Luke 2:25-40 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 upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 33 The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
Simeon’s aged eyes didn’t look forward to death. No. They looked forward to life.
The Holy Spirit himself had said, “Simeon, you will not die before you see the Lord’s Christ.”
And so Simeon waited, looking forward to, eagerly expecting the Christ.
In synagogue he had heard the promises so many times that he knew them by heart. That He would be stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and by His wounds we would be healed. Simeon rejoiced as he heard the promise to Adam and Eve: that One would come to crush the head of the serpent, even as the serpent would strike His heel. He heard the promise that to those living in the land of darkness, a light will dawn. He heard the promise that the great descendant of David would rule on David’s throne and that it would be an eternal kingdom.
And Simeon waited.
He waited, as his friends grew up with him, as they got married, as they had children, as they died.
And Simeon waited.
He saw the brokenness of the world, the weeping women, the poverty-stricken children, the evil men. He saw so many who lived in darkness. They needed light. He needed a light. And he waited.
He saw seasons come and go. The rains fall on the land, the crops come in. The Word of the Lord remained, declaring what he saw with his own eyes: They needed salvation. They needed deliverance. And he waited.
And then, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Today. Go to the temple.”
And so Simeon got up and went. And he saw the milling throng, so many people there! Mothers and fathers and children, old men and old women, sheep by the flockful.
And he saw them. There. That infant! Just circumcised – squirming in discomfort. That was him. The one that Simeon had waited for for so long.
He pushed his way through the crowd to Mary and Joseph and he took the child in his arms and he praised God with words so beautiful they sound like a song, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
And he handed the child back to the mother. And he looked at the mother and he said, “This child is destined to cause the rising and falling 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.”
And Simeon walked away rejoicing. And he told everyone he met: “The wait is over! The Christ has been born! Salvation has come to us! The light has dawned! The wait is over!”
The wait is over.
Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Waiting. That’s something we usually don’t consider to be a very good thing. In fact, to most of us, WAIT is a four-letter-word. We are forced to wait in checkout lines, to wait at the doctor’s office, and to wait for the repairman to show up at our home. We think microwave popcorn takes too long, so how can we be expected to wait?!
Advent forced us to wait. Four weeks of waiting. While the rest of our nation was physically, emotionally and monetarily spent by the time December 25 finally rolled around, the Christian Church was just getting around to celebrating Christmas. Waiting encourages us to slow down, notice what is going on around us, look forward, look backward, anticipate and wait to celebrate. Waiting gives us opportunities for conversation and meditation that we might not otherwise have in our busy and hectic lives.
But when the waiting is over, it is time to rejoice! To break forth in jubilation! When we finally reach the front of the line, when our name is called, when we finally hear the knock on the door. And now our Advent waiting is over. We have ripped into the Christmas presents, visited with our relatives and broken forth with Christmas hymns and carols. Our waiting is over – not because we have celebrated Christmas but because Christ has come in the flesh.
Simeon is the perfect man to hear about during the Sundays after Christmas for he is truly an Advent man. He was waiting for the coming of the Savior. He was waiting for the “consolation of Israel” which means the relief or redemption of Israel. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Think about that. Doctors may tell a terminally ill patient that she doesn’t have long to live. But Simeon learned that he was going to keep on living until he had seen with his own eyes the promised One of Israel. This wasn’t a death sentence but a life sentence. Every day Simeon would awake and wonder, “Is this the day?” Every child who came into the temple would make him ask, “Is this the One?”
Simeon is a man on tiptoes, wide-eyed and watching for the One who will come to save Israel. Studying each passing face. Staring into the eyes of strangers. Patiently vigilant. Calmly expectant. Eyes open. Arms extended. Searching the crowd for the right face, and hoping that face appears today.
We can learn a lot from aged Simeon, because you’ve probably noticed how short-sighted we all are. We are like children: “I want it now!” Waiting, patience and thinking ahead are all learned behaviors, skills that need to be taught. It is easy to live for just right now, to indulge our sinful nature and gratify our natural cravings. Drug or alcohol addictions, out-of-wedlock childbirths and credit card debts all “happen” to people who couldn’t defer gratification to a later time.
God’s ultimate gift to you is to let you live with Him forever. But that wonderful destination can seem so distant as not to exist. Future thinking is an important skill that each of us needs to cultivate in our own heart. That’s why St. Paul writes, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly love, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
Waiting is not a weakness. It comes from the serene confidence that God will keep all His promises, that our future is going to be way better than our past, and that God is managing all the events of our lives to get us to the finish line of faith intact.
What joy must have filled Simeon’s soul when His waiting was over! His heart must have skipped a beat when Mary and Joseph walked into the temple carrying their Son. The Holy Spiriti whispered into Simeon’s spirit, “This is the One you’ve been waiting for.” And Simeon gathered the little Child in his old arms and lifted his weary eyes to heaven and broke forth in song.
Simeon’s time of service has come to an end for God has kept His promise. You can almost hear the relief in his voice, for he is at peace. His tired, old eyes have seen the Lord’s salvation. Though Jesus has yet to be visited by the Magi, step into the Jordan River, do battle with the devil in the wilderness, preach on the Mount or be betrayed, arrested, scourged, crucified and laid in the tomb – it is as good as done.
The waiting was over.
This Child is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel,” but His Light hurts our eyes which are used to the darkness of sin. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5). Because He was rejected by His own people, Jesus revealed Himself to the Gentiles – to us and the rest of the world. He is the glory of God to Israel, but that glory was revealed in serving, in lowliness and in humility, and so His glory was displayed in being nailed to the cross. This tiny Child was the redemption of Israel and the salvation of the Gentiles – the world’s Redeemer.
We still sing Simeon’s Christmas song. It is a Lutheran innovation to sing it at the close of the Communion liturgy. The traditional place for this hymn is at the close of each day. It’s the Christian’s “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. That is why we sing The Song of Simeon at the end of our Service of Evening Prayer in Advent and the end of our Compline service in Lent. But it is also very appropriate to sing as we depart from the Lord’s Table. For it is deep and wonderful theology. We have beheld the salvation of our Lord. We have looked upon the humble vessels of bread and wine that carry the Lord’s salvation to us in body and blood. We have held the glory of Christ’ body in our hands. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. We have heard His words addressed to us personally – “my Body given for you; my Blood poured out for you.” This body and blood born of Mary, laid in a manger, nailed to a cross, raised from the dead, glorified at the right hand of God – this He gives to us as our food and drink. And we, like Simeon, lift up our old eyes to heaven and sing our song of release and redemption. The waiting is over. We can truly depart in peace.
Make no mistake, Simeon is now saying he’s free to leave. Not leave the temple, but die. When I was a kid, I used to think we were thanking God because we were free to go home from church now. That was my prayer, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant, depart in peace.” But that’s not what Simeon was singing. He was saying, “Now I can die and rest in peace. I am released from life’s sentence and free to die. I have seen Your salvation and I know it’s mine in this little Child.”
And so are we. We are free to go. We have worshiped the Child in the manger, the Man upon the cross and the Redeemer risen from the tomb. We have beheld His glory, hidden beneath word and water, bread and wine. We have heard His proclamation of forgiveness and received His blessing upon us. We can truly depart in peace. Our wait is over. Amen.