Lord, now You are letting Your servant
depart in peace, according to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
Luke 2:29-30 (Simeon’s Song)
Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.
~Ted Kooser “Christmas Mail”
the utterly unexpected
a star, a light, a voice
shakes us awake
opens our sleepy eyes
interrupts familiar routines as
our hearts tremble, muscles tighten;
do we run to prepare for battle
or do we freeze in place?
the animals also
rustle and stand up-
confused like us
they see the exploding sky and yet
they sense no threat but instead
huddled together for warmth
as unearthly music
fills their ears.
we quickly make plans
to see this great thing, a revelation-
word has become flesh
and we have been invited
to catch the first glimpse.
~Steve Bell “First Glimpse”
…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 to-morrow. According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
~T.S. Eliot from “A Song for Simeon”
Simeon had waited and waited for this promised “first glimpse” moment of meeting the Son of God face to face, not knowing when or how, not knowing he would be able to hold him fast in his arms, not knowing he would be able to personally bless the parents of this holy child.
He certainly could not know this child would be the cause of so much joy and sorrow for those who love Him deeply.
That sword of painful truth pierces into our soul, opening us with the precision of a surgeon under high beam lights in the operating room where nothing is left unilluminated. We are, by the birth of Jesus, bared completely, our darkness thrust into dawn, our hearts revealed as never before, no matter who we are, our place of origin, our faith or lack thereof.
God is an equal opportunity heart surgeon.
It is terrifying, this mountain of desolation, all cracks and crevices thrust into the light. And it should be, given what we are, every one of us.
We wait for this incarnate God, longing and hungry for His peace. We are tired, too tired to continue to hide within the darkness of our troubles and conflict of our sin. We, like Simeon, are desperate for a first glimpse of the promise of His appearance dwelling with us, when we can gather Him into our arms and He gathers us into His, when all becomes known and understood and forgiven.
His birth is the end of our death, the beginning of the outward radiance of His peace, and wide open to all who open themselves to Him.
Light upon Light.
Based on Psalm 74: 12
Salvation is created in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia.
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6 thoughts on “The First Glimpse”
I never fail to get teary watching the video of Michael Card’s song “Now That I’ve Held Him in my Arms”, when Simeon recognizes Jesus and worships Him. One of my all-time favorites,
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Love this post, the words and photographs! I think I’m going to print ‘Christmas Mail’ for our beloved carrier next year. We always tip and give her a card, and I know she would love this addition!
The first photograph is so interesting; great subject matter, composition, depth of field and lighting. Kudos to the photographer! Emily??
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Hello again, Emily! For a second day in a row you have connected with Orthodoxy! St. Simeon’s Prayer is sung every day at our Vespers service. I loved the T.S. Eliot passage reflecting on St. Simeon. And the Pavel Chesnokov piece was gorgeous! I had never heard of this group, Voces8. Wow!
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Orthodox music is wonderful! Definitely watch what Voces8 puts out-always special!
Yes, I took it yesterday after a night of wind and snow, the swirl patterns were all wind-blown!
Thank you for explaining about the snow pattern! I was wondering what did that and so was everyone who I sent the picture to. Everyone loved it!! I was telling my friends I think you are good at everything!! ❤️
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