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Advent: Simeon’s Song (Luke 2:22-35)

By Michael Milton | President of the Charlotte campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, Contributing Editor of Preaching magazine

You cannot dance to the music of Charles Ives. The late 19th- and early 20th-century American composer was inspired by his transcendentalist philosophy. This led to a highly personalized musical expression that employed the most innovative and radically technical means possible. His music sometime went into two or three different directions at one time.

You cannot dance to the Song of Simeon.

Simeon's Song begins with a sentiment that conjures up the joyful, upbeat, rhythmic, folk music of a Jewish wedding. It changes mood and becomes quiet, contemplative, and then it ends with a thump. You can’t dance to it, but you can marvel at it and learn from it.

The powerful message from this mysterious figure was delivered to Mary and Joseph after the first Christmas but has a divine purpose for us today. Simeon’s Song, the Nunc Dimittis—the Canticle of Simeon, tells us in Luke 2:23-35 that our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God's promise for our salvation and God is calling every man to rest in Him alone for eternal life.

We witness the Lord's call for us to rest in Christ as the Promised One as we take in the lessons of this passage.

There Is a Lesson in the Setting: The Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple

Following a time of ritual purification after the birth of Jesus, the parents of our Lord (we may call Joseph the parent of Christ--Scripture does in verse 27) went up to offer a sacrifice and dedicate their child to God. It is interesting to note that to go from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is literally to go down, but because the Temple was there, they "went up" to the place where God’s presence ceremonially dwelt. It is in this setting, that they encountered Simeon and heard the Word of God.

The object of the trip was obedience to God. The end of their obedience was to hear the confirmation of the Word of God: that their child is the Savior of the world.

Here is the lesson: We rest in the Lord as we obey. We find the true power of Christ in our lives as we go up to dedicate ourselves to Him, to follow His revealed will in our lives. We come to know the fullness of the Lord particularly as we obey God in going into His House.

Another pastor related that he had a very elderly lady in his congregation who could barely see or hear and couldn’t walk very well. But she was always at church. She received her church bulletin early by a fellow member of the church, and would routinely hold the bulletin up close to her weak eyes, find the sermon text of the day, consider the title of the sermon and the hymns selected, and contemplate that. She would then go to church the next day where she could see and hear almost nothing. One day she remarked that all she got out of the service was what she received from the bulletin. The minister, allowing her the option of not going to church, told her, "Well, you don't get much out of the service, so, dear, why don't you just stay home?" The lady responded, "Well, you know, the psalmist said, 'The Lord is in His holy temple,' and I come to this place to meet the Lord." Of how many who attend church can that be said?

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