We mark the Christian festival of Candlemas on Sunday 27th January with worship at 11am in St Michael’s Church. But do you know what Candlemas is all about?
Candlemas – so called because candles are traditionally brought to church to be blessed during the mass – is the point in our Christian calendar when we mark the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
If for you that’s just replaced one piece of Christian jargon with another, we can explain that too! The Presentation of Jesus is the biblical narrative depicting an early episode in the life of Jesus. Wikipedia does a good job of summarising the story:
The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40). According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.
Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Simeon then uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:
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 (Luke 2:29–32).
Simeon then prophesied to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34–35).
The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there of His importance to redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36–38).
If you’d like to read the story for yourself ahead of our service, read it online here.