This past Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord — recalling Joseph and Mary presenting the infant Jesus at the Temple (Luke 2:22-40), to dedicate him, as their firstborn, to God.
I love this feast day because it includes one of my favorite passages from Scripture, the Nunc dimittis, or Song of Simeon.
Luke tells us Simeon “was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.” We usually assume Simeon is old, because Luke tells us he’s been waiting to see the Messiah, and has been promised “by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.”
It’s probably safe to assume Simeon had seen the fall of the Jewish Hasmonean Dynasty, and all the violence, persecution and suffering that came with Roman occupation.
When Simeon encounters the Holy Family in the Temple, nothing has changed about the circumstances around him. Rome still rules. Herod sits on the throne. Persecution, suffering and death persist.
But, Simeon has seen the Messiah — his Savior and King — and that is reason enough to rejoice. He offers us, in the Nunc dimittis — meaning “Now you dismiss” — three of the most sublime verses in Scripture:
“Lord, you now have set your servant free, to go in peace as you have promised; / For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: / A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Having seen the Messiah, Simeon proclaims he is ready to be dismissed — he is ready to die.
I love this passage because it reminds us there is no hardship or undesired outcome — even death — that can outstrip the power of God’s love for us. And, unlike Simeon, we do not have to wait outside the Temple. The love of the Triune God is presented to us constantly, in the form of Christ, on the doorstep of our souls.
We should rejoice, even more loudly than Simeon, because we are blessed to live in the light of the Risen Lord.
We have our King and Savior before us, and no matter what troubles we may face in following Him, His love for us will not falter. Even if those trials end in our death — which, ultimately, will be the case — we must rejoice. Because He is waiting for us, both in and after this life, to take us in His loving arms, into the assurance of our salvation.