How can you not be drawn into the grateful expectation of Simeon as he realized that he held the long awaited Christ-child in his arms? Captured in the artist’s rendering is a story of culmination, of waiting, of being prepared by the Holy Spirit for this long anticipated event.
Who was he? Who is Simeon and what can we learn from him in this brief passage about his life? He lived in Jerusalem and, as described in Luke 2:25-32, was a righteous and devout man – a man who cautiously and carefully observed the Jewish law and who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel; the promised Messiah, the One who would bring comfort to the nation of Israel (v 25,38).
The Holy Spirit was upon him (v 25) almost like the Spirit came upon the prophets in the Old Testament for special anointing. It was revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (v26).
Can you imagine how this was for him that day? He was moved by the Spirit to go to the temple courts (v 27). What if he had not listened to the Holy Spirit? What if he had missed that moment of intersection when Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required? (v 27)
What if Mary and Joseph then, would have missed what God wanted them to hear and see through this godly man Simeon?
At that critical moment in time, in the intersection of their 4 lives, Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms (v 28) and praised God. This was the culmination of what the Spirit told him. He would see the Christ before he died. His soul rejoicing, Simeon’s prayer of praise was packed with affirmation for Mary and Joseph and revelation saying the Messiah was for the Jews, the promised people AND for the Gentiles (v 32). The Spirit also revealed to Mary through Simeon that she would be hurt greatly (34-35) and it would be as if a sword pierced her own soul too as the Son would cause the falling and rising of many – those who received salvation and those who choose not to.
Simeon had the deep longing of his soul satisfied. He got to see and hold Jesus. Simeon could now depart in peace (v 29) as he stated in his prayer of praise to the God who made all of this possible.
What can we learn from Simeon and how can we apply this to our lives this particular Christmas season?
*As Simeon anticipated the coming of the Messiah with great fervor and devotion, he can be a visual for us to also use this season of the year to anticipate Christ’s coming. We celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, but also can look forward with great anticipation to His Second Coming.
*As Simeon was attentive to the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit, we can develop an attentive focus to the Presence of Christ who leads us and guides us 24/7 by His Spirit and through the Word. It must have given the Father such deep pleasure to have a man like Simeon whom He could trust.
* As Simeon was a servant of the Lord who could be trusted with an important message for Mary and Joseph, he models for us the priority of trustworthiness and faithfulness to God.
Now 2000 years later we celebrate Advent or “coming”. It is a time of preparation - anticipating and honoring the first coming of Christ – His birth.
In the traditional Church calendar the four Sundays leading up to Christmas are marked out for special preparation for the family of God individually and corporately. It is a reflective time when, through Scripture, prayer and song we are reminded of what the coming of the Redeemer means – to Israel, to Joseph and Mary, the angels, shepherds and to you and me.
Advent begins the Sunday after the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve marks the end of Advent and the beginning of the Christmas season. There is time to consider how you want to participate in Advent. I encourage you to consider using this period of time as an opportunity to prepare yourself spiritually, physically and emotionally to truly celebrate the coming of our Savior on Christmas day.
It is the season when we prepare for the coming of Christ by considering where He is in our lives and to invite Him to have priorty in all things.You may not have grown up as I did not in a liturgical tradition, so celebrating the 4 weeks of advent may be a new invitation from the Lord for you and your family. It is a blessing to be a part of a church community who participates in advent and the mysteries associated with the birth of Christ.
Should you want to make celebrating Advent part of your Christmas tradition I have listed some sites below that might assist you. Resources to consider:
The Anglican Communion with the Society of Saint John the Evangelist Brothers invites you to: pray through Advent, use your phone camera and help create a Global Advent Calendar. Sign up to receive the daily Advent Word email meditation.
http://www.transformingcenter.org/ Advent 2015 resource
http://www.christmas.dts.edu Christmas devotional booklet
Simeon’s Song of Praise, Aert de Gelder 1700, Renaissance Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague Netherlands