Let all nations call him blessed
Friday, December 29, 2017
From Luke 2
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.
The temple aisles are empty and dark, but Simeon, the old man who virtually lives in the temple now, rests easy and full of joy. He has seen the baby Jesus.
With difficulty, Simeon leans on his walking stick and eases his way outside. Morning sun shines on marble pillars. Cold air blankets Jerusalem. The temple market is quiet. His eyes are dim, but he watches the parents carrying their son. They have been to the temple for their baby’s blessing, and now they head home.
“Who am I, that I might be able to see my Lord? I am just a poor man, and my story’s seldom told. But my Lord and my God, you have appeared before me and made me righteous, made me happy, made me whole!”
Simeon’s ears rang with tinnitus. For him, the bells of Christmas rang all day every day. But really, he barely heard them anymore. They left him with just a faintness about his hearing that he could forget most of the time.
Most days, no one spoke to him.
Then, when Simeon saw Jesus, the ringing stopped. He heard far beyond his ears, right through the air into a place of heaven. He felt his way slowly, while his mind caught up a bit and moved quietly into revelation and understanding.
Watching the small, vulnerable family, anticipation pierced his soul and once again, with a rush, he felt his age. Hundreds of years later, T.S. Eliot found words for Simeon:
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.
Grant us thy peace.
Would there be anyone left to be saved by the savior? Simeon felt the chill of Satan’s whispered threats, turning him … turning him. Simeon held him off:
Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no tomorrow.
No matter that decease will come. God’s presence and God’s peace soften birth and death. Angels accompany us up and down old Jacob’s ladder. We move smoothly from earth to heaven.
Jesus is at home in both, and so, therefore, are we.
According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
- from “The Song of Simeon,” 1928.
Jesus, I might love to sing a song that says this world is not my home. But it was your home. It IS your home. So I claim it too, and hold it precious in your sight. You are the cattle on a thousand hills, and you are the sun that shines above every bank of clouds. You are here, and so I am glad to be here too. Hold me close, oh Lord - hold us all. Leave us not unto our fears and our temptations. Every day you deliver us from evil. Glory be!