Grace and peace, in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Few things pack up and disappear so quickly as the Christmas spirit! After what seemed like months of preparation, for many people the point of Christmas seem to have evaporated after any unwanted presents have been recycled, the last remnants of the turkey have been transformed into a final dish, and the pine needles have been swept from the floor, or loitering the streets waiting to be collected for recycling.
Few, if any, celebrated the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’, which fell on 6th January, thus losing that gradual sense of unwrapping the Divine Mystery that is the Incarnation, (God in human body). For the gift of the Christ-Child is not only for Christmas; He is for the whole of the year. Jesus is God’s outrageous gift of generosity Who takes us from the reality of the incarnation to the unfolding realisation of Who and what God is in the Epiphany (revelation). The Festival of the Epiphany calls us to ‘see, understand and act’, not only on who Christ is, but who that makes us. The sacred story of the revelation centred on the journey of the wise men who followed a star, enigmatic symbol of the search for Truth. What they encountered was embodied love and they returned home a different way – forever changed. This story encourages us to follow in their footsteps.
February 2nd is Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. It is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The Feast is based on Luke’s account of the presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:22–40), which in accordance with Leviticus 12: a woman was to be purified by presenting lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, thirty three days after a boy’s circumcision. This falls on February 2, traditionally the 40th day of the Christmas–Epiphany season.
While it is customary for Christians like us in the West to remove Christmas decorations on the Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), those in other Christian countries historically remove them on Candlemas. On this day too, many Christians, including Methodists take their candles to church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year; serving as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World.
Soon after this, we enter Lent. Beginning with Ash Wednesday Service on 26th of February. At this service, the palm leaves and crosses saved from last year’s Palm Sunday are burnt into grey ashes and smeared in the shape of a cross onto the foreheads of Christians. This is a powerful symbol, for those brave enough to walk down the streets, marked with this prominent Lenten sign, signals for all Western Christians the beginning of Lent, following Jesus who he spent 40 days in the wilderness prior to three years of itinerant ministry. It is a period of reflection for us, one described by my colleagues the Revds Paul Wood and Ian Worsfold who write:
… You call us to the wilderness
to concentrate the mind
on letting go of many things
that stifle humankind.
As Jesus showed in the wilderness, Lent provides us with tremendous opportunities to enable us to connect our own experiences with the ongoing story of salvation, reminding us of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.
At Easter we will celebrate the resurrection, the most important feast in the Christian calendar. But we begin with Lent as a time to ready ourselves for that great feast. We are invited to let God find us where we are. God has the same question to ask each of us: “Where are you?” During this Lent we can make time to look at where we are in our lives and discover God’s presence anew. We are challenged to make time to listen to his word. We are invited to let him get close to who we are and how we are.
Every Blessing, Abe
Revd Abe Konadu-Yiadom