I love the ancient path we walk here at St. Andrew…the path that brings us through the hope of conception, the promise of new birth, the complexity of growing, the anguish of suffering, the silence and sorrow of dying, and the surprise that life…through all the above – life in all of its complicity and complexity…keeps rising up from the ashes and awakening from the slumber to bloom again and again and again.
Today we observe Candlemas, recognizing we have reached the mid-point of winter.. a time when our hearts and mind are naturally lifted by the growth of light and the lightness of the air. Our bones feel it, our soul sings it, our mind is eased by it… here we are in the middle of winter but the light and life of Spring is nearer to us as each day becomes the next. So we prepare the candles, we bless them, and we light them in vigil for the hope and life and rebirth that is just weeks away. The lighting of candles is a sacrament – an outward manifestation of the inner invocation of the light and love and warmth of our divine Beloved — to fill and radiate through our lives and our world.
I encourage every household to administer the sacrament of candlelight from this day until the eve of Ash Wednesday on Feb 25. Whether you invoke with words or in holy silence – when you light the candle blessed at Candlemas – you are sending intentions of light – life – warmth – and belonging to those gripped by cold and isolation. In the Christian faith – when we light the candle blessed at Candlemas – as Jesus was presented by his parents to God in the temple at Jerusalem – we present our lives and the community in which we live – to the nurture and love of God.
The ancient path we walk is not simply a way to walk time, it is the way of time, and life, and creation. In every life comes the cold, barren, and dark of winter. Hard times are born by most if not all. And so we need a candle, a word, an image, a friend, a community…in the middle of winter to bear the hope of spring to our souls.
I think of Chuck Lewis, who has been sitting all week bedside with his beloved Mel as she lie weak and dying in a hospital bed. How do we emerge from those times in life that are too sad, too hard, and too painful to bear?
Someone, somewhere, lights the candle of strength and hope that bears us up through the seasons of winter.
Someone, somewhere, lights the candle of faith and love – those spiritual virtues that allow us to see more than the present moments of anguish and sadness, and gives us surpassing strength to bear all things, to believe all things and to hope in all things.
Someone somewhere lights a candle and unbeknownst to them – someone is lifted from the pit and prison of fear and darkness.
Someone somewhere lights a candle and somewhere else someone unexplainably no longer feels alone, but grows aware of a multitude of companions who have shared such dire and dark times.
For the church in her sacramental pilgrimage, this day marks the transition in Epiphany from emerging out of Christmas to preparing for Lent. Jesus is presented at the temple where he is affirmed by two elder prophets and priestess to be the light of God they had been waiting for their whole life. Simeon proclaims, “Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised. For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior…” We can ask and be ready to receive the gifts of light and hope in these next few weeks preceding Lent. What hope, thought, sign, person, conviction can bring the light of hope and new birth can invoke spring while winter is all around you? What fans the flame of the impending new life in our hearts while the grip of winter still enfolds us?
This is the overarching message of the Christ story…God provides light to the world even when all has gone dark…and it is by walking this path year after year – observing and proclaiming the way life unfolds – from feast to fast to feast – from birth to death to resurrection – from family to solitude to beloved community – from being blind to seeing — from being crippled to well-being – – from burdened by sorrow to sprouting wings of joy for flight – this is the story we proclaim in our world as the Christ community. It is our place as the church in our time in our day – to be a flickering light for all to see – a light of healing, a light of belonging – a light of hope – a light of love – a light that radiates for the sake of those who find themselves amidst another winter in their life – and they are needing help to make it to another spring. So take your Candlemas candle home – gather with others or relish a moment of solitude – light the candle — and send the light of Christ into our world. For such a time as now the Christ was made incarnate.