01344 761050 St Sebastian's Church Office office@stsebastians.org.uk

Dear Friends,

February is a time to look out for “Snowdrops” (galanthas nivalis) better known as “Candlemas Bells” across St Sebastian’s Churchyard, Bramshill Forest and our Parish. These flowers often bloom around this time of the year, even before “Candlemas”. Other varieties bloom all winter, who some believe purify our home.

Many Christians though see the flower as a symbol of Jesus Christ, our hope for the world.  “Candlemas” is an annual Christian holiday on the first Sunday of February. It celebrates three occasions: presentation of the child Jesus; Jesus’ first entry into the temple; and the Virgin Mary’s purification. And, according to the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Simeon, who held baby Jesus in his arms, said that: “he would be a light to reveal God to the nations, all of us”.

Another word for purification is to be refined. This is one of many channels by which God is revealed to us through Jesus Christ. This refining is similar to a craftsman removing impurities from molten metal. That process brings out a better version of us to engage with the Father’s heart of love and peace no matter the personal circumstances or time.

We see God’s heart, a heart that continues to show us mercy despite our shortcomings starting with me yet helping us to face the future with greater confidence, a year of opportunity and determined hope. How many times have I messed up? How many times have I wanted to do things my way?  When did I ever understand that “yes” and “no” are God’s answers? God says, my son and my daughter, I will give you another chance. I will send you Jesus (whose birth we celebrated on Christmas Day), who will refine you like gold and silver because you are unique and special. We will be in constant refinement and cleansing to be a better version of us. That’s our ultimate outcome – to be different and make an impact in our families and communities.

To be refined also means to be purpose driven. It is about having a clear direction of travel, a clear sense of knowing and a greater openness to God’s will.

Without being led, life hangs on a loose end, lacks goal and a dynamic to move towards that goal when faced with uncertainties and worry. If we lose the sense of being led, then we simply become victims of circumstances, or we allow other people’s actions and attitudes to determine our response, and that’s not good for our personal mental health.

So, let us be encouraged during February and Candlemas celebration as we reflect on the words of Antonia Smith: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day we may look back and realise they were the big things”.

Indeed!

Stay blessed with love

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray

Parish of Wokingham Without St Sebastian’s