Rev Jo’s Letter – Feb 2022

I’m sure your Christmas decorations are now long dusted, boxed, labelled and stored safely for next year, Some of you will have observed Twelfth Night, January 6th as the day for this ritual; others, like me, will have had everything out of sight by Boxing Day. But the proper day for such matters (and when our Christmas crib and other decorations should be taken down) is actually February 2nd, Candlemas, The Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, when the church commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus, as described in Luke 2:22–40. In accordance with Leviticus 12: a woman was to be purified by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, 33 days after a boy’s circumcision. 

In the Temple the child Jesus was recognised by Simeon, an aged priest, as the Messiah with these words: 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. 

In that baby Simeon recognised the one who had come to save the world. Not just the Jewish world, but all humanity. 

But Candlemas has another aspect; it’s a pivotal tie as we look back to Christmas and the Nativity, to Epiphany and the Wise Men—and ahead to the events of Holy Week and Easter. 

Christmas and Epiphany always give rise to sentimental thoughts about babies, angels and wise men. There’s a sort of warm, fluffy air about them. Holy Week 

and Good Friday are harsh and visceral, but the triumph of Easter can’t come without them. And the reality is that the warm fluffy moments are counterbalanced by the harsh ones because that’s how life is. 

Our Sunday Gospel readings now turn to Jesus’ ministry, with his Baptism, which we celebrated on January 6th, being the start of that ministry. 

On February 23rd we hear Luke’s description of Jesus teaching in the Synagogue: When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ 

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. 

This is what the aged Simeon recognised when Mary presented her child in the Temple. The baby she held was the one who would overthrow unjust systems and free the oppressed and the poor. That should be at the heart of our thinking and of our government’s thinking. 

With best wishes