Thought for the Month (February 2012)

Dear friends,
January – cold, desolate,
February – all dripping wet,
March – wind ranges,
April – changes
And so on….
Christina Rossetti

Flanders and Swan's comment on February was –
February's ice and sleet
Is enough to freeze your feet.
So I think we stay indoors and look to Church for our celebrations.

February 2nd is the day known as Candlemas Day to celebrate when Mary and Joseph took their precious baby Jesus to the Temple for purification and circumcision. They met the old man Simeon, who sang the Nunc Dimittis –
"Sovereign Lord, as you promised,
You now dismiss your servant in peace,
For my eyes have seen your salvation."
What a lovely thing for an old person ready for death to sing – I have seen your salvation [and mine, Lord] and I'm ready to meet you.

This feast is often called Candlemas because churches were decorated with candles, which were blessed and given to the congregation for a procession.

In the evening, it was the custom to light a candle at dusk, make punch for all to drink, and allow the children to stay up till the candle had burnt out.

Then, so quickly comes the season of Lent. February 21st is Shrove Tuesday, when the custom was to go to church to be shriven, to tell their sins and be cleansed from them before Lent began. Because Lent was a time of general repentance and fasting, all the butter, fat and eggs had to be eaten up, so we have a feast of pancakes.

The word Lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning Spring. The Lent fast of 40 days (Sundays not included) commemorates that of Jesus when he went into the wilderness to pray. He needed to find out how his father God wanted him to use his life. Lent is a time when we can set aside some extra time for prayer to ask God what he wants us to do with our lives. Sometimes there are Lent discussion groups, or many people have a special Lent devotional book.

In a Christian book catalogue that comes to me there are some suggestions –
1. Magnificent Jesus – Wendy Virgo - £5.99
2. The Way of the Desert – Andrew Watson - £6.99
3. Experiencing God's Love – Stephen Croft - £5.49
4. Jesus, the final Days - Craig A. Evans & Tom Wright, - £6.99
5. Lent for Everyone: Mark – Tom Wright - £5.49
(I shall be ordering the last one, but speak to me if you want me to order anything.)

Lent begins on Wednesday, 22nd February, which the Scout and Guide Movement celebrate as Thinking Day, celebrating the Baden-Powells' birthdays by thinking of others in the movement all over the world.

All these could be helpful celebrations. Perhaps the least useful, but the one the shops will delight in, is February 14th – St. Valentine's day. My book says "Almost nothing is known of Valentine, who is thought to have been a priest who helped those about to be martyred in Rome, and was himself put to death about 270." In the time of Charles II, the first person of the opposite sex you saw on the day was your Valentine. Good luck!

Forget Valentine, and really celebrate Lent with repentance and prayer.

Audrey Mitchell

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church