Monday, January 9, 2012

Nunc Dimittis: Simeon's Prayer

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; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end - amen.

The mystery is revealed before St. Paul pens it. The shocking offer is given before the Messiah can even speak. Simeon declares that the Christ child is God's salvation to all people. He will be a light to lighten even the darkness of the Gentiles. This is a stunning announcement to the Jews, God's 'chosen people' throughout the Old Testament.

Yet, looking back to Genesis 12 one sees this promise given to Abraham: "And I will make of you a great nation [Israel], and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families [nations] of the earth shall be blessed." (vv 2-3, ESV UK, Crossway)

The Messiah who comes through Abraham's seed is so great that He will not only redeem His people, Israel, but He will gather all nations to Himself. He shines His light in the darkness and it must flee.

I find this proclamation of Simeon's to be an overwhelming kindness from God. The Jews do not deserve to be God's specially chosen people. The rest of the world (the Gentiles) certainly do not deserve the offer of salvation. In fact, no one does. It is remarkable - no, sensational - that God would offer salvation to anyone. We all like sheep have gone astray, says Isaiah, each of us has turned to his own way. There is none who does righteous, declares Paul. Even our motives behind doing good are often (perhaps always) tainted.

Even so, God the Father chooses to love those who spit in His face, who stomp on His grace, He loves us enough to send His Son to 'wear man's smudge and shares man's smell' and take the punishment that we deserve. By His wounds we are healed, cries Isaiah. And so we are. Yes, even we Gentiles who sat in darkness have seen a Great Light.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~ Johanna

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