Who was this man, Simeon? What is his song about and why should we sing it?
Simeon was a righteous and devout servant of the Lord who lived at the time when Jesus was born. He was eagerly waiting for the coming of the Messiah to rescue Israel. It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah (Luke 2:25-26).
It was customary for the Jews to present their firstborn male child in the temple and offer a sacrifice. This is in accordance with the law as instructed in Leviticus 12:2-8. Being dutiful parents, Mary and Joseph went to the temple, presented Jesus to the Lord and offered a sacrifice. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Simeon went to the temple. There he saw Joseph, Mary and Jesus. He took baby Jesus in his arms and sang…
“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.”
Simeon proclaimed he was ready to go. At last the promise made by the Spirit is fulfilled not only for Simeon but for the nation. It was a long wait for the Jews.
In the Church Calendar, 2 Feb, the 40th day of the nativity, commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the temple.1 In the liturgical tradition, this hymn is sung in the evening as part of the evening prayer. It is a sung prayer for peace as worshippers seek to rest for the night.
While we do not observe this day or the practice of evening prayer, consider having this hymn as a sending-off hymn.
In the words of Emily Brink, “When we sing it at the end of a worship service, we are singing about the salvation we have seen revealed in Word and Sacrament during that service. When we receive the grace of God, we can depart from our liturgical worship in peace to take up our lives of daily worship. In these few lines, we look back in gratitude to a promise fulfilled and look forward in peace and serenity to whatever future holds. This moment of singing unites us with the promises of God past, present, and future.”2
There are many settings of this song. You can find different settings in various hymnals. For choirs who want a more challenging composition of this text, you may explore www.sheetmusicplus, www. morningstarmusic.com or www. hymnary.org
My Master, See,
the Time Has Come
My Master, see the time has come
to give your servant leave
to go in peace, long waited for,
your promise now fulfilled.
For I have seen salvation, Lord.
Now may the whole world see that
light which is your Israel’s boast
enlightening every land.
Words: Luke 2:29-32
Music: Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music,
Part Second, 1813
1 Laurence Hull Stookey. Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 118-119.
2 Emily Brink, “Hymn Interpretation ‘Song of Simeon’.” The Hymn Vol.55, No.4 (2004): 40-41.
Picture by STILLFX/ Bigstock.com
Judith Mosomos is Acting Director of Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.