Many of you are Grandparents. In that role you take a keen interest in the lives of your Grandchildren. Some of you see them more than others, almost and maybe even every day, some of you less so, separated by geography and so on.
Grandparents in many ways have the best bits of parenting. They usually don’t work so can turn up as and when required, with little else to worry about except to concentrate on their charges.
That concentration can of course be demanding “Grandma can you do this or that” or “Grandad I don’t like those” or perhaps trying to respond to the most disturbing question ever asked “why?”
And yet though they can be exhausting Grandparents are invariably delighted by their Grandchildren.
Proudly telling tales to all who will listen of some funny thing their grandchild has done.
The delight and joy of those moments I’ve come to realise hint at something much deeper and is part of why the old need the young, as much as the young need the old.
It’s a theme picked up in that familiar Gospel for this evening as we encounter two aged and faithful souls, Simeon and Anna who have, as the aged often know well, spent a long time waiting.
And so when Mary and Joseph present the child, their little miracle on seeing him they realise their waiting is over, for in this child they see hope. They see the word made flesh.
Something similar happens when we spend time with children particularly babies and toddlers whether we are Grandparents or not, for in them we see hope, we see more.
We see a young life filled with potential who gives us hope that things might just be better. That this little life as it grows might not make the same mistakes we have. In some way they embody a hope for a better world.
Part of that hope is that in them we see a life content and fixed on the present moment. Happy to be where they are, happy and care free enough to do the same thing again and again and again simply because it gives them joy, just think “peepo”.
Grandparents often seem to have a higher tolerance than parents for things like that. As a parent there always seem more important things to do, like the washing or paying a bill or just having a nap.
Grandparents like their Grandchildren often have more time to savour and enjoy things. Perhaps that’s because as we grow older we learn that life is more about subtraction than addition. That’s true of life and of faith.
In life, we lose all sorts of things, not least our memory, our glasses and our ability to bounce all over the place as we once did. Yet we gain things too, often harder, not least a kind of simplicity that though it may be forced upon us can help us see better.
And in faith too for it is lived not by gaining knowledge rather by letting go of all sorts of things that we often think important to make more room amidst the clutter for wonder and joy, so that we might truly see what is before us.
So to return to the temple, perhaps it’s no coincidence that it was the old man Simeon who said ‘For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’
He’d let go of everything that a younger man might have clung to and so his eyes could see more than the child before him. His eyes could see that though this baby was in so many ways just like any other, this was a special child one who was the ‘light to the nations’.
In every child though, we see something of what Simeon saw, we see the wonder of life and the light that brings into our world and as they grow seeing and learning for the first time, their wonder and joy is infectious, it brightens our day.
That’s why our children are so precious because through them we’re invited to see more, to hope, to dream. That’s why we should cherish them so, even when they can sometimes be frustrating little blighters.
Simeon saw in the baby Jesus a child who was and is the light of the world. He saw the light of the world, as we remember that joyful encounter, we remember too how some way every child gives us hope, how they kindle in us the light that can sometimes grow dim.
This Christmas season we have celebrated his appearing, we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth. And tonight we give thanks for how this special and indeed every child can kindle in us the hope of a better way.
Our calling, as ever, is to take the light we have seen and know into the dark places of the world and let it shine.