Candlemas ~ Celebration of Baptism
Candlemas February 5 th~ Celebration of Baptism
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Lord, now lettest Thou, Thy Servant depart in peace.” Luke 2:28-29
There is no one more surprised than me that I am marking a 10th anniversary of ministry here at Lake of the Isles this coming Sunday on Candlemas. I have never served in any one place, nor lived in any one house this long since I graduated from high school. 10 years ago, I returned from my third tour of service in Europe for the ELCA Global Mission. 10 of the previous 18 years had been spent rebuilding Christian communities in the former Eastern Block and the remaining years had been divided between two congregations in Minnesota. When I accepted the call to Lake of the Isles, friends and former parishioners frequently asked whether a small church in Minneapolis could hold my passions long enough to keep me in place. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure. There was only one position in the ELCA Global Mission that I would have sought. Surprisingly, when I was offered that position 5 years ago, I turned it down. I had discovered in the first years at Lake of the Isles that I was content and fulfilled in my ministry here and that I was prepared to complete my working career here- whenever that may be. So, let me say to all of you- thank you for 10 wonderful years.
Prior to Covid, Candlemas served not only as my anniversary date, but also as the congregation’s annual celebration of baptisms performed in the previous year. As a part of that commemoration, we would invite the baptismal families from the previous year to the worship service at Candlemas. There was a nice parallel with baptism of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer their sacrifice. It was always a wonderful day to celebrate the return of families and to see how the children had grown. I would add, it was also a bit noisy on this Sunday with small toddlers unaccustomed to being quiet in church. During the worship service, the families were presented with a medallion inscribed with their name and their baptism date.
Regretfully, this was one of the traditions that fell away during Covid. So, this coming Sunday we have invited all of the children from the past 3 years to return. That is 34 children all together. These families and their children have an important message for us. They are not simply the next generation. They are the present generation and are both our joy and responsibility. They are also, the light for the future.
Over the past 10 years, I have reflected often on the story of Simeon taking the infant Jesus into his arms on Candlemas. On some occasions, I have meditated on his prophetic words, that Jesus would be “the light to all nations.” Other years, I have contemplated on the dutifulness of Mary and Joseph journeying to the Temple, but this year I am once again captured by the physical embrace of Simeon holding the child in his arms. It may be the result of three years of social distancing amid the pandemic, and the cautiousness with which we offer any human touch and contact. We need to hold hands, to hug and embrace one another– anything less than that is to not be fully human. The story of Simeon embracing the Christ Child is a witness to the wonder of physical touch. It is not simply human; it is divine.
Sunday after Sunday, God invites us into his holy sanctuary to feel and experience his touch in the gifts of bread and wine at Holy Communion, in the waters of Baptism, and in the Sharing of the Peace. In all these ways, God is taking us into his loving embrace, and how good it is. It is almost heavenly.
Pastor Arden Haug