Though most Americans long ago threw out their Christmas tree and packed away the crèche, today — the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, or, Candlemas — is actually the official end of the Christmas season. (If your crèche is still up, the tradition is to decorate it with flowers to mark the end of the season.)
Now, master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word.
It is now forty days since we celebrated the nativity of the Lord. Today we celebrate the day, forty days after his birth, when Jesus was brought to the temple to be presented before the Lord. This was, Luke tells us, the custom from the time of Moses. (You can read the whole account in Luke 2:22-38.)
Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, where they found two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, who had been waiting all their lives for the Promised One of Israel. When Anna saw Jesus, the gospel says, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. When Simeon saw Jesus, he took the child in his arms and declared the prayer we say each night:
Now, master, you may let your servant go in peace,
according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for the revelation of the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.
When you pray today, think of some prayer you are waiting to be answered. Think of some deep desire you long to be realized. Then consider Anna and Simeon, who grew old waiting, all the while waiting in faith. Commit to learn Simeon’s prayer by heart, as we commit to learning Simeon and Anna’s patience by heart.
And, be sure and have candles on your dinner table today. Use a candle at evening and night prayer. Because today is also Candlemas, when all the candles that will be used in church for the next twelve months are blessed.
Learn more about making and praying with candles in our new book.