Daily Devotion 02 February 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Amos 9:13-15 ‘The People will be Restored’

13 The time is surely coming, says the Lord, when the one who ploughs shall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land that I have given them, says the Lord.

One of the church’s oldest festivals, Candlemass is celebrated on this day each year, commemorating Jesus’ presentation in the Temple for the ceremony of purification of Mary, 40 days after his birth. The occasion involved the sacrifice of a lamb and turtle dove/young pigeon but the poor were allowed to substitute a second dove or pigeon for the lamb – which Joseph and Mary made. Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after a birth: for 40 days for a boy and 60 days for a girl, women were not allowed to take part in religious services for the duration.

Since the start of 2021, I have heard of those who leave their Christmas decorations up beyond twelfth night, probably until Candlemass. People bring candles to church and light them to symbolise Jesus as the Light of the world. They are then used for the rest of the year in church and lit in windows of homes. It is a tradition that is widely celebrated in various countries, but not widely in Britain. In France, Belgium and parts of Switzerland, for instance, pancakes are made, symbolising the solar disc with round shapes and golden colour, to mark the return of Spring after the dark and cold of winter. Manger scenes are left out until Candlemass.

This reminds me of the prophet Amos who said that ‘God turns darkness into light’. He was a layman, shepherd and a dresser of fig trees, and lived during a time when Israel was prosperous and influential. However, the people were insincere and corruption was rife, so he was sent to warn of impending judgement, to turn away from idol worship and the maltreatment of the poor. “Go to the Lord and you will live” and “Let justice flow like a stream and righteousness like a river that never goes dry” are a few of his prophesies. How relevant is Amos for us – leaders and people around the world today. Amos reminds us that God sees all our actions, and the poor – who suffer so much – are his real concern. This is so with so much in society today, with the pandemic showing the inequalities of society. However, I pray that lives will change for the better as there is a renewed determination that improvement is made to address economic inequality. Jesus said ‘ I am the Light of the world and whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness’. We can look forward to our new building and new possibilities as God’s church with all that God will provide with renewed hope and commitment on the part of us all, whether it is through prayer or action, or both.

Prayer:

Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart,
nor followed your will, nor loved our neighbours, and ignored the cry of those in need.
Forgive us we pray, and in the knowledge of your forgiveness, help us to follow you as the Light of the World.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection & Prayer © 2021 Matthew Earl.
Image freely available online..

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