We think of Jesus being presented in the Temple at the beginning of February. The Church Service which celebrates this event is popularly known as Candlemas – because candles were traditionally used, as they are still, to symbolise the light of Jesus. The old priest Simeon had been waiting all his life for the day when he would see the Messiah and now the baby Messiah had actually been brought to the temple in his very presence. He declared that Jesus was the “light to lighten the Gentiles”- in other words, the light of the world, the light for everyone, not just the Jewish race. Having seen Jesus he declared that he could now depart in peace, implying that he was now ready to die.
We often use these words of Simeon at a Christian funeral to imply that the deceased, like Simeon, had seen the light of Jesus within that person’s lifetime.
Many people have a so-called bucket list of things they want to do before they die. Perhaps it might include visits to certain interesting places or doing something rather special like driving a Farrari! I wonder how many folks include Simeon’s special aspiration – to see Jesus within their lifetime.
Is that a strange thing to think about? Maybe you say you’ve already been there and done that. But maybe, equally, it is a lifetime project, not a one-off event. We grow in faith and understanding, even if the initial commitment for some folks – as for St Paul – is a sudden conversion moment in time.
When you hold a baby in your arms you think about all the potential there is in that young life. At a Baptism the minister holds the baby, declaring that this is a child of God, made a member of his family, held in God’s love, who is to be a light for Christ. That will be a lifetime project supported by God’s Holy Spirit working within, and those around the person supporting and encouraging without.
Next time you hold a baby in your arms, think of how Simeon must have felt as he held baby Jesus in his arms. Think of all the potential in that “light for Christ”. An event 2000 years ago heralded God’s healing and salvation to the world.
Let’s turn to another very positive kind of potential. I hope you all spotted a fetching picture of our very own Jim Britcliffe in the Chester Diocesan News for January 2018, and I hope you read the accompanying article he had written: “Called to serve”. Jim is one of our two Churchwardens, in case you are not sure. He is now putting himself forward to be considered for ordination.
He declares himself to be an “ordinary bloke” who couldn’t ignore a “nagging voice” calling him to offer himself for ordination. He says he felt encouraged by my support (so I hope that this was correctly judged!). In the last couple of years he has completed a scheduled course which prepares people for a variety of ministries, and attended various events which invite reflection on future roles in the church. So his continuing conviction that he should seek ordination has been, and is being, tested. It is now up to the Diocese of Chester and the wider Church of England to determine where Jim goes from here. It could be that he is selected to be trained on a full-time or part-time course lasting 2 or 3 years, that he then serves as a curate in a parish for 2 years, ultimately becoming the Vicar of a parish church.
So Jim is like baby Jesus held in the arms of Simeon (actually not really!). How is God going to use him in ministry? Will the Church say: “YES he should be prepared for ordination and YES he should be ordained”? We pray for that outcome, but more importantly we pray for discernment in this process – both on the part of the church and on Jim’s part. If, remarkably, for some reason Jim is not to be ordained, then we pray that God will make clear to him what his role in the church is to be.
He comes with great experience in all sorts of ways and is extremely well supported by his wife Debbie (who of course has her own range of experience and skill set, all of which can be brought to bear on her husband’s ministry).
So, show that you care about Jim’s future ministry. Encourage him (and Debbie) in their mission. Pray that the church will be enriched by what they bring to the table.