Home Service 41

Home Service for Sunday 20 December 2020 ~ Compiled by Peter Ratcliffe

Welcome to this Home Service and welcome to the fourth Sunday in the season of ‘Advent’!
Normally at this time of year churches, schools and playgroups etc., would all be presenting their own
variations of the nativity. With all the ‘Covid’ restrictions in place I wonder if any took place at all.
Do you remember being in one yourself? Or perhaps you were on the more tense side of the action being a Sunday School or Drama teacher and wondering if the angels, shepherds or wise men would come on at the right time?

Those with access to ‘You Tube’ may enjoy a different version of a well-known carol:

Away in a manger no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing the baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus look down from the sky
And stay by my side, until morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

How many characters are there in the Christmas story? Let’s see . . . Mary, Joseph, Jesus, an Inn Keeper, Shepherds, Angels, Wise Men, King Herod. . . any more? . . . of course, Simeon. Simeon?? Where does he fit in?
We pick the story up in Luke’s gospel about a week after the shepherds had visited Jesus.

Luke 2: 25-35
At that time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem. He was a good, God-fearing man and was waiting for Israel to be saved. The Holy Spirit was with him and had assured him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s promised Messiah. Led by the Spirit, Simeon went into the Temple. When the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, Simeon took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God: “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace. With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at the things Simeon said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against and so reveal their secret thoughts. And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.”

From the Catholic church website:
In these current, uncertain times, when peace is everywhere sought but so little to be found, this simple prayer printed below known as Nunc Dimittis, (“Now Thou dost dismiss” in its original Latin) points the way towards where true peace can be found, in Jesus Christ! It is also called the Canticle of Simeon, named after
the man who first uttered these words.

Nunc Dimittis delivers a profound message quite simply and has been used in Compline (night prayer) in the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church since the 4th century. Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel
We read in Chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel how a “just and devout” man named Simeon was awaiting the consolation, (that is to say the restoration of God’s rule), of Israel and was told by the Holy Spirit that
he would see the Lord’s Anointed One, the Messiah, Jesus, before his death.

When Mary and Joseph, following Mosaic law, brought the baby Jesus to be presented in the Jerusalem Temple there the Spirit led Simeon straight to Him. Jesus at that moment was truly a Bundle of Joy
for the old man! Simeon took that little baby into his arms, and blessing God, spoke these famous words printed in the prayer above. Indeed, Jesus was to be a guiding light for our salvation and for Eternal Life with God in heaven! It’s been a very difficult and challenging year for us all. Yet despite having certain words and phrases imposed upon us such as lockdown, face masks, social distancing, isolation, etc., we have been encouraged to stop and consider aspects of life that have caused our senses to wake up. Things like noticing what goes on in the natural world around us through animals, birds, trees and flowers. Or someone’s act of
kindness towards us. Extraordinary fund raising schemes. Music projects through ‘Zoom’ that have somehow linked musicians and singers together. Not forgetting all the key workers that have been very much in the spotlight.

What would you like to thank God for? One person I would like to give thanks for is our dear friend
Margaret Stevens who died just as I was beginning to think about this Home Service. Just as Simeon was blessed with the revelation of Jesus before him, Margaret had been asking and praying for a similar
revelation. A few years ago the words of her favourite worship song were transformed into a work of art by Hannah Kirk and fixed to the wall at the foot of her bed where it became a daily prayer for Margaret.
Look at these words and use them as a prayer. Can you imagine Simeon saying these words? Ask God to reveal to you the goodness of his salvation as he did to Simeon and Margaret.

Lord, I come to you,
Let my heart be changed, renewed,
Flowing from the grace that I found in you.
And Lord, I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away by the power of your love.
Hold me close,
Let your love surround me.
Bring me near, draw me to your side.
And as I wait I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with you,
Your Spirit leads me on in the power of your love.
Lord unveil my eyes,
Let me see you face to face,
The knowledge of your love as you live in me.
Lord renew my mind
As your will unfolds in my life,
In living every day by the power of your love.

‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ is one of our oldest carols. Yet it carries a powerful reminder that God has always been there. His love and providence have traversed many generations and will continue until he comes again.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Finally, as 2020 draws to a close, let us reflect on Simeon’s prayer, the ‘Nunc Dimittis’.

Those of you with access to ‘You Tube’ may like to reflect on this prayer with the help of this musical setting as used for the TV series, ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.

Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation;
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to enlighten the gentiles
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son,
and to The Holy Ghost,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.