light and healing.
As you join Simeon and Anna in song, know you’re not in the middle alone. You, and all God’s children, go with Christ, our Light, our Spring, our Warmth. And nothing can stop that Light, that Spring, that Warmth from healing this wintry world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen