Many church and school nativities let down the gospel writers. The most upset should be Luke.
Such nativities combine the birth stories of Luke and Matthew by starting with Gabriel greeting Mary and end with the arrival of the Magi. This is a poor show.
The show Luke really wants us to put on is a much greater spectacle. His production begins with a priest being driven speechless by remarkable news and ends with an exuberant prophetess who can’t help telling people about the child who has been born to fulfil the future of God’s people.
Ahead of her arrival comes Simeon; you may like to read Luke 2:22-38.
He is thought to be old. He is certainly depicted as a devout man of prayer. He has been longing for one prayer to be answered. He believed he would not die until he had seen the person who would complete the mission of God through the people of Israel.
He turns up as the child Jesus is being presented in the temple and adds his own shouts of delight and a hard warning for Mary.
Here is someone who knows his time is up and leaves the stage in an unforgettable way.
Among Christians his words are used as part of Compline, the prayer of later evening. He is a symbol of contentment. The purpose of all his worship, right living and devotion has come to its natural end. He can rest in peace. He knows how to end his day – any day – with a thankful release of its business into the hands of God.
Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace
But we should not be too sentimental.
Luke has in mind his readers. It would be made up of people who were already walking with Christ but also the many Jews who are not convinced.
Simeon speaks directly to them. He has had his time. The future beckons. What God had always intended for his people was happening. The messiah had arrived and he had a mission that reached far beyond his birth-race.
Simeon is a voice from their past – a voice of priests and prophets who saw God had more in mind for those believers than their own personal fulfilment. Now Simeon knew his time is over. He can stand back and let the story continue without him. He has said his piece and now others will replace him.
The words attributed to Oscar Romero seem to fit this scene. I find them deeply poignant but pregnant with hope
We are prophets of a future that is not our own
Simeon knew his place. He had kept the dream alive. Now a new generation was coming front-stage and he must decrease as they increase.
He had his entrance and his exit; but oh! what an exit.