Sunday, 31st January

Together in Prayer
4th Sunday of Epiphany
Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas)

O Lord open our lips.
And our mouth shall declare your praise!
Reveal among us the light of your presence.
that we may behold your power and glory

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.

Preparing our hearts
Lord God, you are the source of everlasting light.
Your son, our beloved Lord Jesus
was presented in the temple 40 days after his birth.
He was recognised by Simeon and Anna,
and welcomed as the promised Messiah.
May we like them, behold the glory of the Lord Jesus.
Grant that we may stand before you
with hearts cleansed by your forgiving love.
May we serve you all our days
and make your name known
as we worship you as our Lord.
So may we come by your grace
and Spirit to eternal life, one God,
now and for ever.

Reading: Malachi 3: 1-5
The Coming Messenger
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

This is the Word of our Lord
Thanks be to God

Reading: Luke 2: 22-40
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

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 turtledoves 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 seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped 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.

This is the Word of our Lord
Thanks be to God

Thought for the week: Rev Brian Brobyn
Today we celebrate a special day in the Church’s calendar which normally slips by almost unnoticed when it falls – as it usually does – on a weekday. It is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, otherwise known as Candlemas. Important in its own right, it also marks the end of the 40 days of Christmas, which for Christians began rather than finished on Christmas Day, and has been at the forefront of our prayer and praise ever since.
This church, no doubt saw many glorious Candlemas celebrations in medieval times, when folk would process into church carrying candles to symbolise Jesus’ presentation in the Temple, and old Simeon’s recognition of him as ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’. These days, although Candlemas is no longer much observed, we still use candles in church services, and occasionally a great many of them. But perhaps we seldom take the time to stop and recognise their significance. It is all too easy to take them for granted as little specks of ornamental light in an electric world.
It was not always so. Many of England’s churches lost their candles and their candlesticks following the puritan victory in the English Civil War, when they were ejected from churches along with the Book of Common Prayer, altars, fonts, crosses and, usually, the Vicar himself. The Church of England had to go into exile, with its services celebrated in secret, until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.
Now once you have lost something, in time you become used to doing without it. That is why there were some unholy rows in the 19th century when many clergy attempted to restore candles to the altars. These and other ‘popish practices’ occasioned much passion, on both sides of the argument. I particularly like the incident recorded in one parish where a new Vicar arrived and installed two candles on the altar. Immediately the Churchwardens removed them. The Vicar responded by ordering a gross and charging them to the church as Vestry expenses, thinking that would guarantee their use. But a Churchwarden was cleverer: he crept into church one dark night and by morning had managed to pull the wicks out of all 144.
I read recently of a church where In 1858 where the vicar – a High Churchman, had the audacity to place candles and candlesticks on the High Altar. The Order Book records a meeting on 23 December that year – in the season of peace and goodwill – at which it was ‘Resolved unanimously that the recent alterations in the mode of performing the services in Church and the placing of Candlesticks on the Communion Table are entirely disapproved by this Parish.’ One gentleman was emboldened to put a further motion to the meeting. The Order Book records:
Resolved by a considerable majority that the Resolution just agreed to, be sent to the Lord Bishop of the Diocese and that his Lordship be respectfully requested to use his influence and authority to remove the Candlesticks and to restore a form of worship agreeable to the usage in Parish Churches.
Appealing to the Lord Bishop was not likely to do the vicar’s opponents any good.
They heard no more of the affair of the candlesticks – which is good, for those two High Altar candles preach a powerful sermon.
But let us begin at the beginning about Candlemas. The feast began as the commemoration of Mary’s ritual purification according to the Mosaic Law after the birth of her son, and her offering of him, as her first-born, to the Lord. In pre-reformation times mothers of children born in the preceding twelve months would head the procession into Church on Candlemas Day, each carrying a candle, to give thanks to God for the birth of their children.
The Feast had another significance, too, as the third great celebration of the Light of the World. At Christmas, the Light shone in the darkness, but only a few received it: Mary and Joseph and the shepherds at the manger. Then at Epiphany the Light cast its bright beams on the Church, the New Jerusalem, and the Gentiles – represented by the Wise Men – were called out of darkness into the light of Christ. And then at Candlemas the light was placed in the hands of all the faithful; they had the Light, and were themselves to be lights in the world, as they echoed the words of Simeon: Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.
Well, as I say, unless it falls on a Sunday Candlemas draws but a faithful few to the Eucharist of the day. But today is Sunday, and we have our two candles on the High Altar, and sometimes I think of them like this: one speaks of God, and it would draw us to God through Jesus, who is the very brightness of the Father’s glory. And the other speaks of our neighbour, and when we love our neighbour then we draw near to Christ himself.
First, the candle that speaks of God. We are made for God; made to worship and adore God and enjoy him for ever. We find our fulfilment in the adoration of the God who made us. As St Augustine prayed, “Thou hast formed us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”. When we really worship, when a church service or our own private prayers really engage us and we offer ourselves and all that we have and are to God, then we experience a sense of well-being that tells us, ‘This is what I was made for’. I like the way one modern writer puts it: Mine has been a happy life, yet never have I known such deep fulfilment as when early on Easter morning I kneel before the altar in adoration of him who died and rose again for me.
Then, second, the other candle calls us to serve God in the service of our fellow men and women. Of all the high-sounding titles of the Pope in Rome, the one which strikes me most is ‘Servant of the servants of God’, and I think that is a title to which we should all aspire: servants of the servants of God. And that means not picking and choosing whom to love and whom to serve. A servant cannot just do the pleasant jobs. Some people are easy to love; some service is pleasant to do. But the servants of the servants of God offer their service on the altar of God’s love. Love your enemies, commands the Lord; do good to them that persecute you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you … and you will be sons of the Most High. And it is by offering ourselves on the altar of the love of God that we are enabled to love our fellow men and women, because then we become women and men transformed in a transformation, we call redemption, and redemption is forged in the flame of our worship and our prayer.
Here, then, is the sermon the altar candles are preaching. And it is a victorious sermon, for they shine upon the cross, and the cross is the symbol of our faith, the sign of the victory won by Christ for all people. And Christ is the Light of the World, who turns our darkest night into his glorious day. And for that, thanks be to God.

