Archdeacon Michael: February is nearly here and Christmas is almost over
Have you finished eating turkey? Has the mountain of Christmas chocolate gone, to be replaced by an abundance of Easter Eggs?
Are there straggling cards still arriving in the post? The return of frosty weather and snow, add to the reminder that winter is still here.
Last Sunday I sat down to turkey korma followed by Christmas pudding, proof that the Christmas festivities are still part of my life at home. In the past Christmas celebrations did not begin until Christmas Day itself.
However, there would be a full 12 days of feasting finishing with Twelfth Night and the celebration of the arrival of the Magi at Epiphany. That wasn’t the end of it all. There was a full 40 days of Christmas finishing with the feast of Candlemas on February 2.
Candlemas was a cross over feast. It looked back to Christmas and forward to Easter. Candlemas was when the Church remembered Mary taking Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem.
When she arrived two elderly strangers met her and Jesus and saw in him how he was going to change the world. It is a lovely encounter and the old man Simeon both celebrated how Jesus was to be a “Light”, (hence the candles) and that also Mary’s heart would be torn in two by him. This is all part of the crossover nature of the feast.
A reminder of celebrating the new life of the baby Jesus, as well as what was to happen in his life, through to the heart-breaking events of Good Friday.
As a priest I have the privilege of holding many babies especially at the moment of baptism. Holding a baby and looking into their eyes I have often wondered how their lives will develop.
When I was in South Africa this involved sharing in baptising 100s of orphaned babies who were infected with HIV. As “O little town of Bethlehem” puts it for Jesus’s birth, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight,” reflects most family and communities’ feelings with babies and their futures.
I often flippantly say, “Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas.” Remembering Christmas as we then turn around and start to look towards Easter helps reminds us of this, that it is more than snow, turkey or tinsel.