In Advent, we talked some about Israel’s waiting for a Messiah. Last week, we saw that even people outside of the Jewish world were waiting and looking for a savior and king. The Magi’s search for the Christ child led them to meet and worship Jesus before returning to their homelands. In Epiphany, we meet some of individuals whose lives were set aside for the work of waiting for God to act in a savior. Simeon and Anna meet Jesus in the temple and prophesy about his role in the redemption of the world and Israel. Here is a short article/commentary on our text for today.
Epiphany is about the identity of Jesus as Messiah coming to light. The stories that we cover during this season are epiphanies of God’s work in the person of Christ. It is our task during the Season of Epiphany to take notice of how Jesus comes to be the Messiah of the people, how he is the light of the world, and a savior for all people.
As your students gather in your classroom, you may want to turn off the lights and light candles (I can put candles from our Epiphany event in your classrooms or you can find white votive candles in the CE Supply Closet).
Hear the Story
Strangely, this story is passed over in many children’s Bibles; I only found it in one–Children’s Illustrated Story Bible by Selina Hastings. I am not sure why this story is left out because it is really wonderful and great for children. From a Bible, Read Luke 2:21-39. This story includes the detail that Mary and Joseph went to the temple for Mary’s purification according to Jewish custom, they meet Simeon who blesses Jesus and prophesies to Mary, and Anna who prophecies about Jesus as a savior for Israel.
Respond to the Story
(1.) The Song of Simeon: The Song of Simeon, also called the Nunc Dimittis, is found among the canticles (#17) for Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer (p.93). It is also one of two canticles that is selected for evening prayer (the other being the Magnificat or Song of Mary, this can be found on page 120).
Lord, you have now set our servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.
Here are some suggestions for how your might spend your class period with the Song of Simeon:
- Work together to memorize the prayer.
- Make a prayer book of Simeon’s song. Students can write each line of the prayer on a different page and provide illustrations. Encourage them to pray the Song with their families every night this week.
- Listen to some of the chants of the Song of Simeon. Here or here (in Latin). Alternatively, you can play this music in the background as your students work on any of the writing, art or prayer activities in this post.
- Practice lectio divina, a way of listening to, meditating on, and praying Scripture. Read the prayer out loud slowly. With older children you can read the prayer multiple times (ask different students to serve as readers each time). Ask students to choose a word or phrase that stands out to them. Discuss what the word or phrase says about who God is in Christ. Younger students can reflect on their favorite word (try reading a sentence or two instead of the whole prayer) and illustrate the word in different mediums.
(2.) Create a living Montage: Instead of acting out the story, make a list of some of the people we have talked about who have encountered Christ (shepherds, Magi, Simeon and Anna, etc.). Choose a student to represent each of the characters. Use costumes if you would like. As a class, create a visual profile for each of the characters (it could look like a social media or newspaper page). For example, a page on Simeon might have his name at the top, a passport style photo, and a that reads “waited for the Christ until he was very old.” At the end of the class, the characters can be presented and described using the profiles created by the class.
(3.) The Presentation in Paintings: This story is a popular one in art history. Print out different images of the presentation of Jesus at the temple–here, here, here, or here. Discuss the pieces together and then have children create their own painting or drawing using the images for inspiration.
(4.) Make an Epiphany Banner: In the church Epiphany is an exciting time during which we celebrate that God comes into the world and makes Godself known in incarnation and the ministry and person of Jesus. Create a celebratory banner. Use bright colors (Gold and white are the liturgical colors for the season of Epiphany), stars, and (if you dare) glitter. Let the banner dry and I will pick it up and hang it up in the commons next week.
(5.) Sing Together: If you are musically inclined or if you would like a musician to come to your class, you may want to learn or sing one or all of the songs below. After you finish with each of the songs, you may want to talk about what it means for us and how it helps us remember that Jesus is the light of the world and the savior for all people. For This Little Light of Mine,
- Marching in the Light of God: Lyrics.
- He has the Whole World in his Hands. You may want to prompt students to name the people who have come up in recent stories: “He’s got [Simeon and Anna | Kings of the world | Shepherds in the fields| Mary and Joseph | angels in the sky | Israel and the Gentiles | you and me brother/sister etc.] in his hands.” Encourage them to name people in the story before singing the song. Talk about how God showed up for each of these characters.
- This Little Light of Mine: you may want to discuss how Jesus being a light for the world means that we, as God’s people, should carry that light wherever we go.
Close in Prayer and with a Feast