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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, February 2, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 147:1–11

Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
   for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
   he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted,
   and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
   he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
   his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
   he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
   make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
   prepares rain for the earth,
   makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
   and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
   nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
   in those who hope in his steadfast love. (NRSV)

On this day, some Christians celebrate the ancient festival of Candlemas. For many centuries, Candlemas was the official day to take down your Christmas greens. (So those with greens still up, you have been warned!) It marks the official end of the Christmas and Epiphany season. Traditionally, the term “Candlemas” (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby clergy blessed beeswax candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to worshipers for use in the home. The celebration marks a midpoint of winter—during the darkest weeks in the hemisphere. Candles served as the tangible reminder of the light of Christ shinning in the night.

Candlemas celebrates the moment when Mary and Joseph present the infant Jesus—still smelling fragrant of straw and frankincense—before God at the temple. The Holy Family is met by Simeon and Anna, who burst into praise for the hope made flesh. Simeon and Anna, having waited their whole lives for God’s coming, sing hymns of praise for the promises soon to be fulfilled.

The psalmist leads our observances with a call to “praise the Lord.” The psalmist recites a litany. God heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds. God lifts the downtrodden and sends the wicked away. God feeds the hungry and comforts those who cry. Yet the reality we know is quite different. The poor are growing ever poorer. Division reigns. The oppressed are struggling to breathe.

Psalm 147, like most of scripture, serves less as a description of the state of things and more as a hope and prayer. Like Simeon and Anna, the psalmist guides us in a song of praise for all that God will do. The psalmist leads us in hope—even when we can’t seem to summon it.

That’s the ultimate meaning of Candlemas. The night is dark. Yet the hope found in Christ burns brightly, and the night cannot overcome it. Praise the Lord!

Almighty God, you have revealed to me the light of your Word made flesh: grant that this light, enkindled in my heart, may shine with your brightness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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