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.
If you were reading these words for the first time, you might think they were spoken by one of Jesus’ disciples, after the resurrection, when everything was becoming clearer and his life on earth was at an end.
In fact, the speaker was a man named Simeon, a man who had been waiting many years for God to fulfill a special personal promise to him. Simeon knew that he would not die until his eyes had seen the promised Messiah, the Christ, who would save his people and usher in the new Kingdom. And this speech was not made as Simeon stood looking into an empty tomb, or even at a darkened, bloodstained cross. He was holding an eight-day old baby boy, whose parents had brought him to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the law and present the child to God. There was nothing to make anyone else look twice at the child, but Simeon knew, and what joy must have filled his faithful heart as he cradled the answer to God’s promise!
He could not see into the days and years ahead, to the massacre of innocent children in Bethlehem; or the return of the grown man to declare his divinity and challenge the temple leaders; to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom and to lay down his life in sacrifice, the perfect lamb of God. Simeon knew nothing of the disciples who would one day be scattered from Jerusalem to take the gospel into all the world, revealing God’s love to the Gentiles and proclaiming forever that there was no difference in God’s eye between Jew and Gentile, that all are one people, God’s beloved and redeemed children.
He knew God, and so he trusted… His personal promise had been fulfilled, he held in his arms the beginning of the final chapter of God’s great plan for the world, and he was content to know no more.
Simeon’s faith is a challenge to me in my waiting, in my living by faith and in hope. Do I share his confidence that because I know the beginning of the story, I can trust in God’s will and power to achieve the end He has promised? I know so much more than Simeon ever did about this baby. I see the grown man in his agony for me; I see his wrestling with evil and enduring utter separation from God – for me. And still I doubt that God is able or willing to achieve good for and through me, or to fulfill all his just and right will for this world.
Oh Lord, strengthen my faith, and help me to trust you in the face of the darkness which grows upon our world.
In my waiting – let me not be passive, but active in rejoicing in my saviour and making him known to any who will listen:
In my waiting – let me not despair over the power of evil in the world and men’s hearts, but rather recognise the death throes of a beaten foe:
In my waiting – let me see beauty, life, and joy, your good gifts to your world so that we might taste of you and hunger to be satisfied:
In my waiting – let me live in that divine hope which fuels perseverance and which alone will enable me to walk peacefully through a troubled world:
In my waiting – let me be content, like Simeon, with what you have chosen to reveal to me, accepting that which I cannot understand and trusting that you know best what is good for me. Amen