5th Day of Christmas: John Donne, from “The Showing forth of Christ”


December 29: John Donne, from “The Showing forth of Christ”

The whole life of Christ was a continual passion. Others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born. For to his tenderness then, the straws were almost as sharp as the crown of thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as his cross at the last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day.

Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the church, to a particular soul, is an epiphany, a Christmas Day. Now there is nowhere a more manifestation of Christ than in that which induced this text: “Master, you are now dismissing your servant in peace…” It had been revealed to Simeon (whose words these are) that he should see Christ before he died. And actually, and really, substantially, essentially, bodily, presentially, personally, he does see him, so it is Simeon’s Christmas Day.

Contenting ourselves with so much therein as was according to his word, and not inquiring farther than God had been pleased to reveal; and having reflected all these several beams upon every worthy receiver of the sacrament, the whole choir of such worthy receivers may join with Simeon in this antiphon, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace.”


Dr. Jonathan A. Powers is Assistant Professor of Worship Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he shares his passion for the intersection of liturgy and spiritual formation in the life of the church. Jonathan is the author of 12 Days of Christmas Sermons, and co-author with Jason Jackson and Teddy Ray of Echo: A Catechism for Discipleship in the Ancient Tradition, both published by Seedbed. He and his wife Faith have two daughters.