Advent Sings: Departing in Peace

And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word..”
Luke 2: 26-29 from the Song of Simeon

In my clinical work and in my personal life, I’ve kept vigil while patients or loved ones are dying.  It is quite common that even those who are so ill as to be unresponsive will seem to wait to take their final breath until an absent family member makes it to the bedside.    They seem to be waiting, even unconsciously, for the fulfillment of family around them, a need for the fullness of their life to be acknowledged and celebrated before they depart.   At that point, they can let go and move on.

So Simeon was waiting patiently, day after day, to see the Savior.   He was ready to let go of this life, but not until he knew that salvation was at hand.

The scene in the temple that day must have been touching to witness.
An old man searching the eyes of everyone who entered, wondering which might be the long awaited and expected Messiah.
A father and mother with baby in arms coming in for a customary blessing, carrying a humble sacrifice of two doves.   There was nothing obvious to distinguish them from hundreds of other families.
The old man struck by the Spirit, given incredible words to say and sing, approaches the mother and asks to hold her child, this particular child, just for a minute.
Mary gives Jesus over, as she will, again and again, during His life and death.
Simeon, with the Son of God held fast in his arms, sings his beautiful song, as he cradles the fulfillment of the promise made to him.
Simeon, old and ready for death, sings of the fullness of his life,
the fullness of the rich blessing of promises made and kept,
the fullness of a father and mother willing to share their child,
the fullness of being in the presence of the glory of the Lord.

Simeon in faith meets the Messiah he has longed for.
We wait as well for the next Advent of His coming, not to cradle as Simeon did, but to be cradled.
When it is our time to depart in peace, it will be straight to the arms of Jesus.
And we, like Simeon, will sing as never before.

Advent is a time of waiting.  Our whole life, however if Advent — that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: “On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”  Learn to wait, because he has promised to come.  “I stand at the door…”   We however call to him:  “yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!”  Amen.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

An Advent Tapestry–The Paradox

Scene of Peace by Rembrandt

A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded…

I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now turned inward to the smallest…

It is true that the spiritual spiral henceforward works inwards instead of outwards, and in that sense is centripetal and not centrifugal. The faith becomes, in more ways than one, a religion of little things.

– G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man