This morning’s (Advent appropriate) devotion comes from Peter Moore.

“…A sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (RSV)


As a baby, Jesus is brought into the Temple by his mother and father—“as was the custom”—and there the relatively insignificant family is spotted by the aged and holy Simeon. Somewhat surprisingly, I imagine, the old man takes the baby into his arms and prophesies. Perhaps it was originally as we find it, in the form of poetry, or song. Or perhaps the message was later worked into a song as early Christians found that what Simeon had said echoed some of their own deepest thoughts about Jesus. Either way, Luke gives us one of the most touching “canticles” in the Bible, and three tensions in the story that are worth pondering.

The first is the tension between holding on and letting go. As Simeon draws the baby close to him he, at the same time, releases himself to God. He senses that once he has seen the “hope of Israel,” that is the Messiah, he can let go of life and “depart” this world peacefully (2:29). Simeon might have laid his hands on the child, or simply spoken a blessing. But he takes him up in his arms, signifying a heart that grasps hold of Jesus. At this very moment, he is able to surrender control of his own destiny. We naturally do the opposite: grasp hold of our destinies and, in so doing, let go of Jesus.

The second tension is that between a merely parochial faith and a truly universal one. Simeon’s deepest desire is for “the consolation of Israel” (2:25). Correspondingly, we are told in this postmodern age that we can have a personal faith, or be part of our own “faith community,” but we are not to foist our religion on others. However, Simeon’s gaze extends far beyond his own people. This salvation is “in the presence of all peoples,” and is for both Gentile and Jew (2:31-32). I wonder if those who first heard this knew the ramifications of this global vision. They, like we, must have been locked in their own little world.

Thirdly, there is a tension between the glory that Jesus will bring to his people (2:32), and the pain he will bring at the same time (2:35), and no one will experience this inner tug-of-war as deeply as Mary herself. I can imagine Simeon giving her a knowing glance as he speaks this prophetic word: “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” But the simple fact is that Jesus was, and will always be, controversial. Having him in our life will always bring both “agony” and “ecstasy.”