Not a big day in Baptist circles - and not strictly speaking today either as it should be kept on 2nd February. An interesting meld of things... the presentation of Christ in the Temple, the purification of Mary after childbirth and, whence its name arises, the blessing of candles.
I recall Clare (of Dancing Scarecrow) sharing how they had marked Candlemas in their little church one dull, cold February, bringing light and colour to the lives of their, mainly older, congregation. The Candlemas stories are of old people - Anna and Simeon - of faith in adversity, of the tenacity to keep hoping though all seems lost; exactly the kind of people who dance in East Manchester.
I recall another cold Candlemas when I stood with a couple of hundred other women ministers at the end of Downing Street calling on the UK government to 'make poverty history.' My friend and I had travelled down by train to be part of this, and as we boarded the train for the return journey an older woman spotting the white cloths tied to our arms said "ooooh, were you part of the protest? How wonderful!'
That same evening the deacons of my little church met with our Regional Minister to discuss our situation, having just had to close our building due to safety concerns and being unsure what the future held for us.
This year on the true candlemas I will be entering my 'forest' as I go into hospital for surgery. As I do so, there are connections to be made with these past Candlemasses - tenacity, hope, determination, reality... Yesterday I received a card with the image of a candle flame on it - a light to help me find my way along the forest path.
Candlemas is a 'light' festival and it is good to recall the words from John 1: the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
I also recall the Taize chant:
"within our darknest night, you kindle a fire that never dies away, never dies away
within our darkest night, you kindle a fire that never dies away."
Whether we mark Candlemas or not, it is good to remind ourselves of its message of hope in, through and beyond the present moment.