What a wonderful opportunity to rejoice in the light of Christ once again – Candlemas!
Candlemas is actually the Christian “Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.” The Holy family had come to the Temple to fulfill the Law of Moses. Forty days after the birth of the male child, Mary’s ritual purification and the redemption of the firstborn son were due to be performed. Being a poor family, only a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons needed to be offered to God.
Yet while they prepared to do so, two elderly, faithful people, Simeon and Anna, saw something else going on beyond the sacrifice. God was doing something much greater and offering something much dearer. God was doing something new. The Spirit revealed to them that God’s light had broken through the darkness. The infant, Jesus, was the long awaited Messiah and nothing would be the same ever again. Jesus, our joy and salvation, had come into the world!
This feast day comes forty days after Christmas and historically closed out the season. The remaining Christmas greens would be taken down. The days were still short and nights long. Spring was, well, yet to be sprung. And so this day came to serve as reminder that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).
In time, it became a practice to bless the candles to be used in church during the coming year. Later, families would bring their own candles to church for a blessing. Hence, we now have the alternative name for the feast day, Candlemas.
Using resources from Evangelical Lutheran Worship and the Revised Common Lectionary, your family can easily mark this day and your own baptismal call. The following is a short ritual I offered my congregation for home use:
As the family gathers for a meal, before bed or at another convenient time, light your candle.
All: Alleluia. My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples. Alleluia.
Leader reads: Luke 2:22-40
A short reflection may be shared, or discussion time, or even a brief moment of silence to reflect in the light of the candle. When finished…
Leader: Let us pray together…
All: Almighty and ever-living God, your only-begotten Son was presented this day in the temple. May we be presented to you with clean and pure hearts by the same Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Leader: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
Close the gathering with a hymn or song dealing with light, perhaps “This little light of mine.”
This might also be a wonderful time to take out any saved baptismal candles and reflect upon the meaning of our individual baptism and talk about events of that day.
As better candles are made of beeswax, perhaps make a beehive cake to help your family celebrate.
A quote from John Chrysostom comes to my mind, “The bee is more honored than other animals, not because it labors, but because it labors for others.”
As we look upon our candles this Candlemas, let us urge our children (and all the children of God) to not waste time just being “busy bees” chasing things of this world. Let us instead love God and neighbor. Then, our lives will be used to build the Kingdom of God with Jesus. His light will come to shine through us.
Happy Candlemas, everyone!
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.