Young And Old Together
Candlemas (2 February)
by Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To affirm the importance of encouraging and inspiring one another.
Preparation and materials
- You will need two candles – one new 25–30 cm (10–12 inches), the other an old one that has burned to a short stump, almost finished.
- Also, suitable and safe candleholders for the candles and matches.
- Begin by explaining that, in the Christian calendar, 2 February is known as Candlemas. It’s a time to give thanks for light, hope and the approach of spring. In the past, ceremonies were held to bless candles for use in church.
- Show the children the two candles. Ask, ‘Which one is old? Which is new?’ Observe that the short candle is old. It has burned for hours and given most of its light. Soon its flame will die and a new light will be needed.
- Invite the children to imagine what it feels like to grow old. They may consider it ‘scary’ and ’sad’ or a matter of ‘achievement’ and ‘pride’. A conversation may reflect on experiences of loss and bereavement as well as the active and caring lifestyles that many older people enjoy. As they grow old, some people regret that time has passed quickly and their energies are diminished – like the old candle. Others may be glad that they can still give help and light to those around them.
- Explain that, at Candlemas, Christians tell a story about an old man and a new baby.
The presentation of the Lord
The old man was called Simeon. He was gentle and patient. Simeon often thought about the past. He remembered God’s promise to help his people. Many years had passed. There was little sign that God would keep his promise, yet Simeon’s faith and hope kept burning.
Light the small candle.
Simeon often went to the temple to say his prayers, but now he was growing old and tired. Sometimes he asked himself, ‘What’s the use?’ Would God ever answer his prayers?
One day, although he was very tired, Simeon felt that he must go to the temple. It was the day that Mary and Joseph went to the temple, too. They took their new baby, Jesus, to ask God to bless him. They wanted to say thank you for his safe birth and a new beginning.
Simeon welcomed Mary and Joseph. Mary explained why they had come: ‘We want God to bless our baby. His name’s Jesus. Would you like to hold him?’ Simeon cradled Jesus in his arms.
Lightly cradle the new candle with your hands – pausing to reflect that it’s always a special moment, holding a new baby. Some will remember holding a new baby brother or sister.
It was even more special for Simeon. ‘After all these years’, he exclaimed, ‘God has kept his promise. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Now I feel at peace. Your child,’ he said to Mary, ‘will be a light for all the world to see.’
Light the new candle.
Simeon was overjoyed. He had experienced something exciting and new. That day was one he would remember until the end of his life, when the light of faith would still be shining.
Place both candles together in a central position.
- Conclude by saying, ‘So, at Candlemas we can be thankful for the light – the light of humanity and the light of God – that we see in one another . . . both old and young together.’
Time for reflection
Ask the children to quietly recall a time when the patience of an older person has meant much.
Invite everyone to think how older people can be encouraged and comforted by the energy and enthusiasm of the young.
Reflect that, together, like the two different candles, we can increase the light of faith in the world and keep it burning.
Thank you that often the answers to our prayers are found in the company of one another, young and old together.
‘Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning' (Come and Praise, 43)
‘Together’ (Songs for Every Assembly, Out of the Ark Music, 1999)