notre dame montreal

Candlemas, The Presentation of Christ

Family Worship Sermon preached by
The Revd Charles Royden

Rembrandt, The Presentation of Christ


Candlemas Family Worship Sermon 2008

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Suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple,

the messenger of the covenant in who you delight is here.  Malachi 3:1

'Salvation has the nature of a child'



I have been quite surprised lately to see the enormous interest in a television programme. It is day time viewing and it attracts huge numbers of viewers in our area. These viewers are normally retired folks with a little time to spare after their naps. They are usually bright and intelligent, so we are not talking about programmes like Tricia, Oprah or the Richard and Judy type of stuff.

No this is Countdown. The first programme on Channel 4, it has now been going since 1982. How many people here are ‘Countdowners’ ?

I have missed Countdown for many years. Without my knowing it, people have made arrangements around Countdown. You see I would telephone people to make an appointment. Perhaps I was dropping by because of some need to call, perhaps a funeral visit, or somebody who wanted to meet to discuss something.

I would suggest 3pm, and they would say ‘can you make it a bit earlier 2.00pm or 2.30pm’ If I suggested 4.00pm they would ask if I could make it a bit later, perhaps 4.30pm. I never realised that it was because Countdown goes from 3.25pm - 4.15pm

Now I know their strategies I always say ‘can I come at 3.25pm’, just so that I can observe the panic.

When I first encountered ‘Countdowners’ I must have called unexpectedly and caught them at it.

This morning I want us to play Countdown with two words which I then want to talk about, these are words which are important for the Christian and words which we think about as we enter Lent from Candlemas.

See if you can guess the first word from the letters T I C D R A S T I N O D

The second word should be a bit easier C O U F S

First Word

At first I thought that these ‘Countdowners’ must all be very clever because the sums were really hard and the word puzzles were sometimes very difficult. It was as I was wondering how such a programme about learning could attract such a following, that I suddenly had a revelation myself. All of the conversation when the programme was on, was not about how many letters had been used up to create a word, or how to make numbers up, it was about fashion. Specifically it was about Carole Vorderman and what she was or was not wearing.

From visits to many homes across Brickhill and Putnoe and listening to her armchair critics, I can now reveal that she is guilty of all kinds of fashion misdemeanours.
She has her clothes tucked in in all of the wrong places
Wears dresses which are so revealing they could be nighties
She is also obviously struggling with her weight and bursting out of her buttons.
Could it be I wonder, is this is a programme in which the clothing of the lady putting up the numbers is more important than the alphabet and the arithmetic ? If you were a real wordsmith or number cruncher, would it not all be just a bit too frivolous?

So it is that the first word is Distraction.

I want to suggest that Christians can just as easily forget the really important things about our faith and become distracted by all sorts of things which are peripheral to the purpose of our faith. As Christians we can forget the centrality of Jesus and the importance of making him known to a lost society. We can become preoccupied instead with the way that we like to do being a Christian. It might be the way we sing, or pray that becomes most important for us. Usually it is just because we think that our Christian club ( usually we call it church to make it sound more holy) is better than somebody else’s.

This of course is not something new, Christians have always done it. We have burned and tortured people to death for expressing their faith in different ways than ourselves. A whole range of unimportant things still divide and conquer Christians. We have easily become distracted and give attention to the unimportant things.

Second Word

The second word comes from another thing which I have noticed about Countdown. When I go to a home and Countdown is on the television, I can talk to the people, they can talk to me - sort of- but their eyes will remain firmly fixed on the television. There is no way that I can compete with Carol Vorderman. The eyes of the people in the room will not be averted from Countdown, even if is Des Oconnor, they still look at the television.

These are people who are completely focussed on the programme. Occasionally even taking out a pencil and paper and taking part. Their eyes are firmly fixed, they are resolute and focussed.

So the second word is FOCUS

Let us take a lesson from Simeon in our reading today. When Simeon saw Jesus he felt that nothing else mattered. He called on God to take him there and then - ‘now let your servant depart in peace.’ Simeon saw Jesus and focussing on Jesus alone he knew that everything else was unimportant. Simeon realised that he was saved not by the quality of his own life, but rather by that of God’s great gift, Jesus.

There is a wonderful passage from Hebrews about ‘focus’ which is extremely encouraging it says this

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

The writer from Hebrews encourages the reader to be resolute in purpose, eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, not on our preferences for how we like to do religion.

As I have found when I visit ‘countdowners’ and they stare at the television, it is not possible to look in two directions at once.

Lent is a time when we try to discipline ourselves to avoid the distractions, to focus and look in the right direction. If we have ever been successful in things that we have done, then we will know the importance of fixing our eyes on the goal. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the Christian life being like an athlete who concentrates their vision on the finishing post.


Lent is often seen as a time of inner reflection and personal discipline. Some may find that helpful, but it can just as easily get in the way as we focus on our problems and difficulties, once more it all becomes about us.

The writer to the Hebrews in Chapter 12 tells the reader to Focus. What are they to Focus upon - Jesus !

Can I urge you this year to begin not by looking within yourself, but by looking at the person of Jesus. When Simeon looked at Jesus he forgot all about himself. Suddenly was not bothered about his own imperfections, or religious duties. He saw in Jesus that God was doing something and all he could do, all that he was expected to do was to worship.

Focusing our eyes on Jesus and worshipping him as our Lord, that is all that God requires of any of us.


O thou great Chief

light a candle in my heart

that I may see what is therein

and sweep the rubbish from thy dwelling place. 

African school girls prayer