Let's celebrate February...

Cold, miserable February has never been my favourite month. But when I was a student and still discovering church, I encountered something that happens every 2nd February that changed all that.

Church would be worth a visit that evening, others had told me. I walked in from a bustling South London Street as the organ sounded the first notes of a hymn. Before long I was in the middle of a procession, clutching a hymn book in one hand and a candle in the other, following everyone else around the church. Candlelight flooded the place, incense hung in the air – it was a celebration unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and I found myself wanting to go back for more.

The Gospel read during the Candlemas service, forty days after Christmas, recalls Mary and Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the Temple and being met by the old priest Simeon. Seeing the child, he knows that his days are done: Now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel…’

No sadness for Simeon at the prospect of leaving the world, or not seeing the child grow up. Simply joy at holding the Light of the World in his arms, who from then on would light the way for him and the rest of humanity through this world and into the next. Joy, too, at the prospect of departing in peace.

I’ve seen the commercials on TV for simple, fuss-free funerals. They might suit some, but I’m with Simeon – for me, the prospect of leaving this world with joy and hope is worth making at least some fuss about…