This piece, which is located at the center right of the narthex at St. Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, depicts the presentation of Jesus by His mother and father at the temple and the blessing of Simeon and Anna over the baby. At the center, Mary and Joseph present Jesus to Simeon, who has waited his entire life to see this Child. The lower left shows a larger scale of Mary holding Jesus and Joseph walking just ahead as they exit the temple. Angels surround Mary and the Child. The temple is full of people, but in the upper right hand corner, a dark bearded figure looms over the scene. This figure represents the devil sent to snatch the Child. An angel at the bottom right holds a flaming sword as a barrier between the baby Jesus and Satan. At the top of the canvas, an angel is seen releasing a dove, the Holy Spirit that flies upward to the top of the temple. This ascending dove represents the Holy Spirit Who applies the redemptive work of Christ for us.

Unlike Simeon, we have not yet seen Jesus face-to-face, but we are profoundly blessed because we have not seen and yet believed (John 20:29). Like the venerable Simeon, we eagerly anticipate the appearance of the Lord promised to us — the parousia, His second coming to earth in the flesh (I Thessalonians 5:23-24, Hebrews 9:28). As another 2,000 years have passed since that promise of Christ’s coming has made, there has been attrition in the visible church, just as there was in ancient Israel, as to the belief that He will ever come. At that second advent, it will be in such a refulgent display, there will be no one confused about His identity (Psalm 110:1, Colossians 3:4, II Thessalonians 1:7-10, Revelation 1:7, 19:15). God’s people live every day with the word maranatha on our lips, sometimes in a triumphant praise and sometimes as a faint whisper, living in the light of the knowledge that He can come at any time. We are called to be ready when He comes, we know no other way to live, and once He does return, we’ll know we will have seen everything on this earth that we need to see. In space and time, we echo Simeon, “Lord, perhaps today.”

After expositing Luke chapter 2 at the recent Ligonier Ministries Christmas Gathering, R.C. Sproul offered the prayer, “Our Father and our God, in this Christmas season, help us to understand that to know Jesus is to be most blessed of people. May we see His light and His glory as we wait even now for that day when we can see His face before ours. And we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.”

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

 

Further study

A Divine and Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, John Piper

Rudolf Bultmann: Removing the False Offense, Alfred A. Glenn

The Messiah Is Born, Exposition of Luke Chapter 2, R.C. Sproul

Christmas Prophecies Fulfilled, John MacArthur

Nunc dimittis, Gustav Holst

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