Our Gospel this evening is such an evocative scene. We know the story well. The old man Simeon on seeing Jesus ‘took him in his arms and praised God.’ His words of praise reverberating down the centuries.
They are memorably captured for me at least, the in language of the Book of Common Prayer. We shall hear them sung later on. It begins ‘Lord now lettest thou they servant depart in peace’ and goes on to include these words ‘For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation; Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people;’
I want to think about seeing salvation in these words tonight, and I do so using this familiar story something of which we can picture in our minds, not least because we know what’s it like to hold a baby.
And though babies can be infuriating; they smell, they cry, they eat, they don’t do much. When they’re on form, when they smile and giggle and look at you in a way that only a child can, we are, like Simeon, filled with wonder and praise.
It’s interesting that when babies become toddlers and you meet little ones out walking, they will always look at you. They cannot help it, they’re inquisitive about the different face before them.
In contrast, we don’t look at people as we did as a child, especially living in the city. We get used to looking down at the floor or even looking the other way.
Children so often remind us who we are, we see a bit of salvation in them, it’s why Jesus used them so often in his teaching.
But back to the Temple and Simeon because in the face of this particular baby, the one for whom he and Anna had been waiting, he saw his salvation. He saw the one ‘destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel’.
And though we have not seen the Christ child, this story is special to us because it reminds us that we too have glimpsed something of salvation too in those moments of wonder and praise when we look upon the miracle of life.
For me the beautiful words of Simeon’s song are not just stuck in the past but mean something important today ‘For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation; which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people;’
In Jesus’ face Simeon and Anna saw their salvation and as I have thought about this theme, especially in this strange days we are living in, I have been thinking about that image of seeing salvation in a face, maybe even our own.
Perhaps we forget that though we are no longer children, we were once. We were the child that elicited wonder and praise from others and though we have grown older, there is it seems to me something important here to ponder.
What do we see when we look at our face in the mirror? Not the face of Christ but a face that is unique and wonderful in its own way. And though we use mirrors every day, to check the hair (what’s left of it) or to shave or to put make up on, and yet how often do we really look?
If I’m honest there have been times in my life when I’ve not really wanted to look in the mirror. When I’ve felt uncomfortable in my skin. Yet though that is how I may sometimes feel, I know too there is something about me, there is no one like me, no one with the same wrinkles and moles and so on.
The singer Bruno Mars had a hit song a couple of years ago. It’s a love song to his love, but might the words of the chorus be God’s love song to us ‘When I see your face, there’s not one thing I would change, because you’re amazing just the way you are.’
Might we as individuals be kinder to ourselves if we could remember that sometimes? Might it also shape the way we see each other? To help make that point, let me adapt the words of Simeon’s song slightly ‘For mine eyes have salvation in the face of all people.’
Many of the great evils of the world have been because we no longer see salvation in the face of another. The evils of genocide happen because we no longer see someone’s face, regardless of their faith or colour or status as a face that reveals salvation. We see them as worthless, commodities or things, if that is we see them at all.
Simeon saw the face of the one who was and is ‘a light to lighten’ us all. As his followers today, part of our calling is holding his light up to our society time and again to say that the God made known in the face Jesus Christ, is also God who puts something of himself in each one of us.
So we leave tonight with Simeon’s song ringing in our ears ‘For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation; Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people;’
Salvation for all people.
Thanks be to God.