Candlemas – The Feast of the Presentation

Image by Dorothée QUENNESSON from Pixabay

Opening Prayer

Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was 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,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Luke 2:22-40 (NLT)

22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

Sermon by Rev’d Jo Joyce

The story of the presentation of Jesus is filled with symbolism. Here there are parallels with the ancient themes of the prophesy from Malachi of a messenger and the Lord coming to his temple, alongside judgement. In our gospel reading Jesus is brought faithfully by Mary and Joseph, following their customs and traditions that all firstborn boys would have gone through, and yet the events that day were quite different.

Simeon was in the temple worshipping. He was someone who was filled with faith and was expectant for God to do things. He was led by the Holy Spirit to meet Jesus. When he sees him, he speaks the words now known to us through the order of night prayer and the funeral service – the song of Simeon,

‘Master now dismiss 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.’

Here in this tiny baby is salvation, not just for those who already know God but for the Gentiles, for those who don’t know God, for all people. And that is the miracle of Christmas and of the incarnation. As today we mark the end of that season and moving onwards we are prompted to look back to the reality of Christ become flesh for all people. And yet Simeon’s blessing brings a word of warning, here he talks of opposition and the pain that Mary will feel. And our eyes are cast forward this time to the pain of crucifixion and the sadness of Holy week.

St Luke doesn’t tell us what Anna says, other than she praised God. She too reiterates that Jesus is someone who will do great things. St Luke often does this in his gospel, pairing the story of Jesus with the testimony of both men and women. Here is a saviour to be spoken of not just by the men, but to break with tradition and be proclaimed by women too. There is a sense that in all of this the witness of men and women is equal. Jesus is breaking the mould. Someone to be considered afresh, not just a messiah to speak to the Israelite people of God, but to speak to all people.

So how does this all become the festival of Candlemas that we know today? Well, following Leviticus 12 a woman would be purified at the temple by presenting a sacrifice 33 days after a boy’s circumcision. This traditionally marks the 40th day of the Christmas /Epiphany season, and the end of that festival. It was often marked in the past by people bring their candles to church, and all the candles used in church being gathered together and blessed, then when they were used, they were sent out, to take the light of Christ, seen in the incarnation, into the world. If you have ever been to a baptism you will remember that at the very end of a service those who have been baptised are given a lit candle to take out from the service, symbolising the spreading of the light of God’s love.

There is a sense in the story of the prophesy of Simeon and Anna that they too see the light of Jesus and proclaim that to the world, and so I encourage you today that the next time you light a candle or turn on a lamp to think of the love of God shining brightly for all to see. And use it as a symbol to remind yourself of that love, and as a prompt to remind you of the love God has for you, and to think back to Simeon and Anna and the joy they shared when they saw Jesus for the first time.


Jesus, Light of the world, shine in our darkness

We are all companions on a spiritual journey
As we travel together, let us pray

Almighty God, we give thanks for the welcome given to the child, Jesus, by Simeon and Anna, seeing that in his life there would be joy, sorrow and suffering, and for the example they have set us.

As we remember the older and retired people in our churches, we thank you for their faith, their prayers and their service. We pray your Holy Spirit may inspire them to use and share their experiences of life with wisdom, humility and gladness.
Jesus Light of the world, shine in our darkness

Lord, we pray that world-wide churches may always be ready to travel along your way and in your direction.
Bless and guide our ministers and leaders
As we enter the Lenten season of penitence and discipline, help us to be alive to your Spirit, who searches all our hearts and renews our lives as we offer our faith and obedience.
Jesus Light of the world, shine in our darkness

We pray for nations and leaders as they live through challenges not just of a pandemic, but also climate change, conflict and economic downturns.
We remember those places where troubles combine in the most catastrophic of ways, especially remembering Yemen where war, poverty and illness cause so much suffering.
We pray for all those people sacrificially working to bring aid and help where it is most needed.
Jesus Light of the world, shine in our darkness

We pray for the families and communities we represent asking that we may have a spirit of generous love, understanding and respect for those who are different from us.
We pray for all finding their life-journey tedious, lonely or uncertain,
those who are ill or vulnerable, Be their strong comfort in times of need.
Bless and protect their families and their carers.
Jesus Light of the world, shine in our darkness

Lord, we pray for those who have died and those who miss and grieve for them.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world, a light which no darkness can quench.
We hold them in the light of your love.
We think of…………………………………………..
You turn our darkness into light, in your light shall we see light.
Grant us and all who have known you in their hearts a share in your eternal kingdom.
Jesus Light of the world, shine in our darkness

In the silence of these moments, we make our particular concerns known to God.

Open our eyes, Father
To the light of your glory
In the world you have made
In the people around us
And in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

(Prayer adapted from Intercessions for Candlemas by Mrs Mary Stubbs, February 2008

Closing Worship

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