Updated: Jan 14
The green shoots of snowdrops are beginning to peep above the soil. Soon they'll be in full bloom, hopefully in time for Candlemas at the beginning of February. That's when we celebrate the inspiration behind Anna Chaplaincy, Anna, the widow who appears with Simeon in Luke's gospel – both fine role models of faithful older people.
Anna Chaplain Elizabeth Bryson asks me, 'Did you know that snowdrops are known as "Candlemas bells" and are a symbol of hope that springtime will come? I hope to be able to pick some snowdrops from our garden and show them in the Skype Service' (at her local care home).
No I hadn't known that, until now... Elizabeth shares her timely reflection for this coming season of the year:
Snowdrops give hope that spring is coming after a long, cold winter. At Candlemas we rejoice and celebrate that Jesus has come to be the light of the world and ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ (Luke 2:32), so that we can know more of the love of Jesus.
The gospel for Candlemas from Luke 2:22-40 describes a wonderful event when Jesus was 40 days old; when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the first time. They were keeping the Jewish law for three ceremonies: the purification of the mother, the redemption of the firstborn and the presentation of the child to the service of God. It was a very special day for Anna!
Anna and Simeon are a wonderful example of hope, waiting many years trusting that they would see Jesus, who came to bring salvation and reveal God’s love to the world. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon ‘that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ (v. 26) That day ‘moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts’ (v. 27) and recognised that Jesus was the One he had been waiting and hoping to see. Anna recognised Jesus too, after sixty years of waiting, hoping and praying in the temple, when she prayed much and hoped for the coming of Jesus. Anna’s hope turned to joy when she recognised Jesus.
Anna shared the good news as she ‘spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem’ (v. 38). As Anna Chaplains we share the good news of the love and presence of Jesus; giving hope and reassurance to the elderly. Jesus came as a light in the darkness, just as the snowdrops are bright and white in the dark soil. The hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness reminds us that God gives us ‘strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’.
In these dark days of the coronavirus pandemic let us ‘set our hope’ (2 Corinthians 1:10) in God to help us through difficult times. Hope is ‘an anchor for the soul’ (Hebrews 6:19). We can trust in God’s love and faithfulness through troubled stormy times.
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife? When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
Anna lived in a stormy time of fear with the Romans invading her country. She kept praying, hoping and trusting God. Her hope was an anchor trusting in the love of God. In the Bible ‘hope’ is a confident expectation and anticipation of good. To hope means that we are trusting God. Indeed ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Hebrews 11:1).
When you see snowdrops in February, may they be a symbol of hope for you: hope in the wonderful love and faithfulness of the Lord while you trust ‘that in all things God works for the good of those who love him’. (Romans 8:28) Let us be glad and full of hope, like Anna, when we see beautiful white snowdrops. Anna Chaplains are bringers of hope; reminding older people about the love and presence of Jesus.
You may read Elizabeth's full article for her February Parish Magazine (as an Anna Chaplain in the Canterbury Diocese, Maidstone): Reflections about hope, snowdrops and Anna.
'I write,' she says, 'about Anna Chaplaincy and ask: "Is the Lord calling you to this ministry?"'
God of healing and hope, we ask that those living in care homes will know your sustaining peace and presence. Draw near to the isolated and those living alone. Thank you that nothing can separate them from your love. Come close to those who have lived long and experienced much. Let the fearful know that you are with them in this coronavirus storm. Please protect all who live and work in care homes. Through telephone, internet, television and radio services, remind them that Jesus loves them. May they all know your peace, joy and loving presence today and every day.