Suitable for Key Stage 1/2 - Church Schools
To explore the feast of Candlemas.
Preparation and materials
- The following props:
• A large candle to use as a focus for the act of worship
• A picture of Mary and Jesus
• A Bible opened at the second chapter of St Luke's Gospel
• A doll, wrapped in a shawl
• Three volunteers to play Joseph, Mary and Simeon
- Bible reading: The presentation of Jesus in the Temple: Luke 2.22-39
- This act of worship can be particularly effective if it takes place at the end of the school day when the natural light is beginning to dim.
- At the beginning of the session, as the children lead into the room, you could play a setting of the Nunc Dimittis (see Song/Music below).
Explain that 2 February is a special day in the Christian calendar called Candlemas. The day also has another name - The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple - and this gives a clue as to the event that Christians remember at this time. On this feast day Christians read in the Bible about something that happened to Jesus as a young baby when his parents took him to the Temple in Jerusalem. The events are described in St Luke's Gospel.
Tell the story in your own words and ask some volunteers to dramatize the events, acting the parts of Mary, Joseph and Simeon and using a doll, wrapped in a shawl, for the baby Jesus. You could base your retelling of the story around these key points:
- At the time of Jesus’ birth it was the custom to take the first boy born into a family to the Temple in Jerusalem, where the families would say thank you to God for the birth of the baby and offer the child to God.
- Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple. There they met a very old man called Simeon.
- Simeon was a good man and he seemed to be waiting for the baby Jesus, even expecting him.
- He took Jesus very gently into his arms and said that Jesus was going to be a very special person. He was going to be like a bright light shining in the world. Then he blessed the baby and gave him back to his mother and father.
- Mary and Joseph were amazed by what Simeon had said and wondered what the wise old man's words could mean.
Then light the candle and, if possible, dim the other lights in the room. Ask the children to observe the candle's light and in a short discussion session, explore the symbolism of candles, e.g. the bringing of light where there is darkness; light as a symbol of hope and goodness; the life-giving properties of light. The children may also be aware of stories from different world faiths where light symbolizes goodness triumphing over evil.
Explain that Christians light candles at Candlemas to help them remember Simeon's words about Jesus. Christians describe Jesus as 'the light of the world'. They try to follow the example of Jesus and live their lives as lights shining in the world.
Ask the children to watch the candle's flame in silence and ask them to think about this question: What does it mean to shine like a candle in our world?
How could I be like a candle in the world?
To end the act of worship, play the music again, asking children to listen for Simeon's words from the Bible story about the presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
Time for reflection
Say: In a world that can seem dark and lonely, may we shine like lights bringing joy and hope into each other's lives.
Or use this Christian Collect introducing it as follows:
This is a Christian prayer that is said at the end of the day:
Lighten our darkness,
Lord we pray;
And in your mercy defend us
From all perils and dangers of this night;
For the love of your only Son,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The words of Simeon have become known as the Song of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis, and have had an important place in Christian worship over the centuries. The words have been set to music by many composers and are widely available, for example in settings of Choral Evensong recorded by many cathedral choirs.