Monday, December 24, 2012

Nunc Dimittus




Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
You may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
Which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
A light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32 TNIV)

This prayer is known as the Nunc Dimittis, a prayer of completion and supplication for release sung at the end of a service of worship in many traditions. 

The traditional words from older liturgies run this way:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy Servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for my eyes have seen Thy salvation: which Thou has prepared before the face of all people, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel. Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

I remember this sung at the end of my childhood church service, and it always brought me to a full stop; a moment where I felt a sense of sorrow and confusion. Had I really seen Salvation? 

Think of Simeon, his prayer answered, but possibly in a way un-looked for: a tiny baby is the Messiah?

By his words in the second chapter of Luke, he has seen the completion of years of longing, praying, and pleading to God for the Messiah, the Anointed one: could he then see a glimpse of God’s plan?

Simeon may have been shown more than just deliverance of captive Israel longing for ransom from the Roman Empire. He saw a plan of salvation for all nations, even the Gentiles. No longer would salvation be for the Jews only; but God's Messiah would bring, at last, a deliverance for the whole world.

But how long would that take?

Remember that Jesus’ ministry did not begin until he was at least 30 years old. Remember the shepherds in the fields rejoicing over the birth told to them by a vision of angels?  Were they even still alive when Jesus began healing the sick and restoring sight to the blind.

How hard is it to wait for God’s timing?

Must we go through years and years of struggle and waiting, to have only a moment of bliss on this earth?

Perhaps.

But look at what was accomplished by God coming to earth as a baby. Look at the movement started by a few followers: men and women who took the message of the Risen Lord to the ends of the earth.

This Christmas, let us resolve to help others here on this earth to open their eyes to the world to come, to build God’s kingdom here on earth, like it is in heaven. To share his precious love to the hurt, lost, broken humanity which is all around us. We, as followers of Jesus Christ have already forfeited out lives, so we should strive to live out the call he has placed  before us, and to discern in what way each of us can be “a little Christ” to allow God to fill us with his light and to let it shine. 


Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created, according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon, and say Amen. May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded by the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world and say, Amen. May there be abundant peace from heaven and life for us and for all Israel and say, Amen. He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may create peace for us and for all Israel, and say Amen. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rest


First Sunday of Advent, 2012


"Rest" 11" x 14' oil-pastel (c) Lisa Guinther 2012










Rest.

Soft as rain,

The peace from above

            has smoothed my soul,

            cooled my mind.


An unlooked for calm

            Has blended the sharp
            orangyellowred edges,


which now flowinto

soft   green,

                        violet

                                    and deep blue.


At last,

those still waters of

Rest.

"Obedience to God" an essay from "The Greatest Gift: Christmas Devotions from Denver Seminary"


Last year I posted a couple of essays from Denver Seminary’s annual Christmas Devotions that I receive in the mail. This year I am again posting select essays from this devotions book. The first essay that caught my attention was the following written by Dr. Heather Davediuk Gingrich, Associate Professor of Counseling.


December 2
“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” (Matt. 2:14)

“Obedience to God”

Joseph as a remarkable man, but is often relegated to the background in our depictions of the Christmas story. He is always there in the manger scene, but the baby Jesus, his mother Mary, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men, all seem to be more prominent figures. Yet Joseph is integral to God’s plan for the salvation of humankind.

What kind of person was Joseph? Scripture give some indication of his character and relationship to God. For example, he must have been devastated to find out that his fiancĂ©e was pregnant, knowing that he was not the father of the child. His male ego had to have suffered a huge blow. But rather than becoming enraged and retaliating against Mary as other men may have done, “he had in mind to divorce her quietly” because “ he did not want to expose her to public disgrace” (Matt. 1:19)

Although the idea of divorcing Mary was born of compassion, Joseph did not follow through after an angel informed him in a dream that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was the Messiah, and that he should take Mary home as his wife (Matt. 1:20). Wow! How hard would that message have been to believe? Mary knew that she had not slept with anyone, and had the growing fetus within her body to confirm the angel’s message. But Joseph had to blindly accept that the angle was real and not merely a figment of his imagination, and that the message really was from God. Additionally he had to be willing to face accusations that he had let his lust get the better of  him as well as raise a child who was not his own.

Joseph’s obedience to God continued. When the infant Jesus was in danger of being murdered by Herod, and angel again appeared to Joseph, telling him to escape to Egypt with Jesus and Mary. Without hesitation he got up, gathered his family, and left in the middle of the night (Matt. 2:14). This was a huge move! They left their country, friend, family, and source of income, staying away until Herod died. Later, God spoke to Joseph through angelic messengers in two more dreams, eventually leading them back to Nazareth (Matt. 2:23).

Some of us draw more public attention through our “angelic” singing in choirs and worship teams, or through intelligence or wealth that are reminiscent of the “wise men.” Others are like the shepherds, humble, but managing to be there when something exciting is happening. But may we all strive to be more like Joseph, content to not take center stage, but striving to live in continuing, faithful, obedience to God.