A week or so ago, I wondered what I would blog about this week. After all, I had already shared this year's Christmas poem in my last blog. I settled on recycling one of my favorite Christmas poems from a dozen years ago; but, for whatever reason, decided to read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke once more.
Let's see, the census . . . Jesus . . . swaddling . . . shepherds . . . Mary treasures the events in her heart. Check. This is where I would typically stop reading. Again, for whatever reason, I read a little further and reconnected with . . . the story of Simeon.
I went to bed struggling with an opening line. I wasn't happy that Simeon had a 3-syllable name!
I was thinking on it at work the next day (Friday) and not getting anywhere with it when all of the sudden something clicked at noon. By the time I hit the microwave in the lunch room I had the first two lines. By the time I got back to my desk I had another two lines.
By the time lunch was over I had written the first and third stanzas. My initial idea was to have those two verses of questions/answers back-to-back and then have two more verses containing Simeon's words. I couldn't wait to get some quiet time to finish it off! I thought, this will be done tonight!
Sadly, I had four more hours of work. Beyond that, my wife and I were in the midst of a little bathroom remodel (wallpaper removal/painting) with a deadline of finishing up by Sunday night. So, I had that to look forward to after work. Ugh!
FINALLY, late Friday night I returned my attention to Simeon once more.
When I got back to writing (and reading), I realized that Simeon really had two different "songs" — one for God and the other for Mary. So, it wouldn't work to have them back-to-back without causing some confusion. Rearranging the verses was another big "click".
I really thought it would have been finished Friday night, and went to bed a little disappointed that it wasn't. All the lines were there, but it had issues. Saturday morning, after a few tweaks, I was surprised that it was "finished". I say "finished" because I struggled until Tuesday night before it was really done.
On the weekend, in between the patching and painting, I realized a potential issue. You see, I had copied the NIV version of the story as my main guideline but had consulted other versions as well and thought everything was fine. But, I finally noticed that the NIV was different from most of the other versions!
As I see it, there are four main points to Simeon's words to Mary, and I wrote my poem around them in that order: 1-2-3-4. But, I found that most other versions had them written as 1-2-4-3. So I rewrote most of the last verse in order to comply with the majority. But as I reread them over and over (and over), I realized that the two lines concerning "Mary's pierced soul" was much better as the final two lines rather than having them elsewhere.
As a reminder, this is Simeon's story:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Luke 2:25-35 [NIV]
I contemplated saving this poem until next year and presenting it as my 2019 Christmas poem. But, I don't have the "pass" that Simeon had — a promise from God that I won't die before a certain event in my life. Both of these last two Christmas poems (almost) wrote themselves and are among the fastest that I've ever written; so if God wanted to bless me (and hopefully, you) with two Christmas poems for 2018, then who am I to hold one back?
The Song of Simeon
Simeon, where have you been?
I've been to the temple to pray.
Simeon, what have you seen?
I've seen the Messiah today.
Simeon, how did you know?
The Spirit of God told me so.
O Sovereign Lord, as you have vowed,
now let me rest in peace and grace.
For all my years that you've allowed
to finally see the Savior's face:
whose light reveals the world's needs;
whose glory is what Israel bleeds.
Simeon, tell us again.
A child was brought to be blessed.
Simeon, what happened then?
I cradled the boy to my chest.
Simeon, what did you say?
I blessed them and sent them away.
This child will cause the fall and rise
of many people, great and small;
a sign rebuffed and much despised,
with many hearts revealed for all.
But, Mary, as his mother — you
will have your very soul pierced through.