Dec 28, 2021
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 on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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 may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation…” (Luke 2:25-30).
The story of Jesus’ birth is bracketed by elderly saints. Zechariah and Elizabeth begin the story while Simeon and Anna come along at the end. Today, let’s focus our attention on this Simeon. It is worth noting that he stands in contrast to Zechariah. There is no doubt in him. He has been told that he will see the salvation of God and when he sees this little child in his parent’s arms, he is overwhelmed with joy. His life is complete, to use a common expression.
Its dangerous to use Biblical characters as our inspiration because many are flawed. However, this Simeon is an exception. Of course, we know very little about him. When we meet him, he is already an old man. Well, we don’t have direct evidence of this, but we assume this because he appears to be waiting to die but knows this will not happen until he has seen the Lord fulfill his promise to Israel.
Since it is the last week of the year, its possible that some of you may be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. In our culture the top self-promises run something like this: improve personal finances, stop smoking, lose weight, get more exercise. None of these are bad things, in fact, they are quite good. However, what does it say about our society that personal improvement is our top concern? What value, beyond to ourselves, do these goals have, except maybe to keep us out of the medical system?
Where are the goals that relate to pursuing God or knowing him better? Why do resolutions for the most part deal with external matters? Is the soul so unimportant? If exercise is valuable for physical well-being, should we starve our inner being? If we base contentment on externals that slowly wither away, will focus on such goals not lead to disappointment?
Simeon invites us to consider making faithfulness to God a high priority, so that we serve him with joy and surrender. When his duty is done, he is ready to be with the Lord. The inclusion of this aged saint in the gospel story shows us that it is never too late to be ministered to by God, nor is it too late to minister for him. I suspect Simeon may have been a role model for the apostle Paul who once wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!” (Phil 1:21-22). Paul was willing to live or die, whatever God choose.
It is in the context of the Old Testament sacrifices that Simeon appears in Jesus’ story. Because we do not have to make these offerings, we tend to skim over them. Yet, their inclusion reminds us that drawing close to God doesn’t just happen. To approach God properly, we must be prepared in spirit and body to draw near to him (John 4:24). One of the provisions Jesus makes for us through his death is the permanent cleansing that allows us boldly to approach God’s throne (Heb. 10:19-25).
The caution and sacredness about approaching God should not be lost. I think it is the key to a life that ends like Simeon’s. To truly emulate Simeon’s faithfulness and contentment, we need to begin when we are young. We need to take God seriously today. Make it a resolution to let go of any casualness about your Christian faith. Entrance into the salvation of God is a free gift of his grace but living in it takes effort on our part.
This story offers a whole perspective on life and on contentment. Simeon, near the end of his life, is still serving God full steam ahead. No retirement! Contentment is not a matter of age or energy level. It is defined by an openness to serve God and to share him with others. Such a perspective calls for serious reflection.