CANDLEMAS - A FESTIVAL OF LIGHT
Many faiths have some kind of light festival in the winter months, when evenings are long and skies often grey and dark.
In modern Britain we very rarely experience complete darkness. With the ubiquity of electric lighting, one has to go to a completely deserted spot to find a total absence of artificial luminosity.
On a clear starlit night, there is nothing quite like being in a place where the only light is from the sky.
Candlemas is one Christian festival where light is a key theme. Mary and Joseph took the young Jesus to the temple for the Jewish rites of purification; while there, they met the elderly Simeon who had been waiting for the coming of the King long foretold by the prophets of old. On seeing the child Jesus, he uttered the words commonly now called the Nunc Dimittis; Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel (Book of Common Prayer version). Simeon saw in the baby before him the Light of the World, a phrase which Jesus later used of himself.
It always strikes me how, when a small candle is lit in the darkest room, the whole place is transformed. Suddenly what may seem like a black hole of darkness and nothingness has a focus, something to look at; the overwhelming sense of gloom is pierced by one small flame.
The idea that Jesus is the Light of the World is a metaphorical one, in which I hope we can find comfort when our lives seem dark and gloomy. We can’t turn Jesus on like a torch when we are in physical darkness, but in the same way that a candle flame can transform a dark room, the promises of Christ to be with us always can alter our sense of aloneness in our troubles.
Lighting a candle can be a way of reminding ourselves of this. When we baptise a child in church, we always give them a candle to take home as a reminder that the light of Christ is with them wherever they are. In the past people would bring their year’s candles to be blessed in church at the Candlemas services, another reminder of God’s light. Perhaps next time you feel alone with your troubles, you might like to find a candle and light it as a reminder that God is with you, however isolated you feel, and that there is nowhere that is beyond the scope of God’s love.
Why not find a candle on February 2nd, and light it for ten minutes or so while you reflect on God’s presence in your home and life? You could perhaps continue lighting that candle each day for a few moments until the wick is burnt up and the wax gone. And then call to mind that God’s light is eternal and will never die out.