Ian Thompson led the worship again today with additional musical support from Jonny Hyde. Our pastor, Tim Hyde brought the word again today with the latest instalment on our journey through Advent. Tim started by asking us if we’ve been singing songs this week?
The focus this morning is on the song of Simeon. Simeon was righteous and devout. He’d been promised that he wouldn’t die until he’d seen the Messiah. He told Mary that her son would see the rise and fall of many things. Another elderly but devout person ,Anna, spoke about the child Jesus to all. Tim asked whether anyone was fans of “One born every minute” or that other family favourite, “Call the midwife”. Even if you are not a fan there is something about the birth of a child that is compelling.
It has been said that the greatest forces in the world are babies. They offer hope and life and a future. Babies have the power to change the world, Tim illustrated this point by showing three paintings by Rembrandt. Simeon’s Song of Praise was painted in 1631. Focus is on the centre where Simeon encounters this couple with a child. It shows clearly two young people on the fringes of Jewish life. These two teenage peasant parents cannot even afford the normal purification offering. They offer two doves because they could not afford the more customary sheep . The simplicity of the offering doesn’t stop folks celebrating. Anna and Simeon, though clearly the old and the widowed do not hold back. Simeon means “hearing one” or “one who obeys”. Unusually Luke is lavish in his description. He outlines two whole descriptive verses. This invisible old man was inspired. Luke is beside himself with excitement in the retelling of this encounter . Three times Luke outlines the Holy Spirit’s role here. We have to think about Simeon and how many hopeful prayers had he prayed over different children over the years. Then Simeon finds the one, he has the saviour of the world in his arms.
Nunc dimittis is the name for this song. It has been used for over 1500 years and used in daily prayer by many traditions. Calvin’s church sang this during communion. It is a part of daily liturgy and often used as the final song in a service. Three themes are explored in Simeon’s Song ready to die, identify the child in his arms, descriptive and prophetic this child will be a light. He anticipates the reach of Jesus, and his role asthe comfort of Israel.
Rembrandt paints another picture 38 years later. Nowadays we would say that Rembrandt zoomed in on a key feature of the scene he pictured earlier. Simeon is the often described as the God-Receiver. His faith and actions remind us we too can receive the Saviour. Simeon takes us back to Isiah . Every phrase of the song is like pieces of a jigsaw, a jigsaw that revolves around and describes this child in his arms . In between those Rembrandt also paints Simeon’s Prophecy to Mary. Simeon changes key here sharing dark work about the sword. Anna reinforces this message.. These old people were filled with hope in their years of waiting and believing. They were f0lk who devoted their lives to prayer and hope. Some of the people who encourage us have been prayerful hopeful people, filled with the Spirit. Even when darkness is around God sends his son to experience this. We met Elizabeth and Zechariah. We’ll hear Mary’s own story at Christmas.
No matter who you are this story can be your story. Luke is keen to show a new era has dawned. As we live in the now in the darkness of advent, there is a need for ordinary people be waiting watching and praying.
That same spirits that inspired Simeon and Anna should inspire us. We need to reflect and pray on what chances will we get this season to bring light into darkness.
Will our words be filled with praise and hope? Tim prayed that we may we be willing and open to receive the coming one. We closed by offering thanks that we’ve been chosen and that we will be guided to bring hope and light to others