Today’s Gospel reading from Luke tells of a meeting. A meeting between a white haired old man and a tiny baby, just over a month old. The old man was Simeon. A good man, described as righteous and devout. The Holy Spirit had promised him that he would see 'Christ the Lord'. The baby of course was Jesus.
It must have been a very moving and exciting moment. Looking down at the baby in his arms, Simeon saw the answer to a lifetime of prayers. In that small bundle he saw so much more than just one more of the many infants brought to the temple for special services. This one was different. In that one moment the past, the present and the future were joined. The temple they were in, and the priests and people who worshipped there, were there as a result of hundreds of years of tradition and culture of a people who had come a long way since the promise to their ancestor, Abraham, the first covenant with God. They tried to live following the rules that Moses had told them, laws that Moses had received from God. Their nation had gone through the mill for hundreds of years. The trouble with the Egyptians, wars with hostile tribes, the exile in Babylon and now a Roman Occupation. And as if that were not enough a mad king Herod, who as they were to find out, thought nothing of killing a few babies to ease his own paranoia. But their nation had not been scattered. They still had their identity and that was due to God. They were his chosen people.
Now, in that temple, here was the child. The Holy Spirit in Simeon recognised that baby, the power and holiness of this infant. In this child, barely old enough to smile, he saw the future, the salvation, and the means by which God would reveal himself. The light of the world. Mary and Joseph, watching the old man holding their child, quite bemused. What a lot had happened to them since that visit from Gabriel, and what a lot would happen to them still. The flight to Egypt to escape wicked King Herod, and all the worry of bringing up their special son.
And in the future he saw the widening of God's promise. The spreading of God's message and Kingdom to all nations. 'A light to lighten the gentiles'. A future reviewed by Peter in another of today's readings. Peter was writing to a church which included many people whom Simeon would consider pagans and gentiles. 'Once you were not a people, and now you are the people of God' says Peter.
The Baby, Jesus, at that time, would need nourishing and caring for in order that he should grow, as the bible says, 'in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and men.' That was Mary and Joseph's task. To nurture the child that would be a 'light to enlighten the pagans'. Us! And now this is our task. By following the example of this child, and using His life and teaching as a pattern we help to spread his light. And just as Mary weaned her child on milk, we nurture our faith with what Peter calls the milk of spiritual honesty.
Jesus grew into the 'cornerstone' says Peter. The most important stone in the building. Some translations say the 'keystone'. That is the stone in the arch that prevents everything from falling down. But we should also be careful about our own position as living stones in the building of the kingdom of God. We should care about the way we grow as examples of Christ's light.
Spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and being critical of each other cause us to be impure. Impurities weaken us as Christians and make us less effective as lights reflecting God's glory. When others see the impurities in us we are not passing on that light and we give our church a bad name. By trying to live by his example, by 'Purifying our Hearts' we 'build with silver and gold' and play our part in the growth and establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Spread the light. (Lighting two candles each when our own candle is lit the light spreads very rapidly throughout the church.)