Day 25: Thursday

Thursday: Respond (Act)

 

What does this mean for me? For the life of the World? For my role in the world?  As you meditate on the song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis today (Luke 2:25-35), consider what kind of transformation Jesus is highlighting for you. Reflect back on your journal notes and on the word or phrase that stood out to you in this song. Consider the relationship between that word or phrase and transformation.

 

In today’s reflection, following the progression of the four “movements” in the Lectio Divina method of spiritual reading, or reading with God (Read, Reflect, Respond and Rest), we will consider not only the movement within our own hearts, and what Simeon’s song means for us, but we will explore what it means for the life of the world and our role in the world. Lectio is a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and He was suggesting the topics of conversation. Yesterday, our response took the form of prayer for guidance. As you study today, consider what it is that Christ may be leading you to do and how you will Respond to his leading.

presentation
Simeon’s song by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

 

Did you know that during the Reformation Calvin’s church sang Simeon’s song during communion? Today you’d be hard pressed to find many churches singing it.  Consider this and reflect on why this text might have been chosen.

 

We have seen that the song of Simeon is a prayer rooted in the words of scripture, prophecies woven together from pieces of 2nd Isaiah (40:5; 42:6; 46:13; 52:10). Isaiah 52:10 says, “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Simeon says, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all the peoples.” What was only implicit in the song of Zechariah—namely, that the beneficiaries of God’s salvation are not Jews only but also Gentiles—this now becomes explicit in the song of Simeon. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who comes to bring glory to Israel, but the mercy shown to Israel over-swells the banks of Israel and brings revelation to all the nations. Isaiah described the mission of the Messiah like this: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (49:6; cf. 42:6).

 

In the gospel message it foretells, there is an intertwined narrative of judgment as well as of salvation. Simeon illustrates that Jesus will be both a great light to the Gentiles, as a well as a sword that would pierce our hearts. We can never experience the joy of Jesus without first facing the sinful thoughts and actions of our own hearts. Part of the good news of the gospel is that it helps us understand the horror of our sin as we find ourselves in the arms of our loving Savior.

 

Musical settings of this text often only focus on the blessing of verses 29-32, leaving out the beauty and covenantal completion of verses 34, and 35.  Some have viewed the blessing at the close as a kind of poetic meditation, which might go like this:

Behold this child will pierce your heart

His Word will be a sword

A sign opposed to hearts concealed

And grace for heaven’s adored

 

Today, 20 centuries later from the Christmas story, our days are no less dark than those of the first Christmas songs. What can we do? Simeon is surely a model for us. First, we can live as salt and light for our time, as Simeon did. Like Simeon in his dark day, we can choose to live for God, to find our ways into the courts of God. Let the Spirit of God rest upon us and fill our lives. Then, we can choose to live expectantly. “Shiloh will come.” This holy season — and in every season “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

 

Listen to this madrigal of the Nunc Dimittis by the English composer William Byrd (1540 or late 1539 – 4 July 1623, by the Julian calendar, 14 July 1623, by the Gregorian calendar). As you do, reflect on these and note your responses in your journal:

 

  • Consider the sword Simeon references. How does his Word pierce your heart and show you the areas of your life that are not fully redeemed in grace? Where might God be suggesting you release the chains of sin in your own heart?
  • How might you live as Simeon did, as salt and light for the world?
  • How might you choose to live expectantly, as SImeon did, even in dark days, as light in the darkness?
  • How will this change how you choose to live and what you choose to do?

Prayer:

Ask God for the grace of a heart open to the piercings of his Word and to show you how you, like Simeon, might be salt and light for the life of the world.