3rd January 2024

Nunc Dimittis: Jew and Gentile Together

Simeon’s blessing, on taking the Christ child into his arms, is often considered in terms of expectations – Simeon’s happy anticipation of death having now encountered the infant Messiah, and then his threefold expectation, through the life and death of that same Christ child, of salvation, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for God’s people, Israel.

All very true, but there is here also a rich fulfilment of Hebrew law and prophecy. Leviticus 19 v 33 strongly resists any ill treatment of the alien, rather he/she is to be treated the same as Jewish neighbours, ‘Love him as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’ Read Isaiah [42 v6; 49 v6; 56 v4ff; 60 v3] carefully and you will see how inclusive is his message – spelling out God’s concern for the welfare and salvation of Gentile and foreigner as well as his people, Israel – and how salvation, God’s word revealed to Gentiles, and the glory of Israel, all belong together, in one message of hope.

This God, who in Isaiah’s prophecy finds a place for all, an understanding well focused in Simeon’s  prayer, remains ever as generous in the ‘Now’ of today. Thus, in place of the violence, killing and destruction on both sides of the Gaza conflict that fill our television news and the headlines in our newspapers, our prayer must be that salvation will come to all, as Jew and Gentile alike respond to the light extended to all people bringing with it a vital tribute to the part played by Israel in extolling God’s glory. Cannot rabbi, imam, and Christian pastor, from their own scriptures, make a new endeavour to bring all God’s people together in one holy embrace of peace with justice for everyone in this year of 2024?

John Briggs