With thanks to @fibrefairy, some thoughts on the Feast of the Presentation, which we’re celebrating a day late at St Mary’s…
The Candlemas story is a story of contrasts, and opposites.
It’s clearly part of the Christmas story – Jesus is still a baby (despite us having spent the season of Epiphany jumping around the early part of Jesus’ adult ministry) and this is the day that Mary and Joseph bring their son to Jerusalem, to the Temple itself, so present him to God, as the law required.
But this story is also an early chapter in the Passion story. Already when the Magi visited, they brought hints of Jesus’ future in the form of Myrrh – not only used for healing but also in embalming – a portent of Jesus’ death.
Birth and death – Candlemas is a story of contrasts.
But that’s not the only contrast.
Jesus is presented in the Temple, the very centre and emblem of Jewish identity and faith. It is a reminder that Jesus was born, lived and died as a Jew. And yet the words of Simeon speak not only of the glory of God’s chosen people, but also of a light for all the nations – all the nations.
So this is a story of God’s people, but it’s absolutely about all people. It’s about having roots that run so deep that we can grow branches that stretch far and wide.
Birth and death, inward looking and outward, deep and broad. Contrasts and opposites, yes, but this is a story that draws them together, and there is one more way in which this story draws contrasts together:
The characters in this story come from three generations: the child, the parents, and the elderly, and this one event brings all three together. Can this be a model for us? For the possibility of unity between the generations? In a story with such momentous contrasts being drawn together, this drawing together of the generations may seem to be a small thing, but for our own time when so many people are separated from their extended families, and technological and social changes take place increasingly quickly, real understanding and closeness between different generations is by no means an assumption.
Making such unity a reality requires that all generations learn to acknowledge both the past and the future, to face the hope of life and the certainty of death and to draw from their roots to grow branches that spread wide and encompass more than we ever thought would be comfortable. When we do all this, we are witnesses to that fact that, against all the odds, there really can be peace between heaven and earth, and that what seems irreconcilable can be brought together.