In the Christian church, this Friday, we celebrate one of our oldest festivals, Candlemas. Like the Hindu festival of Diwali, it’s all about light. We’re marking the presentation of the baby Jesus – the Light of the World – at the temple in Jerusalem, and at the same time, the church candles are traditionally blessed for the year ahead.

Light is a symbol of the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and also hope over despair – the light at the end of the tunnel.

So as people of faith, we acknowledge that human tendency to despair, that tunnel in which we may feel that we are living – all the pain and suffering of the world. How could we deny it?

In the story of the Presentation of Christ in the temple, hope and suffering are closely linked. Simeon, the priest in the temple, says he has waited all his life for this moment and is now ready to die – and Anna, 84 years old and widowed after only 7 years of marriage, has lived in the temple ever since her bereavement worshipping and watching for this light to come into the world. Even Mary, Jesus’ brave young mother, is told that ‘a sword will pierce your own soul’. There is agony ahead for her amid the ‘good news’.

These three are models of the resilient hope which we try to emulate and to share, longing for the time when, through Christ, there will be ‘no more mourning or death or crying or pain’.

Written by Lois Sparling of St George’s Church in Kendal.

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