O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God in Trinity,
eternal unity of perfect love:
gather the nations to be one family,
and draw us into your holy life
through the birth of Emmanuel,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless his name;
tell out his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations
and his wonders among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
he is more to be feared than all gods.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus 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.’
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
Having celebrated the birth of Jesus. we are now invited to reflect upon his Presentation in the Temple. When examined in detail, this account of Simeon encountering and recognizing the divinity of the baby is rather confusing. The way in which Luke recounts this significant moment brings together three different Jewish ceremonies: the purification of the mother, the redemption of the firstborn, and the presentation of a child in the service of God. Whilst all these rituals were important, we need to be careful not to focus on the confused account we are offered here. Instead of focussing on the Holy Family, it is preferable that we now turn our attention to Simeon.
Luke tells us that Simeon was righteous and devout; that he was looking forward to the consolation of Israel; that the Holy Spirit rested on him. Simeon had also been shown that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon, old and faithful Simeon, was one who, through study and prayer, had grasped the truth that lies at the heart of the Old Testament. Simeon recognized that, in the baby Jesus, he was encountering the unveiling of God’s plan of salvation for the whole of humanity, and not just for the Jewish nation.
For Simeon, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple was both a time of revelation and a time of release. In his recognition of the Christhood of Jesus, he knew he had finally reached the end of his earthly life, but … he still had one more role to play in the narrative.
Simeon had spent his life in study and prayer. Simeon understood the power of prophecy, the speaking of God’s word to those amongst whom he lived. Today’s reading ends with Simeon playing his part in God’s prophetic plan. As well as prophesying Jesus’ destiny as a light for revelation to the Gentiles, Simeon also had words of prophecy for Mary: and a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Through his study of scripture and through devout and faithful prayer, Simeon had had great divine truths revealed to him. He had also been called to share those truths with others, despite his old age. God is still in need of faithful prophets. Who God will choose to be a prophet is known to God alone. Our task is to read Scripture and pray that its great truths may be revealed to us. Then, we need to be ready for God to speak his word through us. Then, in our time, we can be sure of God’s welcome as we join faithful Simeon in God’s realm of eternal peace.
Prayers of Intercession
With confidence in the divine light revealed to our human race, let us pray to the Lord.
We give thanks for the knowledge of our salvation, seen with the eye not of sight but of faith. Enlighten the Church to be a true Temple to the glory of Christ and a witness to the world.
Make the divine light to shine on all nations. Through Christ, who took our nature fully upon him, deliver your people from all evil.
In our families and friendships, make us a light to lighten the lives of others. Come with the healing fire of your love to cleanse all that is not right in our community, that all may know their true Redeemer.
Bless and protect the vulnerable ones of our common humanity: the babies, the parents who have few of the world’s goods, the aged and infirm. Be their strong defence in times of need and keep them from harm.
We give thanks for those who have departed in peace and come into the glorious light of eternity. Receive them into the salvation that was prepared for them from the beginning.
We end our prayers in the peace of God who has given us his Son to be the Saviour of the world.
Prayer for Christmas
Holy Child of Bethlehem,
born in a stable, laid in a manger,
no place is too low or mean for you to enter.
Come to us this Christmas time,
dwell in our hearts and homes,
and fill them with your love,
now and always.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Faithful vigil ended,
watching, waiting cease;
Master, grant your servant
his discharge in peace.
All the Spirit promised,
all the Father willed,
now these eyes behold it
This your great deliverance
sets your people free;
Christ their light uplifted
all the nations see.
Christ, your people’s glory!
Watching, doubting cease:
grant to us your servants
our discharge in peace.
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926)
based on Luke 2.29-32 (Nunc Dimittis, The Song of Simeon)