Writing and photos by Carol Dixon, music with permission from Rev. Sheila Hamil and Carol Dixon.
The 2nd of February is the feast of Candlemas, and is when many churches have a service to bless the candles that will be used throughout the year in worship and celebrate Jesus as the light of the world. It is also seen as the start of a new season and our opening hymn speaks of God with us in all seasons.
Great is Thy Faithfulness
God of light and love, warming February’s chill,
Tempering the winds, peppering the hard ground
With early shoots of green and hints of blossom,
We lift to you the cold bones of winter and hearts aflame with hope.
We praise you for the light that has arrived with Jesus,
Shining in the darkness, unquenchable and true.
We praise you for the hope of his presence
Guiding our feet and lighting our pathway,
Casting warming rays and glow of fulfilment.
We praise you for the discomfort of his searchlight beams,
Concealing nothing, truth telling, life changing.
Examine us and know us God.
Drive out the darkness, turn our hearts to you
And fill our souls with the song of salvation,
With the message of your love.
Holy God, we worship you. We sing your praise, now and forever. Amen.
– [from Spring ed by Ruth Burgess Iona books]
As in many churches in the UK, in Sweden (where my penfriend of over 60 years lives,) Candlemas is celebrated in the churches as a Candle Feast. This is family service with candle lighting ceremonies, and children bring their christening candles and light them in the service to remember their baptism. In the middle ages the households of the parish brought their dipped candles to get them blessed at the altar candles. Candlemas Day is also a celebration of church music in Church of Sweden and a special song is sung.
(apologies no words available)
Some people have the Christmas lights in their windows lit until Candlemas which is seen as the last day of the Christmas ecclesiastical period.
Special festivals for Candlemas in Europe include pancakes (France, parts of Belgium), singing for sweets or cakes (Luxembourg) and church processions on the Sunday nearest February 2nd (Sweden & parts of Swedish speaking Finland) (Candlemas in Swedish Traditions).
Another symbol of Candlemas is the snowdrop which is usually the first flower to defy the winter. In some countries in the northern hemisphere Candlemas is seen as opening the door to spring.
I loved Lily Lewin’s Freerange Friday about opening doors and today I want to think about opening doors in our lives. One way we can do be more open to God is by meditative listening to the Bible read aloud and today I invite you to read aloud the readings below from a few different translations and consider which one resonates most with you. Holman Hunt’s famous painting ‘Light of the world’ was inspired by this passage from Revelation 3:20, 22. Let’s listen for God’s word to us today in scripture and in song.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If your heart is open to hear my voice and you open the door within, I will come in to you and feast with you, and you will feast with me…22The one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying now to the churches. [The Passion Translation]
Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me…22If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!” [Good News Bible]
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends… 22Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” [New Living Bible]
“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you…22Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” [The Message]
Behold I Stand and Knock (Sheila Hamil)
Jenneth Graser (another godspacelight writer) wrote a lovely book on coming to God in prayer called Unlocking the Secret Garden: 100 Days of Imaginative Prayer. She begins by saying ‘Imagine you are standing before the threshold of an intricately carved wooden door surrounded by hanging creepers, mosses and ferns. Take note of how you feel as you stand there – what can you hear or see around you as you turn the key and walk into a cathedral of trees, light and a carpet of small flowers. It is time to open the secret garden within your heart and spend time with Jesus.’
As you open doors in your own house, going in and out this week, think about the doors Jesus is opening for you. Ask Jesus to open new doors of creativity, hope, inspiration, joy, compassion for you as the season unfolds! Watch for new doors of opportunity and how they bring you closer to God and help you to bring others to Jesus.
Some years ago I had a dream at the turn of the year. I saw before me a door of frosted glass with distorted images on the other side and I was afraid to turn the handle and open the door and walk through. On waking I asked God to give me the vision to overcome my fear and walk boldly through into this new world and he gave me a hymn which you can read here.
Give us the Vision (Carol Dixon)
Steadfast loving God, thank you for your everlasting love for us.
We seek to be bringers of your peace, your love
and forgiveness to our hurting world.
Help us to open the doors of our church
And the doors of our hearts to all people,
And invite them in, no matter who they are.
Give us courage to step out of our comfort zones
And welcome those who may be different from ourselves.
Help us to open the doors of our lives to you.
Strengthen our faith so that we may rely on you each day
For all that we need to live, and learn to serve you
Following the example of Jesus.
Help us to protect our environment and share our resources
Using them to bring about your commonwealth of love.
We bring to you today people and situations that concern us,
Thinking especially of those we know and love (time of silent prayer)
Steadfast loving God, we thank you for always hearing our prayers
And giving us your peace to share with all we meet. Amen.
This final hymn is one I learned from my granny. I used to go to her house for tea on Sundays and after we had eaten our tea cakes toasted over the fire on a long fork we used to have a little service with a Bible reading, a prayer for God’s blessing on the coming week and a couple of old Wesleyan hymns. She sometimes invited me to lead worship (maybe that’s why I became a lay preacher!) and used to say ‘Never forget, Carol, to invite Jesus into your heart every day’.
Come into my heart Lord (Tune Hear the pennies dropping)
Come into my heart Lord, come to me today,
Come into my heart Lord and forever stay,
Come into my heart Lord I invite you in
Fill me full of love and take away my sin.
Come into our lives Lord, come to us today
Come into our lives Lord, and forever stay,
Help us all to follow in your footsteps lord
Love and care for others, share with them your word.
Come into our world Lord, come and make it new.
Come into your world Lord, may all follow you,
Loving, serving, giving, bringing hope to all,
Living in your kingdom, answering your call.
- (Author unknown based on hymn learned from my granny)
Blessing (from Psalm 121)
May the Lord watch over our coming in and going out from this day forth and forevermore.
And may the peace of God fill our lives today and every day.
Did you know that alongside Christine Sine’s book The Gift of Wonder, we have many resources available to you? The free downloadable bonus packet or beautiful prayer cards featuring prayers from the book, for example – something to hold and behold! Or perhaps you’d like to journey through the book alongside a retreat – we have that too! You can check it all out in our shop!