All Saints, Cochrane

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have sent us your salvation. Inspire us by your Holy Spirit to recognize him who is the glory of Israel and the light for all nations, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

May the words of my lips, and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Introduction

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.”[1] These words of S. Paul have made their way into the idioms of the English language, and speak of how, in our current time, we cannot see clearly. We cannot see God. But when Christ comes again, we will see God face to face, in his fullness.

It is a powerful phrase because it is something we all experience. It is hard to see Christ in the world sometimes. When we hear of war, violence, and death constantly, it is hard to see the hope of Jesus in that.

I struggle with it.

The season of Epiphany is all about the showings of Christ. The various revelations of him to the world. It starts with the Magi being guided by the star to find the infant Christ,[2] and culminates with the revelation of his divine glory to some of the disciples at the Transfiguration.[3]

In our Gospel today, we hear another of his showings as his divine light is proclaimed for the first time. It may be a familiar story, or it may not, but it is a story heard differently when you place yourself into it.

Simeon at the Temple

Consider yourself as Holy Simeon, and what it might have been like to seek the Christ of God.[4]

You awake suddenly. Despite the darkness, you sense that there is no-one else there. The familiar feeling of the gentle night’s breeze and the ever-present dust ground you in the moment, and the stars above begin to come into focus. In the haze between sleep and wakefulness you thought you heard a voice.

The voice. But now it seems only like a dream.

“Simeon!”

Sitting upright, and thinking of the Scriptures, you respond. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”[5]

The voice of the Lord speaks to you, and as you listen your heart tightens. This isn’t the first time the Lord has spoken to you. Years ago, he promised you that you would not see death before the coming of the Messiah.

The Messiah! The very thought gives you hope. Hope is hard to come by these days, under the foot of Roman oppression.

“Go to the Temple. There you will see my Messiah.”

God has been faithful, after all these years. Years spent hoping and praying.

Fully awake now, you begin to rise and dress yourself, preparing to hurry towards the temple, and all the while thanking God for his faithfulness and his deliverance of Israel.

The dawn breaks as you approach the Temple courts. You can smell the goats and other animals before you can see them, or even hear their bleating. Their musty smell is intermingled with the coppery smell of blood from the sacrifices.

Your nostrils flare, even after all these years, at the familiar smell. But you don’t notice, so fixed are you on your excitement and God’s promise.

The courts are filled already with moneychangers and merchants, ready to help the pilgrims make a sacrifice or pay the temple tax.

It finally dawns on you that, in your excitement, you had never asked the Lord for a sign. How you would recognize the Messiah? You pray briefly, hoping God will hear your cry, and press on through the crowds. They continue to grow as you move further into the courts.

Ahead, you see a light. Brighter than the morning sun.

Your body forgets its age—the aches and pains—and moves swiftly, with urgency, towards the light.

You see a couple. No one else seems to be paying them any mind, despite the near blinding light. The man holds two birds in his hands. The woman, whose back is to you, is basked in light.

As you approach you see the source of the light: a child she holds in her hands. This is him. This is the Lord’s Messiah. His Christ.

Taken up in rejoicing, you move up to the couple and embrace the child. You feel joy and calm. Your life’s goal of seeing the Messiah has been achieved. The Spirit of God comes upon you, placing words in your mouth to sing as you continue to rejoice:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to enlighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Pause

This is just one possible interpretation, from the Biblical text, of what it might have been like to be Simeon. The most important point is that Simeon saw the light of Christ. It is a reminder that Christ was wholly divine, even from his infancy.

We sometimes might think of Christ as simply another baby, with his divinity waiting in the background until his human form could grow big enough… We would be wrong to think that.

Christ in the incarnation has become the light of the world, from the moment of his conception. From when S. John the Baptist, in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, sensed the presence of Jesus when the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth after the annunciation. To this passage, after his birth, where his light is perceived by Simeon. To the Transfiguration, when some of the disciples are gifted with a glimpse of Christ’s full divinity.

Conclusion

The light of Christ, the light of Hope, has come into the darkness of this world.

Where do we find his light today?

“Go out into the highways and hedges and look for Jesus in the ragged and the naked, in the oppressed and the sweated, in those who have lost hope, and in those who are struggling to make good.”

We must search for it. We must look for it. We must open our eyes to the light of hope in this world. Look for Jesus in the least of these, “and, when you have found Him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of His brethren.”[6]

That is not a command. That is not an exhortation. That, like with Simeon, is the Spirit-empowered rejoicing at seeing Jesus, the hope of all people.[7]

Seek the light of Christ. Seek it in all people and in all situations. In his light, rejoice, and find hope.

[1] I Cor xiii. 12

[2] S. Mt ii. 9-11

[3] S. Mk ix. 2-7

[4] This is a form of Ignatian Gospel Contemplation that invites people to contemplate God in the Gospels through all their senses and imagination.

[5] I Sam iii. 10

[6] Frank Weston, “Christ in the Sacrmaent and in the Slum,” Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (OUP, 200), 561f.

[7] S. Mt xii. 21

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