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Looking Back: Candlemas


February 1953


CANDLEMAS may not have much meaning for us now beyond a term date in the Scottish calendar; but it was a Church day long before it was a quarter-term, the day when there was special remembrance of the offering of Jesus to the Lord by His parents in the Temple. And, if we have not thought very deeply into what that offering meant, this day may be our opportunity. It has a word for Kenya and Malaya and South Africa, for Westminster and the local Town Council, as well as for us all in the kind of business we transact and the kind of life we live on quarter-term day.

The humility of God; that was one thing it meant – that God Himself could not achieve the salvation of men without the willing gift of their child by this working man and his wife, without their simple word that they were willing for all that was to come, even if it had to be like a sword piercing to the heart. The divine love and the human love had to come together and be of one mind.

The humility of Joseph and Mary; that was another thing it meant – that they were able to stand there, with all the wonder and perplexity of recent happenings in their thoughts, and yet be in that simplicity before God like any father or mother, with no questioning about the strangeness of offering to God through their hands the life of His own son.

The humility of this day foretells, and prepares for, the day when Jesus will stand in Jordan and not be ashamed to make Himself on with the strange mixed crowd of sinful men and women seeking forgiveness, being baptised with them and asking  with them for what He did not need Himself; and that other day when He did not turn away from the lowest identification of all, on the Cross.

And the meaning for the World? This is the moment (though it was a moment so inward and intimate and personal) at which there breaks out the acclamation that the Babe will be the Light of the world; not only the Light of all individual men in the world but of the common life of the world, in its strife and tension in its poverty and need; the Light which is to reveal to the nations the way in which they are to walk.

Candlemas may help us to learn why it is at the point of this humility that the prophetic recognition comes that this man is to have the realistic word for the affairs of the nations, the word of knowledge and far-sightedness, the word of peace and the power to guide our feet into the way of it.

Today it is He who has the practical word about Kenya and Korea, Malaya and South Africa, and every other point where the world by wisdom cannot find what it is seeking. But it is a word which will be spoken, as it was then, at the point of humility, at the point where men, burdened with a great responsibility (though not as great as that of Joseph and Mary) will seek the Lord to put their responsibility, and the lives in which it is bound up, into His hands.

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