December 8th by Doug Lane
“…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
It’s 40 days after the birth of Jesus. We’ve had a chorus of angels, shepherds stopping by the manger, followed a few days later by kings from the East. Now Mary, Joseph, and Jesus have entered a temple in Jerusalem to follow a custom of presenting the child. In this scene Jesus is being held in the arms of an old, old man. This is Simeon.
The first time I remember encountering Simeon was when I was a boy, seeing a drawing of him—a drawing of a very old man with a long hairy beard. It was very off-putting. But what a fascinating story! The Holy Spirit had revealed to a very devoted Simeon that he would not see death before seeing God’s Messiah. And it was the Holy Spirit which had guided Simeon to the temple that day.
Thus, holding the child, Simeon is praising God and telling God he is now ready, as God’s servant, to depart life in peace. Simeon has received the ultimate Christmas gift; one we all celebrate this season.
Today’s three verses from Luke complete Simeon’s prayer to God, as he sees and realizes what the child is and represents. First, Simeon’s own eyes see—and know—God’s salvation. Jesus is here to deliver that, as the Savior. Kings and prophets had been searching a long time for this, and it allows a deliverance, a peace with death. Next Simeon realizes God has prepared Jesus “in the presence of all peoples.” Yes, not just certain people or groups of people. Simeon goes on to mention the Gentiles, for whom God is preparing Jesus as a light, perhaps to bring them out of a darkness. We know how often Jesus will be called this kind of light. As for those people of whom Jesus was born—and who have long been expecting a Messiah—Simeon notes Jesus provides a glory for them. Thus, this gift of God, from God, is the promise of love, grace, mercy, righteousness, salvation, glory, and release from death. Whether Simeon also sees a future of trials and difficulties facing Jesus and followers through the ages, we do not know. Simeon accepts his departure in peace.
We know NOW what the ultimate Christmas gift really is. Here we discover Simeon, who knew it THEN. Remember Simeon as we open our gifts.