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Viewpoint from Rev James Stewart for 1/2/13

The Revd James Stewart, Curate
Great Yarmouth Team Ministry

Most of us have taken our Christmas decorations down long ago, but in times gone by, decorations would remain until the Feast of Ca925ndlemas, 40 days after Christmas, when often they would be burned on great bonfires, lighting up the dark winter’s night. It was also a day to predict the weather: ‘If Candlemas Day is fair and bright, winter will have another flight; if Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter will not come again.’
In the Christian calendar, Candlemas, which we celebrate this weekend, recalls how the infant Jesus was brought to the temple, received by an old man, Simeon, and blessed by God. Artists over the centuries have been captured the interplay of child­hood and old age, of the beginning of life and its ending, and of light and darkness. These paintings speak of God’s coming into the world as a light appearing in the darkness, sharing with us in our human condition.
In the story of Christ’s presentation in the temple the old man Simeon foretells Christ’s destiny as a light for all the world, but he also reminds Mary that ‘a sword will pierce her heart’, prophesying the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.  At this time of the year we stand at a turning point – a time at which the days lengthen and the nights become shorter, and a time when light and dark are interwoven together. The joyful singing of the angels gives way to a season of penitence and reflection in Lent and ultimately the cries on the cross of Jesus Christ: ‘My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?’ We only have to look at the television news reports or read our newspapers to realise that Christmas has not suddenlDove righty made the world alright again. The shadows and the darkness are still there. The continued violence in the Middle East, the hostage crisis in Algeria and the lack of improvement in economic situation, both locally and throughout the world, bear witness to this. 
This time of transition and turning is another reminder that both light and darkness are present in our world and that often the journey is not always from darkness to light but sometimes from light to darkness. Yet there is always the promise that light will triumph over darkness, through Christ’s resurrection, bringing light and life.  In common with many parts of the world, many people come regularly into Great Yarmouth Minster just to be quiet and to light a candle. Whether they know it or not this is a poignant demonstration of this resurrection hope.  This simple act of lighting a candle reminds us that even in the darkest moments of our lives the light of hope is around the corner. Surely it is this remembrance of God’s promises to us, which Candlemas brings, that is the powerful message we can hold onto as we the coming of Spring and the joy of Easter. The weather predictions might be less reliable!