God Was Here: Light Upon Light

baker1222172

 

…my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 
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
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

~Luke 2: 30-35 from the Song of Simeon

 

rembrandt_lofzang_simeon_1669_grt
The Song of Simeon by Rembrandt

 

…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,
Thine also).
~T.S. Eliot from “A Song for Simeon”

 

baker1222173

 

Simeon had waited and waited for this promised 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 all 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.  This is an equal opportunity surgery.

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.

Yet God is who we wait for, longing and hungry for peace.  We are tired, too tired to continue to hide within the darkness and conflict of our sin.  We, like Simeon, are desperate for the peace of His appearance among us, dwelling with us, when we can gather Him into our arms, 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.

 

 

God Among Us: Entrusted as Brother

morningrain

 

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Luke 1: 76-79

 

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Luke 2: 28-35

morningrain12

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.
~Denise Levertov  “On the Mystery of the Incarnation”

 

Tainted and stained, we approach the manger barely aware how grimy we are, feeling completely comfortable with visiting such a dark and dank place.  We have lived in the dark for so long, the light shining this night from the face of our new Brother is so blinding, so revealing, He leaves no place to hide.

The Light is come; blessed is He who comes to rescue us from the dark. ~EPG

icedropspond

 

Benedictus Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Benedictus Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.Benedictus Benedictus qui venit, qui venit in nomine Domini.
Benedictus Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.Benedictus Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.Hosanna in excelsis.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Hosanna Hosanna in excelsis.Benedictus Benedictus qui venit, qui venit in nomine Domini.
Benedictus Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini,
qui venit in nomine Domini.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
Blessed is he who comes, who comes,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
Blessed, blessed is he who comes in the name,
Who comes in the name of the Lord,
Blessed, blessed is he who comes in the name,
Blessed is he who comes, who comes,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna in the highest, in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name, the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest, in the highest
Hosanna in the highest, in the highest, in the highest, in the highest!

That old man in the temple
Waiting in the court
Waiting for the answer to a promise
And all at once he sees them
In the morning sunshine
A couple come and carry in a babyNow that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
‘Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people, Israel

Mary and the baby come
And in her hand five shekels
The price to redeem her baby boy
The baby softly cooing
Nestled in her arms

Simeon takes the boy and starts to sing

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
‘Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people, Israel

Now’s the time to take Him in your arms
Your life will never come to an end
He’s the only way that you’ll find peace
He’ll give you salvation
‘Cause he’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people, Israel

Behold, a Branch is growing Of loveliest form and grace,
As prophets sang, foreknowing; It springs from Jesse’s race
And bears one little flow’r In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.

Isaiah had foretold it In words of promise sure,
And Mary’s arms enfold it, A virgin meek and pure.
Through God’s eternal will This child to her is given
At midnight calm and still.

The shepherds heard the story Proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory, Was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped And in the manger found him,
As angel heralds said.

This flow’r, so small and tender, With fragrance fills the air;
His brightness ends the darkness That kept the earth in fear.
True God and yet true man, He came to save his people
From earth’s dark night of sin.

O Savior, Child of Mary, Who felt our human woes,
O Savior, King of glory, Who conquered all our foes,
Bring us at last, we pray, To the bright courts of heaven
And to the endless day.

Advent Sings: A Light Reveals All

Song of Simeon by Aert De Gelder, a student of Rembrandt
Song of Simeon by Aert De Gelder, a student of Rembrandt

…my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 
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
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 2: 30-35 from the Song of Simeon

Simeon had waited and waited for this promised 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 all 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.  This is an equal opportunity surgery.

It is terrifying.   And it should be, given what we are, every one of us.

Yet this is what we too wait for, longing and hungry for peace.  We are tired, as in Eliot’s poem below, too tired to continue to hide within the darkness and conflict of our sin.  We, like Simeon, are desperate for the peace of His appearance among us, dwelling with us, when we can gather Him into our arms, 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, open to all who are open to Him.

…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,
Thine also).
From T.S. Eliot’s “A Song for Simeon”

Advent Sings: Departing in Peace

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. 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, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word..”
Luke 2: 26-29 from the Song of Simeon

In my clinical work and in my personal life, I’ve kept vigil while patients or loved ones are dying.  It is quite common that even those who are so ill as to be unresponsive will seem to wait to take their final breath until an absent family member makes it to the bedside.    They seem to be waiting, even unconsciously, for the fulfillment of family around them, a need for the fullness of their life to be acknowledged and celebrated before they depart.   At that point, they can let go and move on.

So Simeon was waiting patiently, day after day, to see the Savior.   He was ready to let go of this life, but not until he knew that salvation was at hand.

The scene in the temple that day must have been touching to witness.
An old man searching the eyes of everyone who entered, wondering which might be the long awaited and expected Messiah.
A father and mother with baby in arms coming in for a customary blessing, carrying a humble sacrifice of two doves.   There was nothing obvious to distinguish them from hundreds of other families.
The old man struck by the Spirit, given incredible words to say and sing, approaches the mother and asks to hold her child, this particular child, just for a minute.
Mary gives Jesus over, as she will, again and again, during His life and death.
Simeon, with the Son of God held fast in his arms, sings his beautiful song, as he cradles the fulfillment of the promise made to him.
Simeon, old and ready for death, sings of the fullness of his life,
the fullness of the rich blessing of promises made and kept,
the fullness of a father and mother willing to share their child,
the fullness of being in the presence of the glory of the Lord.

Simeon in faith meets the Messiah he has longed for.
We wait as well for the next Advent of His coming, not to cradle as Simeon did, but to be cradled.
When it is our time to depart in peace, it will be straight to the arms of Jesus.
And we, like Simeon, will sing as never before.

Advent is a time of waiting.  Our whole life, however if Advent — that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: “On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”  Learn to wait, because he has promised to come.  “I stand at the door…”   We however call to him:  “yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!”  Amen.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer