Friday of Christmas I – Luke 2:22-40

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

When I read these words, a tune starts to play into my head, but more than a tune, a powerful memory. You may know the tune; it is the Nunc Dimittis from the 1941 hymnal, the liturgical setting of these words of Simeon. But there is a memory associated with this as well. I am the sixth of seven children. My father was the pastor, so my mother was left to regulate a sometimes-busy pew on Sunday mornings. I remember sitting by her when she returned from communion. It was another time when children did not come forward for a blessing. (We all understood the consequences of misbehaving while she was communing!) The smell of the sacramental wine clung to her as she bowed her head and prayed.

Because it was a busy pew, she usually chose one toward the back of church. It was easier to extricate a misbehaving child from the service that way. She communed toward the end and so often when she prayed the organist would begin this song that Simeon sang. Sometimes when I hear that song I am a small child again, sitting next to my mother in a pew in rural Iowa.

She and my father are in glory now. They sing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. They sing with Simeon and Anna. But so do I when we sing these and other words today. The Jesus whom Simeon held within his arms that morning has accomplished this. If you would like to hear that version of Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis, you can find it here:

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