Sunday, 1 February 2015

Candlemas

In a traditionally Beaker piece of Christian/authentically traditional compromise, we are celebrating Candlemas today and Imbold tomorrow. Bad news for St Brigid, who will have to be transferred somewhere else. But then if you have your birthday on a major feast day, this sort of thing is gonna happen. It's a bit like having your birthday on Xmas day. But without the only-one-present problem, of course.

So the good news for me is I get to be all waffly about my favourite bit of scripture. And the bad news for Hnaef is that it's his job, tomorrow, to obtain a lactating ewe. And wonder how it fits in liturgically.

The essence of revisiting Scripture, re-reading it, is its re-application. We know the story until we know it and it knows us. With the feast at the other end of the Nativity Cycle, this is a problem. It's been so read, so repeated in Nativity Play and 9 Lessons And Carols, so sung, so provided 3-part specials of Only Fools and Horses, that we think we know it when we don't. It's been gift-wrapped, gilt-edged, recycled as imaginary Pagan feasts, blinged and glittered until we, like archaeologists, have to dig our way through the Little a Drummer Boy, Slade and It's a Wonderful Life strata, knock off the coating of Dickens and chocolate, and peer down to see what's there.

Whereas Candlemas doesn't have this problem. This is where the Messiah - having been revealed to the outcasts on the hillside - is now revealed to faithful Israel. And nobody makes a great song and dance about it - there among the Temple precincts, without a hint of snow or reindeer.

Simeon, you had one job to do. One simple job. To wait and be faithful. And now you're old and maybe your eyesight is failing, and yet it seems your faith isn't. And now here you are - gazing into the eyes of a special one. The priests, in their bustle of endless sacrifice, haven't noticed. Yet the whole world lays in your arms, as you look down at that baby. As your time ends, his is beginning - and with him will come the salvation of the world. Your eyes have seen the salvation - you have seen that the Lord saves. You had one job to do. You've done your one job. 

And Anna, you too - you've waited and prayed and been thankful. And maybe, knowing what Simeon was doing, you've caught on his coat-tails and wondered what he will see. And in your faithfulness you've served the Lord. And now - the one enthroned between the cherubim is enthroned in your old companion's arms. You have been faithful Israel - waiting for the true God to appear in his temple  - and here he is. The Shekinah is now the flesh of this human baby - revealing, yet also concealing, the God of Israel.

You've done your jobs. You've waited and seen the day of the Lord - not as a mighty king, but as the most potent, powerful, beautiful thing there is - a baby. You can go in peace, according to His word.

2 comments :

  1. It's been so read, so repeated in Nativity Play and 9 Lessons And Carols

    Do not get me started about the way that 9L&C butchers the Isaiah text to fit its purposes... if clergy are that cavalier about the honest truth, what else are they misrepresenting to us?

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