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 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’
Christina Rossetti wrote this hymn in 1872. She describes the physical circumstances of Jesus’ birth in teh frist verse, contrasts his original and second coming in the second, and dwells again on the first coming in the third verse. In verse 4 she contrasts the angels, without bodies, who attend Jesus birth with Mary’s body who worships him physically. The last verse switches to our response to the Incarnation.
When we encounter Jesus we need to respond – everyone does. Sometimes that response is simple indifference, sometimes it is hostility – after all Jesus makes demands on us – sometimes the response is to worship, sometimes to follow where he leads.
Simeon’s response is to see his dreams fulfilled in this young baby; he sees in Jesus the hopes of Israel being fulfilled and responds with praise.
At the start of this New Year how will you respond to Jesus?
I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
(Covenant Prayer used in Methodist Churches in January)
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster