Born a Martyr -

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."'
-Luke 2:25-35

'The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucufied, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of the same day. And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth, for Epiphany is manisfestation. Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the church, to a particular soul is an Epiphany, a Christmas day.'
- John Donne, The Showing Forth of Christ, quoted in Watch for the Light, p. 303-304

Dear Friends and Family,

I love the story of Simeon from Luke 2. Can you imagine this elderly, faithful Jewish gentleman day after day serving and performing his temple duties? He was righteous and devout; a man set upon by the Spirit of God and having been visited by the Spirit who assure him that he would see God's salvation before he died. When Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the temple for the rites expected by Levitical law Simeon saw Him. When he set his eyes upon Jesus an old man saw God's salvation. Simeon recognized that this would be God's salvation for all peoples; Gentile and Jew alike. In the new babe Simeon saw what many do not see. He saw hope for all peoples, but also that this salvation would be opposed. Salvation would come at a price. Simeon saw that God's salvation was to be manifest, not by youthful zeal and the hope of a young child, but this salvation would be made manifest by opposition and suffering. Simeon saw God's salvation in a child that would bring salvation through the piercing pain of suffering. Simeon may not have seen God's redemptive plan from beginning to end, but he made the connection between God's salvation and the opposition that was coming to this child. God's redemptive plan included both a manger and a cross. This child was born a martyr.

Rejoicing with Simeon in seeing God's salvation.

Dan J. Morse

(Reposting an original post from December 2009)


Longing in Hope -

 There’s a tension that won’t go away. Try as I might to mitigate its effects the strain is palpable; longing and yearning…what is flies in the face of what should be. No aspect of life has escaped.  We yearn with incessant longing, but as a result of the fall all of life, is often hard and filled with unmet expectations.  Our longing manifests itself in frustration and alienation. Can we escape it? Is it possible to get beyond this tension?

What if the tension, and what if the yearning are indications; signposts pointing to something far more significant? What if the incessant longing for something better and different is an indicator of something broken and seemingly unfixable? What if estrangement and its satisfaction here and now are impossible?   In 2002 the contemporary rock group Coldplay asked an even more penetrating question,

Am I, a part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease?

What if the problem with longing is me? What if the cure I long for is held in abeyance by the contagion I carry? What if the biggest obstacle to satisfying my yearning is rooted deeply inside of who I am?

One of my favorite Advent stories is the story of Simeon found in Luke chapter 2. Simeon, a righteous, clear-eyed, and wizened temple worshiper was a man consumed with longing. He looked at the world around him and saw brokenness. He knew something of the prevalent and encroaching darkness and yet pined for something or Someone better. When the young child Jesus was brought to the temple for the rite of purification Simeon’s gaze fell upon Him. In that moment Simeon’s yearning, like a man overlong parched for water, found his thirsting sated. For Simeon the answer to the longing was found in deliverance, but even more so, in a Deliverer. Simeon describes his yearning being satisfied by seeing. He exclaims,

‘…my eyes have seen your salvation….’(v. 30)

In Jesus Simeon saw deliverance, not just for the world, but for himself. Long bound by chains of his own making, in Jesus Simeon was confronted by his longing, and confronted by his own need and the needs of the world around him. In Simeon’s beatific Advent vision every longing pooled up with satisfaction. Salvation, was found in Jesus in the Incarnation, and in Him the telos of longing, had come.

Simeon wasn’t the only one who longed for something. In generations prior the patriarch Abraham had been whispered a promise. And Jesus, of Himself, spoke as the anecdote to Abraham’s long dormant yearning in John 8,

‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ (V. 56)

Abraham’s longing was rooted deeply in the covenantal framework given to the first woman in Genesis 3. One would come, it said. He is promised, it said. Wait, it said.

For all of those like me that still yearn. For all of those that see the brokenness in both the world and in themselves, and long for the overdue mending to come. For those that find themselves longing and waiting, at times impatiently, for things to be different. For those that daily experience the tension that won’t go away…we wait. In this interregnum we wait for the twice-fulfilled promise, once as Bethlehem’s Child and once again soon as a cosmic reigning King. 

‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’
      Phillip Brooks, O Little Town of Bethlehem, 1868

-Dan J. Morse
Advent 2016

[1] Coldplay, Clocks, A Rush of Blood to the Head, copyright 2002(US), Parlophone Music