This past Wednesday was the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, also known as Candlemas. Today we mark this feast with the blessing of candles to celebrate Jesus as the light of the world.
Forty days after Christmas, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, where they met Simeon and then Anna, elderly people who had spent much of their lives hoping and waiting for God to send the Messiah. As soon as the Holy Family entered the door, Simeon immediately recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah and took the baby into his arms, praising God. Simeon said, in so many words, that he was so happy and so fulfilled he could die.
The image of Simeon holding Jesus with such joy reminds me of my late grandfather, Papa. Papa always had a love for babies. I have a pretty large extended family, so I can’t think of a time when there wasn’t someone with a baby at our family reunions. Whenever I went to my grandparents for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Papa had a baby in his arms. Perhaps it was an excuse not to help my grandmother with the hosting. In any event, I knew that when Callaway was born, I would need to hand her over to Papa as soon as I walked in the front door. And that’s exactly what happened.
This is what God does with each of us. When we are born, God takes us into God’s arms, holds us tight, and rejoices. At Candlemas, we affirm that no matter what we’ve done or what has happened to us from birth until now, nothing can make us fall out of the arms of God.
This is most true when we’re coming up short, feeling a bit off, or muddling through life. In fact, it’s not in spite of our misgivings and failures, but because of them, that Jesus is near, presenting himself to us. He is the Light that no darkness can overcome, the Life that death could never kill, and the Love that will never, ever let us go.