Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simeon's Song

Our texts for this New Year's Day/First Sunday in Christmas are Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Psalm 148, and Luke 2:22-40. You may read them here.

However, the key text for this week--Luke 2:22-40--is best not read, but heard, for it is a song! So, rather than writing about Simeon's song, sung in the Temple in response to meeting the Baby Jesus, I want to encourage you this week to listen to it. The text, from scripture, is sung in many liturgical traditions after communion, at funerals, or as part of Evening Prayers before bedtime. It is a song that has remained fresh in Christian imagination and worship for 2000 years. What makes Simeon's words so potent?

I encourage you to read Simeon's song lyrics below, then click the "play" button on the two links below to listen to two very different musical interpretations of them: One, by the ecumenical community in Taize, France, which offers Simeon's words repetitively in Latin; the other, by a contemporary songwriter who imagines the scene and the song that unfolded in the Temple and weaves them together with the words of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" that we have been singing expectantly throughout this season.

"Lord, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

Listen and reflect: what do you hear in Simeon's song?

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