By Teresa Sayles
“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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘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.’
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.’” – Luke 2:25-35
2020 – what a year. It has been a year of change and adaptation, of distance and longing, of learning new things and facing ancient sins, of divided families and online opinions, of increased fear and decreased celebrations, of tough conversations and life-changing decisions. It’s been a year like no other.
Yet, at the same time, this year is really nothing new.
Eight days after Jesus’ birth, Simeon held the Christ-child in his aging arms. Simeon had seen many years come and go. Years of waiting and watching, of hoping and praying, of longing and being disappointed. Living in first-century Judea, Simeon was surrounded by individual and systemic injustice. He was all-too-familiar with death and disease. He knew what it was like to live in an oppressive world divided by politics, religion, ethnicity, and opinion.
But despite it all, he was living in a constant state of hope and anticipation. He knew, without a doubt, that God would keep his promises of redemption and salvation. He trusted in the Spirit’s words and lived each day with them at the forefront of his mind. Nothing passed through his heart without first going through that singular filter.
So when something truly new, something extraordinary and beyond imagining did finally arrive in the form of a tiny, squirming infant, Simeon had eyes to recognize it. Unlike so many who would encounter Jesus over the years, Simeon was open to the unexpected, uncertain, and the incredible reality that was God-made-flesh because he had been unwittingly preparing for it for years. While rabbis and teachers had long debated what the coming Messiah would look like and do, Simeon had simply waited, trusting in God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love however it might look. And at that moment, as he held his Savior in his arms, Simeon told God, “This is it. This one glimpse of your promised salvation is all I need. I can die a happy, content, and whole man. I don’t need to see the end or know exactly how you’re going to do it all. I’m grateful for what I’ve seen and trust you’ve got it from here despite how things seem and look right now.”
In that startling moment in the Temple, the Holy Spirit gave Simeon wisdom and insight beyond his human capabilities. He saw something of the nature of Jesus’ coming years, of the light and love he would bring into the world as well as the suffering and pain he would endure. Living when and where they were, Simeon knew the cost of speaking truth to power, but he also knew the “rising of many” would be worth the cost. And Simeon, turning to the child’s young mother, perceived her own suffering would accompany her child’s. She would share in his pain even as he made way for her salvation. Indescribable beauty amidst unfathomable pain.
As we close out 2020, we may be tempted to jump ahead and not look back, to say, “Good riddance!” to the past 12 months, but in doing so, we might be missing an opportunity to see God at work in the midst of the darkness of our world. Can we, like Simeon, look beyond the loss and injustice, the pain and the disappointment, the frustration and the fear to see that God has been and is still doing the unexpected and the incredible? Where has God been at work in the midst of this pandemic? What has the Spirit been doing to bring healing and justice to a broken and battered world? How has the Son been shining light and love into the lives of people long divided and deceived by the enemy? Where has the Body of Christ shown itself to be the hands and feet of Christ among the hurting, lost, marginalized, and forgotten?
2020 has been less than ideal, but so has every year since the Garden, and so will every year until Christ’s return. That may sound like a depressing and dark thought, and the reality is there is so much hard and important restorative work yet to be done in our world that it could seem overwhelming and defeating. Yet, like Simeon, our ultimate hope is not in our own ability to bring about salvation and restoration. Rather, we have been assured that if we keep our eyes and hearts open to God’s love and faithfulness however it might look, we will find an abundance of miracles, marvels, and joys of all shapes and sizes before us even in the midst of the darkness. Simeon’s example of filtering everything through the lens of faith can help us prepare each day to see and act accordingly when God shows up in the most unexpected, uncertain, and incredible ways rather than allowing the world to sweep us along with it.
In reckoning with the world’s brokenness, may we truly appreciate and rejoice in the Trinity’s ongoing work to restore it piece by piece, person by person, and moment by moment through the love of Christ which first entered the world in the form of a vulnerable, poor, and unexpected baby. Lord, give us eyes to see what is true, lips to speak truth and life, and hands to fearlessly do the work of your Kingdom. Amen.