Feb 2nd is Candlemas – the official end of Christmas. This year, for the first time, I have left out my nativity scene till now, with the Wise Men arriving late, at Epiphany and then standing near the front, clustered around the manger with their camel. I think I shall keep the season like this again – starting later, running later. It has helped in the quietness of January, the cold and the fog, to hold the story of Jesus coming into the darkness a little longer.
The season ends with many remembering Jesus being brought to the Temple, which you can read about in Luke 2:22-40
Presentation at the Temple -Bellini
There are many striking things about this story. Firstly, there is the contrast of age and youth – Rembrandt, in this picture painted in his own old age, captures that so well. Look at Simeon’s hands, unable to cradle the baby naturally, but instead open in a kind of frail prayer. Also marked in this picture is the light – the contrast with Simeon is again striking, as his eyes appear sightless. For this is about Jesus being the light to enlighten all people. This is the way the Glory returns – not to a grand building, but in a person – a child of poor parents, at that.
At this moment, at this time, when we are thinking much about the plight of refugees , when there is so much despair and anger and confusion in our politics and national life, it is good to remember that Jesus comes to show another way, to be a light to lighten us all. He will break down the things that divide us from each other, and perhaps then, we will see clearly. (Eph 2:14)
Not that, suddenly, everything is going to be all right, all light, though. There is pain in the path ahead – pain for the young mother who will see the suffering of her child. When all she can do is watch. There is a place in this story for all who watch the suffering of those they love. This hope is not all blithe and sunny, it knows the path will be hard.
Whether we are old, and despair that we will never see what we hope for, or young, and see the future slipping into chaos, we remember the power of light to overcome darkness. Of hope. There is a better way. There is a path of love, and hope and peace. It turns its back on violence as a solution to problems, but that does not mean it will not suffer violence. The path is costly. It leads to the cross. It will pierce Mary’s heart.
The way is down and through. (John 13:3-4)
What do you hope for?
What light do you need?
From The Bible Retold
Mary and Joseph took the newborn Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, as God’s Law required. They gave thanks for him with an offering of two doves. Now, in the city at that time were two people who had been waiting for the Anointed One. The first, Simeon, held on to God’s promise that he would see the Messiah before he died. And on the very day that Mary and Joseph came, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to go to the Temple. He went straight up to them, took Jesus in his arms, and said, “Now I can leave this life in peace, for my eyes have seen God’s plan to save all people, God has sent his light to everyone, even to those far away from Israel. This light will shine on us and fill us with his glory.” He spoke to Mary, too, of the pain that would pierce her own heart in years to come.
The second person was Anna, bent with age, but always worshipping, and always praying. The Temple was her home. As Simeon was speaking, she came up and praised God, knowing Jesus was the one they had all been waiting for, the one who would set them free.
From Prayers and Verses
Grant me to recognize in other men, Lord God,
the radiance of your own face.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Help me, Lord Jesus, learn who you are.
Help me learn as I try to love, and forgive,
and help others as you did.
Thank you most of all for loving me just as I am.
Even if it is not your practice to keep the old festivals, this feels to me like a time when it is good to light a candle, and know that the darkness will not put it out.