Where is the light in our lives?
Today Chaplain. Rev. David Reid, who, with his wife Ann, joined the congregation at Christ Church last year gave the homily.
Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
4th Sunday after Epiphany – The Day of Presentation. 02/02/2020
Today we celebrate the moment that Jesus of Nazareth was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem by his parents Joseph and Mary to be inducted into Judaism. This is the event that we read in today’s Gospel from the Book of Luke, it took place some forty days after the birth of Jesus at the stable in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary could not afford the sacrifice of a Lamb, so they chose the lighter and less costly version of sacrifice which required either two Turtle Doves or two young Pigeons. Luke tells us that two people at the Temple realized that the infant Jesus was no ordinary child being inducted to the Jewish faith. Both Simeon and Anna proclaimed that the child had a special destiny for the people of Israel.
We can only imagine that for Joseph and Mary this would have been an experience that they were not prepared for and one can only speculate about the conversation that they had on the way back home to Nazareth. Certainly, they must have wondered what will happen next – after all six weeks earlier at the stable in Bethlehem had been anything but ordinary.
This story reminds us all that God has a plan for all of us and sometimes we need to “Open Our Eyes That we might see – what may be in store for us as we experience the infinite intelligence of God’s divine plan. However, we have to meet God through our faith and that is the part that requires courage on our part, we have to be ready and willing to embrace change. How do we do that?
In the United States, this day February 2nd is known as Groundhog Day and it is an annual celebration that focuses on the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney is located to the northeast of Pittsburgh with a population of 6,000 people. On February 2nd every year a large group, in past years reported to be some 40,000 people gather at Gobblers Knob in the town of Punxsutawney to observe the Groundhog “Phil” emerge from his burrow. This annual event has been ongoing since 1840 and the question of importance is whether Phil sees his shadow or not. If he does see his shadow, then he will retreat to his burrow and we will all experience six more weeks of Winter. Conversely no shadow means that Spring will come early. The event is now live-streamed on the Internet, so with the time difference of six hours we will know the outcome after we leave church today. However, since Punxsutawney is a long way from Clermont Ferrand, I have pleasure in introducing Clermont Charlie. “Charlie did not see his shadow this morning and so Charlie says Spring will come early… You heard it here before Punxsutawney Phil!
Groundhog Day has also taken on a new meaning resulting from the very successful 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. In the film, Bill Murray plays a TV Weatherman assigned to cover the annual Punxsutawney Phil revelation. However, Bill Murray becomes caught in a time loop and Groundhog Day keeps repeating over and over again. Every morning he finds himself experiencing the same day over and over again. The term to experience a “Groundhog Day” moment now refers to something that is a recurring situation.
Some years ago, when I was participating in an executive “management of change” course, our instructor started off by saying the following: If you keep on doing the same thing over and over again you will get the same result. This was the mantra to embrace change rather than being fearful of making change. Change does represent risk, but it also offers opportunity. The strength of our beliefs and our faith help us to cope with Change. When we can make that connection, we do gain a raised consciousness – as the words of our Hymn informed us; we need to Open our Minds.
I am sure that as Joseph and Mary travelled back to Nazareth with their six-week old son they must have wondered why Simeon and Anna had expressed such wonderful words about their boy. We now know that there was much more to follow as the boy Jesus would grow and become the starting point of all those that would follow and form the many branches of Christianity.
In my own life journey, I have experienced many changes and most recently this has brought my wife and I to live in France. Two years ago, this was nowhere on our radar screen. Why France? It all began with Ann’s research on the book she is writing about the French resistance in 1944 and in particular the amazing courage of one woman – Nancy Wake. Nancy was Australian but married to a French Industrialist in Marseille. In 1943 Nancy joined the British SOE or Special Operations Executive. By April 44, Nancy was parachuted into the Allier to work alongside the French resistance. Nancy Wake was the most decorated woman of WW2, Nancy lived to be 98 and died in 2011, her ashes are scattered at the Chateau Fragne near the village of Verneix in the Allier. Guess where Ann and I came in April 2018, we found a Gite close to Cosne d’Allier and Verneix and Ann began her research. That month the research brought us to Chamalières – just down the road from here. Chamalières has an excellent Musée de Resistance. Imagine our surprise when in April 2019 we discovered Christ Church and passed by the Chamalières Resistance Museum. We kept being drawn back to France and we realized that we wanted to live in France.
Today is also a special day in France, because it is La Chandeleur and it is the French version of Candlemas day the Christian holy day, another name for the day when Jesus was presented at the Temple. In France this is also the day of the Crepe in the same way that the British celebrate pancake day on Shrove Tuesday. On Candlemas the Christian tradition has been to have a blessing of candles to remind us that Jesus was the Light of the World.
For mariners the light of the world is evident in the lighthouse. As a former navigating officer in the Navy, I have seen hundreds of lighthouses around the shores of many countries. Lighthouses have been present with us since 250 BC [Before Christ] with the oldest believed to be at the port of Alexandria in Egypt. Lighthouses are a symbol of a way forward and for help in navigating our way through the frequent turbulent challenges of life. From a religious or spiritual perspective lighthouses represent guidance, refuge and salvation. Most people only think of lighthouses as the shining light at night that guides navigators to safety, however they also provide guidance in the day as well. Each Lighthouse around the world has a distinctive architecture and bold coloring that enables a navigator to easily recognize which one it is.
In John chapter 8 verse 12, the scripture reads “Then Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness; but, will have the light of life.” This does not mean that Jesus can only be with us at night time or the literal darkness – Jesus means that his light is just like the lighthouse it will guide you both day and night. This is about enlightenment – a raised spiritual awareness. The ability to embrace change because your faith is strong.
So, on this special day of La Chandeleur, Candlemas and even Groundhog Day perhaps we might reflect on our own lives and how we embrace change. Where is the light in our lives? Are we navigating the right path? Do we truly understand our direction? Perhaps this is a day to present ourselves, and seek the true light.
Chaplain. Rev. David Reid