Roll on spring! February is an odd month. We’re still in winter, yet we start to see glimmers of the hope of spring with the days starting to lengthen, if only by a few minutes a day. We can tentatively begin to look forward to sunnier days, catkins, celandines, and primroses, (why are so many spring flowers yellow)? Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!””
The alternative name for the snowdrops, (ok, they’re white, not yellow), that flower at this time of year is Candlemas Bells. Candlemas is on 2nd February. It recalls the time Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. There they encountered Simeon and Anna, who had been watching and waiting so long for the Messiah. As he holds Jesus in his arms, he praised God.
Now, Lord and King, You can let me, Your humble servant, die in peace.
You promised me that I would see with my own eyes
what I’m seeing now: Your freedom,
Raised up in the presence of all peoples.
He is the light who reveals Your message to the other nations,
and He is the shining glory of Your covenant people, Israel.
(Luke 2 The Voice)
Simeon and Anna had seen the atrocities of the Roman conquerors, yet they never ceased to be faithful, to pray, and to wait. They never gave up hope. Among the crowds of people buying, selling, praying, carrying on with their everyday lives in the temple grounds, they met the baby who changed the world for ever. He will reach out beyond the temple walls, beyond the boundaries that surround his own people to speak of God’s love to people of every nation.
I find Candlemas reassuring, that God keeps his promises. In an unsettling world of climate and energy crises, war with all its consequences, people struggling with debt – we all sometimes need a little reassurance that God is with us through it all that his light will shine in the darkness.
Candlemas has also been described as one foot in Christmas and one foot in Easter, it is a watershed when we stop looking back to Christmas and begin to look forward to Lent. We enter Lent in the on 22nd February, when we turn towards the passion and death of Jesus. We have the opportunity to encounter God and to reflect on our faith.
Candlemas reminds us that whilst the baby Jesus might be vulnerable and cuddly, he brings a tough challenge for us. As a man, he preached a powerful, challenging, and uncomfortable message, one which we are called to follow.
There is much to ponder this month. Can we be as faithful as Simeon? And can we face the challenge of Lent?
Grace and peace,