The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Sunday 29 January 2017
West Camel, Queen Camel
There’s a theme running through today’s readings, and it’s about lifting and being lifted up.
The Psalmist says,
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
The Psalmist is telling the Temple to prepare for the worship of the people, just like in a different time and place the great bells of [All Saints / St Barnabas] church loudly and tunefully sound across the village and the countryside, inviting the people in to worship.
The Psalmist, picturing the people lifting their feet to travel upwards to worship; then asks,
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
… then answers his own question:
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
And here, the lifting-up is of the people’s souls. It’s a reminder that it’s who we are inside that we bring to worship, it’s who we are inside that God is interested in, it’s who we are inside that we lift up in praise and adoration every time we rise from our beds to remember God’s goodness to us, God’s love for us.
In the delightful little story of the baby Jesus being presented in the temple, and old faithful worshipper Simeon receiving the child, I see another sort of lifting up.
For when the text says, ‘Simeon took him in his arms and praised God’, I picture a man doing what men like to do with babies - lifting up the child, holding him out before him, holding him high as he says,
‘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.’
Here is your salvation; lifted up in my very own hands. Here is the light of revelation to all people, who I am elevating right here in this temple. I can go to my grave in peace because in this wonderful moment you have uplifted me. And so I lift up my soul in thanksgiving to you, for this child.
Now, you may have had such moments. As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, friends and neighbours, those moments when you’ve taken a child in your arms, when you’ve lifted the child up before you so your eyes meet, when you’ve held the child high in celebration, and when inside, your soul has been uplifted, for all your hopes and dreams for the future are being fulfilled in this tiny little one. Simeon moments; the prophetess Anna had one also, that same day, in that same temple, with Jesus.
I wonder if it might be part of our mission in life, our witness as Christians, part of our everyday worship, to be people who lift up little ones? Who elevate children? Who raise youngsters high?
After all, it was the grown-up Jesus who once placed a child among the disciples, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ 
And it was Jesus who said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 
And isn’t it the case, when we look at our world today, that among those people who really need lifting-up the most, the forgotten and misunderstood ones, the ones with the least power and influence, the ones whose voice is often edited out of public conversation, it’s the children, it’s the young people who are always there.
So I say again, do you see it as part of your mission in life, your witness as Christians, part of your everyday worship, to lift up little ones? To elevate children? To raise youngsters high?
Is it time for us to put away the fears held by recent generations of adults, fears of paying attention to children lest we be accused of some form of deviancy? Is it time for us to assert that, in God’s eyes, in Jesus’ teaching, the deviant is the one who avoids or excludes children, the deviant is the one who in the name of protecting children, isolates them from the rest of society?
Is it time instead for us - sensitively, with openness and accountability certainly, but most of all lovingly - to go out of our way to lift our young ones high? To place our hopes in them and to work with them to help to make their future as bright as it can be? I would say so, because that would be to follow the way of Jesus. And the example of Simeon and Anna.
So in our everyday worship we might lift up the young ones in our homes and families with good listening, positive encouragement, practical help.
In our everyday worship we might lift up the young ones in our community with positive words, acts of kindness, trusting and open attitudes to those we meet.
We read in polls that young people in the UK are concerned, more than anything else, about good, well-paid jobs, about protecting human rights, about well-funded public services and good quality educational opportunities for all. 
It may be that we can help - by offering to share with a younger person some skills or knowledge we have which will help them in their work or their education, caring because Jesus cares for them.
It may be that we can help - by supporting initiatives for good employment practices in business, for sustained public health services, for affordable education, for the protection of those human rights which are the concern of young people, campaigning and wielding what influence we have alongside young people, so their voices are heard and their concerns lifted high in the public agenda.
It may not always be easy, lifting up the young, in an unequal society heavily weighted towards the older powerful ones, in a fearful society divided by identity - race, creed, sexuality and age. Just as in Simeon’s time when he saw that Jesus’ campaign to ‘lift up the lowly’, in his mother’s words,  would involve bringing others down and because of that would create opposition and end up in tragedy.
But if we are to be true to his words - if we are to follow in his ways - this must be part of who we are. Especially now, for, to quote the community theologian Ann Morisy,
[These days] we have less and less confidence that progress can flow into the future and embrace future generations. Instead, the trajectory points towards life getting tougher for younger and future generations. This disadvantaging of younger age groups is a rare occurrence in the history of western societies; in fact it is a rarity in the history of humankind. 
A baby boomer herself, Ann Morisy recognises that ‘it seems that I have had an uninterrupted stream of benefits throughout my life’, but also that these benefits are now drying up, and far less likely to be enjoyed by the young. She calls for what she calls ‘intergenerational equity’ - those of the older generation who have done comfortably well from the system in their lifetime, making a priority to reach out to the younger generations.  She does so as a Christian, seeing, in the behaviour and teachings of Jesus, ‘valuable clues about how to unfurl justice, mercy and grace, both today and into the future’. 
It may be that you share her passion for this subject and that this may be the year - by small steps or large - where we act on our convictions and reach out in new ways to our young ones, seeking to lift them up, seeking to hold them high.
 Matthew 18.2-4.
 Matthew 19.14.
 Nick Gutteridge, Reducing immigration NOT among public's top priorities for Brexit deal says shock poll, Express, 23 Jan 2017.
 Luke 1.46-55.
 Ann Morisy, Borrowing from the Future: A Faith-Based Approach to Intergenerational Equity, p.2.
 Ann Morisy, p.1.
 Ann Morisy, p.6.