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February 4, 2024 – “Candlemas”

February 4, 2024 – “Candlemas”

Rex McKee

Geek Questions in the spirit of Lent Madness…Candlemas, Presentation of Jesus, Brigid…

St Brigid was venerated as “Mary of the Gael,” a saint for women, shepherds, beggars, refugees and those in childbirth. Her feast day, February 1, is the same day as Imbolc, an ancient holiday celebrating the start of spring, season of fertility.

Raise of hands, how many of you know of the tradition of Candlemas?

How many have put their Creche away, did you wait the traditional 40 days?

How many know that in the Mexican and other communities, on the Presentation of Jesus, bring baby Jesus dolls, photos, ceramic icons brought to be blessed.

Imagine a sacred tapestry woven of tradition, prophecy, and the uninterrupted manifestation of God’s love. Today we heard the story of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and the profound encounters of the faithful figures Simeon, Anna, Joseph, and Mary. Might we have ears to listen to the wisdom of prophecy, and the imagination of the religious and pagan rituals of Candlemas.

Malachi’s prophecy resonates of anticipation, a call to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me,” proclaims the prophetic voice of God. The imagery of refining fire and purifying soap suggests a sacred alchemy—a transformative process through which the painful memories of our hearts are melted away, leaving behind the pure gold of Holy love.

Mary and Joseph journey to the Temple in Jerusalem, their hearts filled with the joy of their newborn child, faithfully committed to custom, ritual and obedience. Guided by the light of tradition, they present the infant Jesus to the Lord, fulfilling the sacred rites prescribed by their ancestors. In this moment of ritual and reverence, they stand as custodians of a timeless legacy a testament to the enduring power of faithful tradition.

We find In the Laws of Moses the narrative of the Exodus, the foundation of Israel’s identity and the roots of our faith. Mary and Joseph, obedient to the commandments of God, journey to the Temple to present their firstborn son, a symbolic act of remembrance and gratitude for God’s deliverance. The rituals of a birth mothers’ purification, also immersed in ancient tradition, serve as a testament to the power of ritual.

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, described in Luke’s Gospel, has its roots in Jewish tradition and is significant for several reasons within that context:

The presentation reflects Mary and Joseph’s faithful observance of Jewish law and tradition, specifically the requirements outlined in the Law of Moses. (Exodus 13:2, 12-15; Numbers 18:15-16).

The firstborn son was considered sacred to God, and there was a requirement to “redeem” him by offering a sacrifice. This practice is based on the Exodus narrative, when the firstborn sons of the Israelites were spared during the Passover and were considered consecrated to God.

The presentation of Jesus also involves Mary’s purification rituals, outlined in Leviticus 12. After giving birth, a woman was considered ritually unclean, and a period of 40-day purification was required.

The Temple in Jerusalem held central importance in Jewish worship. Bringing Jesus to the Temple reflects the practice of presenting the child in the sacred space dedicated to God.

The presentation ceremony underscores the covenant relationship between God and the Jewish people. The act of presenting the child at the Temple is a continuation of the covenant obligations and rituals established in Hebrew Scriptures.

And then, amidst the sacred halls of the Temple, emerges Simeon — a figure veiled in the mists of prophecy, his spirit ablaze with the fire of inspired Holy revelation. In his aged trembling hands, he cradles the infant Messiah, his heart aflame, overflowing with the certainty of God’s promise fulfilled. “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; he declares, his voice a herald of hope in a world veiled in shadow.

Alongside Simeon stands Anna, a prophet of advanced age, whose dedicated devotion to prayer and fasting had made the Temple her dwelling place. With eyes that had witnessed the passage of time and a heart committed to a life of prayer and service, Anna beholds the infant Jesus in awe and wonder. In her story, we gain a glimpse of the enduring power of perseverance, the commitment to prophecy, the unwavering commitment of unconditional love, seeking the face of God in every season of life.

The story of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple speaks to the importance of faithful traditions in our journey of faith. Mary and Joseph followed the prescribed rituals and customs. Their obedience and reverence for traditions handed down to them from generations past serve as a model for us.

In a world that clamors for justice and innovation, we are called to advocate the timeless practices and gestures of our faith. Following the way of Jesus and the traditions of the Church grounds us in the rich soil of our spiritual heritage, providing stability and regenerative nourishment for our souls, and fertile soil for healing and reparation.

In this convergence of sacred narratives, we are called to embrace our role as bearers of light in a world ensnared by darkness. May we be guided as Simeon and Anna, by the gentle persistent encouragements of the Holy Spirit, discerning the signs of God’s love and presence amidst the turmoil of our lives. And as Mary and Joseph, called to honor the traditions that have sustained us, drawing strength from the ever-flowing fountain of God’s Love.

In the prophetic tradition of Malachi, may we be transformative agents in a world hungering for love and restorative justice. May our lives be living testimonies to the refining fire of God’s love, our hearts purified by the sacred alchemy of grace.

As we stand at the threshold of new beginnings, we are called to kindle the flame of hope in the darkest corners of our fear and despair, illuminating the path of right living for all who journey in darkness.

We stand at the halfway mark between the winter solstice and vernal equinox, we commemorate Candlemas, a blended Holy and pagan ritual beginning in the 4th century, marking the gradual return of light and life to the earth. In this ancient festival, we celebrate a primal human hopefulness and longing for the emergence of new beginnings amidst the darkness of winter’s embrace.

To celebrate Candlemas today we will be blessing and gifting candles to all gathered here this day. The gifting of Blessed candles is an ancient tradition dating to the 4th century Jerusalem as a symbolic gesture of sharing light, peace, and blessing with each other. It is also a pagan ritual celebrating the growing light midway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

I am asking that with this Candlemas Candle you set aside time individually or in family groups to light this candle and reflect upon Jesus, Light of the World, and likewise your part of that light and your gift of unselfish love. Lisa will bless the gifts of candles you will receive during Eucharist.

Presiding Bishop Curry in the film A Case for Love asks us to journal for 30 days our personal acts of unselfish love. Lisa preached on this last Sunday. I again encourage you to reflect, and journal if you are willing and able, in the light of Candlemas.

MLK prophetically warned us before his death: “We shall either learn to live as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools.” The choice is ours—chaos or community. We are all children of God equally bearing the image of God, each of infinite worth, value, and dignity.

When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty of room for all of God’s children. When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family.”  BP Michael Curry

As we depart carry the light of Christ within you, and likewise, carry this light into the darkness of the world, a beacon of hope amidst the shadows of uncertain chaos. May God’s presence be our guiding north star, leading us ever onward in faith, hope, and love. May we in Beloved Community learn to build bridges that connect us and not walls that separate us.

In the words of Simeon, “Lord, now let your servant depart 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.”

Amen.

 

10am Service