30th January 2022 – Candlemas

To watch this morning's service at 10:30 on Youtube, please click here:


The Readings


Hebrews 2.14-end

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.


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 turtle-doves 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 for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped 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.


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Sermon
By Rev'd Alan Billings

On Thursday we commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day. We called to mind
the six million Jews that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis put to death in Europe
during the second world war. This year, Prince Charles, who is patron of the
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, did something that I thought was really rather
imaginative and wonderful. What my daughter-in-law, who is Jewish, would
almost certainly call ‘cool’.

He had commissioned seven artists to paint the portraits of seven Jewish
people who survived the holocaust and had come to live in this country when
the war ended. And on Thursday he invited them and the artists to the
Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace to see their portraits and meet him
and the Duchess of Cornwall.

You may have seen some or all of the portraits on the television or on-line or
in the papers. They were all very different but each artist, as all good artists
do, had captured not just the physical appearance of the seven men and
women – now all in their nineties – but also something of their character.
And not just their character, their history as well. You could see in those faces
all the early pain of suffering and separation, but also the years of reflection
on their lives – the journey they had made from hating the Germans to
forgiving and to loving all human beings, as one of them explained.
As I looked at the portraits of those Jewish men and women, today’s gospel
story popped into my mind - because here too we have two older Jewish
people, Simeon and Anna. They happened to be in the Temple in Jerusalem
when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to mark his birth and give
thanks with a small sacrifice.

We don’t know, of course, what Simeon and Anna looked like, only that they
were getting on in years – but perhaps they looked like these elderly British
Jews, whose past experiences, reflected in their faces, were now caught in
their portraits by the artists. And perhaps that’s why St Luke, and only St
Luke, writes the story of this brief encounter between the infant Jesus and
Simeon and Anna into his gospel. He’s telling us something. And perhaps
what happened in the Queen’s Gallery last Thursday is the clue to it.
What I mean is this.

Those seven elderly, Jewish men and women whose portraits were painted,
were not just victims of the holocaust, they were also survivors. For different
reasons, by different small miracles, they had come through when so many
others had perished.

I heard some of them speaking about their lives in a BBC 2 documentary. It
was harrowing. As children they were taken to the concentration camp and
separated from their parents. They soon knew that they would see their
mother, their father a brother or sister no more.

They saw everything that as a child you valued, everything that made you feel
safe and secure and loved – your family, your home, your toys, your books,
your school, your friends, your clothes – everything, torn away from you and
cast aside – including, of course, your future. They literally lost everything.
One of the women told the reporter how on arriving at the concentration camp
they were stripped naked and then had their hair shaved from their head. The
reporter asked them what it was like to lose you dignity in this way. She said,
they had no time to think about dignity or anything else – they could only ever
think about where they might find some scrap of food to keep alive
Victims of the holocaust. Yet they had survived.

Survived. And then they had come to this country to try to build a life from
nothing. And they had done so. They learnt a new language, took themselves
to school, found jobs, got married, had children and grandchildren. They
survived, but more than that, they thrived. They thrived because they refused
to let the terrible experiences of their past drag them into some endless state
of bitterness or grieving or self-pity. This was the wisdom that was captured in
their faces. That even in the most appalling of circumstances there can be

As another victim once said, it is always better to light a single candle than to
curse the darkness. That’s easy to say if you have faced few traumas in life
yourself. But these people can say it, because they have known what it is to
inhabit the darkest of rooms.

I think Simeon and Anna are remembered in the gospel of St Luke for a
similar reason. They have the wisdom of the older person, because only the
older person, only the one who has lived through life’s up and downs, can
say, life is worth living, there is no human experience that is so bad that hope
for a better future has to be cast aside as a mere dream. That is the vocation
of the old to show to the young that though you might be a victim now, you
can survive and you can ultimately thrive.

So Simeon and Anna’s hopes are rewarded and they see the one who will be
the light that will dispel all our darkness.

At Candlemas we remember that Christ is our light.

He has known what it is like to enter the darkest of rooms. But God raised
him on the third day. He has the right to say it is better to light one candle
than curse the darkness.

The Prayers
Prepared by David C

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 brings judgement on the world:
look in mercy on the nations, who long for his justice.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ, who was rich, for our sakes became poor:
look in mercy on the needy, 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 the departed, 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.