February: the month of short days, cloudy skies and cold temperatures, where if we’re really lucky we’ll receive the gifts brought by howling Siberian winds - well that’s what happened last year!
February: when charms of brilliantly painted Goldfinches populate my bird feeder, the skies are filled with the dancing of Red Kites, my husband checks whether the gorse is in flower because if it is that means it’s “kissing season” (an old New Forest saying), and every discovery of Snowdrops and Crocus is received as a harbinger of spring.
February: which sees Candlemas conclude the Christmas season 40 days later in the church calendar than many might expect; when those who can, escape to warmer climes; and, when others who remain agonise over the hyped prices of a single red rose, and whether they will receive some appropriate token of affection in the season of luuuuurve!
Candlemas is a Christian feast that remembers Mary and Joseph offering their first-born son to God at the Temple in Jerusalem as a symbol of their love for God. There they received the prophesy that this child will be a “light to all peoples”, God’s glorious gift of love to those who do not yet know him (Luke 2:32). At St. Mary’s we use it to welcome back those who have brought their children to be baptised in the past. This year’s All Age Candlemas celebration will be at 10am on Sunday 3rd Feb: do come and join the fun - you may even receive a candle!
You may have been thinking that with Christmas seemingly long-gone, the season of receiving gifts was well over. But whether in the natural world, or as we journey through the cycle of the Christian year, we never stop receiving gifts from God. Yes, scripture tells us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) but there are many more references to the gifts that God wants to lavish on us. Not only have we received Jesus, God’s only Son in our Christmas celebrations, but we are to receive the new kingdom he inaugurated with the eagerness of children (Mark 10:15) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
This February I hope that whatever the weather we receive, we will look beyond its foibles to discover where we can see the love of God. It may be visible in the natural world around us, be a gift from the community in which we live, or in the church which gathers to worship, or be seen from some unexpected source. The important thing is to recognise and receive God’s love for what it is, a free gift that is available to us every minute of every day, even and perhaps especially on the darkest days of our year.
And having received it, we then need to pick someone to pass it on to, because love stagnates unless it’s shared.