Collect – Candlemas
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.


O Lord, give to us and your whole church the spirit of wisdom and godly guidance;
that we may discern the times in which we live,
that we may proclaim with relevance the Gospel in all the world.
By your Spirit empower all who preach, to speak clearly and with vision.
We pray for all ministers of the word and of the sacraments.
Holy One, hear us.
O God, deliver us.

We pray for those who rule and leaders of all peoples,
that they may have vision and not neglect the responsibilities put on them and those they serve.
We pray for all who plan for our future during these troubled times,
for scientists, geneticists, research workers and inventors;
for those who influence our minds through broadcasting and the news media.
We remember all who have lost vision, and those who lead others astray.
Holy One, hear us.
O God, deliver them.

We give you thanks for those who have revealed your presence and love to us,
for those who have guided us into the ways of truth.
We pray for those who now influence the minds of our young people;
for schools, colleges, and universities at this difficult time;
for young people who have left home,
for those who have been caught up in crime or in drugs.
Holy One, hear us.
O God, deliver them.

We remember all who are handicapped, the physically infirm,
the mentally disturbed and whose lives have been made more difficult during these testing times.
We pray for all who are struggling with ill health and for those in hospital.
We remember and pray for the families who have lost loved ones and have been unable to grieve properly because of the restrictions.
We give our grateful thanks for all those on the front line who continue to sacrifice their own health and welfare to protect ours.
Holy One, hear us.
O God, deliver them.

Finally Lord, we give thanks for your redeeming love and liberating power,
that you free us from the powers of evil, sin and death,
and open up for us the glory of your kingdom.
We pray for all who have died in faith and are now at peace safe in your arms, remembering any that are know to us out loud or in our hearts.
Lord, may we rejoice with them in your heavenly kingdom.
Holy One, hear us.
O God, deliver us all.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

The Peace
The peace which the world cannot give,
the deep peace of him who stilled the storm;
may the peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you

The Blessing
The Lord of light and love, lead you into the way of peace,
guide you in the way that you are travelling,
protect you from all danger, keep you forever in his care;
and may the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
today, and forever more