The Song of Simeon

based on Luke 2:25-35

I have always loved the Scriptures, ever since I was a boy.  When I was young, I was drawn to the heroism of people like Moses and David, and even Gideon, who rose to lead their nations to victory against their enemies.  I knew their stories off by heart.  I prayed every night that a new David would rise up to take down to the Goliath of the Roman empire. I resented their iron rule, enforced by those soldiers everywhere.  My parents often spoke of their hope that God would send a rescuer, a liberator to free us.  They showed me passages in the prophets that spoke of this figure who would come – someone anointed by God himself – and establish God’s rule and reign.  When I was a teenager, I scoffed at them.  “It’s been 400 years since these promises were spoken – longer even.  How sure are you that God hasn’t forgotten us?” Yet, their faith never wavered.  I was irritated by their stubbornness to hold onto what clearly seemed like a fantasy,  but another voice within me seemed to whisper, “look for yourself. How sure are you that this is fantasy?” This voice wouldn’t go away, so I read the Scriptures myself, particularly the prophets.  I kept on reading them.  Words about a child being born, who would be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, whose reign of justice and righteousness would never end.  Also, a suffering servant who would bear the punishment for all the sin and injustice that is so evident all around us, the sacrificial lamb whose wounds would bring healing and freedom.  The more I read these promises, the more convinced I became that they would come true – and then, one day I heard that voice again – quiet, yes, but insistent.  “You will see this promise being fulfilled.”  Was it my imagination?  I began to think so as the weeks, months and then years passed by.  There were moments of excitement when I was in the temple courts at times of prayer.  I would look around, wondering if the man or boy I was looking for was present and then have that familiar wave of disappointment as I realised that the wait would go on just a little longer.  After a while when I went to the temple I no longer had that same sense of excitement.  I wondered, was  I mistaken, after all? Had it just been wishful thinking, nothing more?  But deep down, that light never went out.  I couldn’t let go of hope completely.  I knew somehow that God hadn’t forgotten his promises to his people – he remembered and rescued us when we were slaves in Egypt, and when we were in exile, we were brought back home.  God would come to the rescue again.  I knew it.  And I somehow knew, for whatever reason, that I would see the Rescuer, the Messiah, myself.

Then, it happened.  This morning, soon after I woke up that voice within me spoke once more.  Just one word.  “Today.”  I was astonished.  Really? How will I know? “You’ll know,” that voice replied.  “Go.”  So, I went.  What was I looking for? I still didn’t really know, but I trusted that the same voice would guide me.  I rushed to get ready then ran to the temple.  Once I was there, I looked around fervently until – I saw them.  A young couple, with a baby in their arms.  There was nothing special about them whatsoever.  They looked like an ordinary couple, but there was nothing ordinary about them or the baby they were carrying.  I knew immediately – this was the one.  I could have wept with joy.  I went up to them. “Excuse me,” I said, “I know I’m a complete stranger, but I’ve been waiting for this day for many years.  Your child is no ordinary baby.”  They quickly recovered from their initial shock at being addressed in this way and then told me their story that began with the angel’s visit in Nazareth to his birth in Bethlehem just over a month beforehand. “His name is Jesus,” the man finished, “the angels told the shepherds that he would be the Saviour, the promised Messiah.”  I smiled and told them, “I know that to be true. A voice inside, who I now know to be the Spirit of God told me that I would see the Lord’s Messiah. And you’re holding him in your arms. May I hold him myself?” I asked.

“Of course,” the mother replied, and handed over this helpless scrap of humanity.  This helpless child was the one who would bring hope to Israel.  I was bursting with joy and wonder and let out a song of praise.

“Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant,
    die in peace as you said.

I have seen your Salvation with my own eyes.
You prepared him before all people.
He is a light for the non-Jewish people to see.
    He will bring honour to your people, the Israelites.”

I could tell Jesus’s parents were amazed at what I was saying about him.  As I handed him back, I spoke a prayer of blessing over them both, then looked at the mother and told her, “Many in Israel will fall and many will rise because of this child. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.  As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

I could see the pain in her eyes when I said this, but also a sense of understanding too.  She knew that not everyone would want to receive God’s Messiah or welcome the message he would bring.  “I know his path won’t be easy,” she replied, “But God will be with him and give him strength.”  

“As he will with you too,” I answered, “You won’t be alone.  The light will never go out.”

And with that I left them to get on with their day.  I’d seen all I needed to see that day.  God is a promise-keeping God.  I have seen God’s Salvation – held him in my arms.  The Lord has come and delivered his people.  Praise the Lord!

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