Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“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.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them ...
Luke 2:27-34a (NRSV)
This Wednesday, Feb 2, is 40 days from Christmas and so on Sunday we will remember the day when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for Mary's ritual cleansing. Last year, at this time, Amy wrote such a lovely blog which you should re-read now if you have a moment! As his parents fulfilled their ritual obligations, Simeon comes towards them (inspired by the Spirit) and this wonderful moment of blessing occurs, as he scoops up Jesus and pours out a wonderful paean of praise. We will remember this moment on Sunday as we take some time to think about what it means to bless and be blessed...talking of which - why exactly do we ask God to bless our candles?
One of the delightful things about a liturgical calendar, is that year by year we place markers as we remember specific moments in the life of God's people. We pause. We wonder. We take time to consider. And then sometimes, interesting liturgical moments arise. Gather a gaggle of pastors together and we will spend happy hours talking about which of these moments we make sure we remember more formally each year, and which we may let fall away. Candlemas is one of those Sundays with accompanying traditions which we have embraced at Incarnation. Because we love the symbolism of candles. And we love any tradition which involves blessing.
Our children, in Atrium, use candles in their worship every week. As they light the candles on their prayer table they will say, "Christ has died, Christ has risen"; as they read Scripture they light a candle and remember that Christ is the light of the world. Candles are used deliberately and with care as they learn what it means that Christ brings light to the darkness around us. Ask Josie if you can help in Atrium sometime - you will learn so much!
Likewise, every week we light the two candles on the altar as a reminder that Jesus is human and divine. And at a baptism, we hand the candidate (or their parents) a candle saying, “... receive the light of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ A lovely habit when we pray in our homes, is to light a candle as we settle, a deliberate acting of welcoming the Holy Spirit, and declaring that we are about to engage with the living God who has welcomed us into relationship.
So our candles are important - they’re part of our liturgy (the work of the people) and they always represent God in one way or another. And so this Sunday we will ask God to bless our candles and then, to be present when we light them.
The prayer of blessing Amy will pray is this one:
O eternal God, who have created all things; on this day you fulfilled the petitions of Simeon: we humbly ask you to bless and sanctify these candles for our use. Graciously hear our prayers and be merciful to us, whom you have redeemed by your Son, who is the light of the world, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
So, in preparation for the service this Sunday, why not find your candles, or buy one (or some!) and start a new habit. Maybe unwrap them if they are in cellophane, pop them in a basket and bring them to church to be blessed. And then, next week, when you take time to pray, pause first, light the candle and give thanks that God enjoys our small gestures that accompany our deliberate actions to engage with him.
OK - and while you are out shopping for candles - pick up some donuts or other tasty nibbles to share... because this Sunday is also DONUT SUNDAY. Don't forget!! But if you do, fear not, please linger anyway and share the feast that will appear!
And in other news,
Send Emily Williams an email welcoming her to our staff - Feb 1 is her first day - let's flood her email inbox ... with LOVE. Usual staff email format!
Pray and Play this Saturday at 10am at Doctors Branch Park Bring the kids. Bring your hearts full - ready to pray blessing on our neighbors.
Take some time this week to get ready for Sunday by musing on the topic of blessing.... then see you on Sat for Pray & Play and Sunday for worship!
Always willing to walk, talk, pray with all of you! Drop me an email :)