When you think of the Christmas story, what comes to mind? angels? shepherds? Bethlehem and the inn? The manger? Mary and Joseph? maybe a newborn named Jesus? I think about all those things, but also about a man named Simeon. Let’s look at what scripture says about him in Luke 2:25-35.
Jesus had been born in a stable in Bethlehem. Wise men had come from far away to worship him, shepherds had left their flocks to see who the angels were singing about. A very short, eight days later, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for him to be circumcised and to dedicated him to the Lord. This was something all Jewish parents would have done for a firstborn son, dedicated him to the Lord, setting him aside for the Lord’s purposes, in the life of their family and the life of the people of Israel. While this dedication was something all Jewish families did for their son, this particular child was different. The purposes which the Lord had for him were different than any other.
In this moment where Jesus is dedicated to the Lord, we meet Simeon. Simeon is the embodiment of the righteous remnant of the people of Israel. The portrait we see of Simeon is of a man soaked in the presence of the Living God. The Holy Spirit has promised, has revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before his death. The Holy Spirit, which has guided him his whole life, guides him to the Temple, the place where a Holy God meets his people. His entire life, he has lived in anticipation of this moment. His response captures the joy he must have experienced in that moment:
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
For my eyes have seen your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.
Simeon is a righteous and devout man. He has followed God, and the Spirit has revealed to him the coming of the Messiah. But now Simeon has seen the one who brings God’s salvation for Jew and Gentile alike. This is what makes Christmas, makes Advent, such an important time for Christians. May we be reminded and challenged to wonder anew that we have seen our salvation in the face of Christ.