Minister's Monthly Letter
Because of the heavy rain and floods in late December several parts of the country experienced flooding and in some cases were without electricity in some instances for several days. Apart from the problem of keeping warm the gloomy days and long nights also meant there was a need to find a different source of light. Sales of candles soared.
In the second chapter of Luke’s gospel (verses 22 to 40) we are told of Mary and Joseph going to the Temple with their forty day old child to complete the rituals of child birth and in particular those associated with the first born son. The law said a sacrifice should be offered according to the wealth of the family. Mary and Joseph were poor they offered a pair of doves.
In the temple there would have been other people praying and worshipping and going about their business. We hear of two of them - Simeon and Anna - both are prompted by the Spirit, when they see Jesus, to understand who he is. Anna speaks of this but Simeon, it seems, sings. He sings of being able to come to the end of his life having glimpsed God’s promise for the future. His song – sometimes referred to as the Nunc Dimittis after the Latin translation of the opening words – is used in many parts of the Christian family in the pattern of evening prayer. Not least because he sings of having seen “the light of God’s revelation for all people”. Good words as we enter the dark and eventually sleep.
Mary and Joseph went to the Temple forty days after Jesus birth. Traditionally therefore the church has read and reflected on this passage on February 2nd – forty days after Christmas Day. Over the years the day came to be called Candlemas because churches, monasteries etc would bring all the candles that had been made since the previous Candlemas into the church and bless them. They prayed that the candles shed would enrich people’s lives at worship, study, eating, caring for those who were sick and all the other aspects of everyday life just as God’s light was glimpsed by Anna and Simeon in Jesus.
Most of us have a candle somewhere around the house – often one that is very pretty and/or scented. Candlemas comes between the shortest day of the year and the spring equinox when light and dark are equal. It is a reminder to praying for the growth of light (in every sense) in the world, in the church and in our own lives. May I invite you to set some brief periods of time aside this month and wait to see what comes into your heart and mind by way of prayer. You might light a candle, you could look at a picture (or even have real) snowdrops – often called Candlemas bells – before you or find some other way of focusing your attention.
Simeon and Anna were old and weary when they met Jesus in the Temple that day. Anna had been a widow and on her own for many years. Both of them knew about sadness, shadow and longing but they also encourage us to hope
Feb 2014 Edition