Waiting a Lifetime

“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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” -Luke 2:25-28

Our church is taking a challenge to read one chapter of the gospel of Luke each day during December. By doing so, we will have read the entire book by Christmas Eve. Any incentive to re-read the Bible is a good one, and so I have enthusiastically embraced it. As a bonus, the gospel is coming alive, a chapter at a time.

Yesterday’s reading was chapter two. In it is a fascinating character, Simeon. I’ve loved him for a long time and that love grows each time I read about him. But for some reason he became even more vivid while reading about him this time.

Imagine the scene. Here’s Simeon, who is called righteous and devout. Think about what those terms mean. Simeon is someone who has dedicated his life to following God. He would have been very familiar with what we call the Old Testament writings, especially the promise that God would provide a Deliverer, a Messiah, for Israel. He had waited all his life for the fulfillment of this promise. Israel had been waiting hundreds of years for it. In addition, Simeon had been told through the Holy Spirit he would see the Deliverer before he died. And he had waited a long time.

Then one day, the Spirit moved him to go to the temple. There in the courts was a young family with a newborn. They probably looked no different than any other young Jewish family. But the Spirit told Simeon, “This is the one you’ve been waiting for.” This was no child of royalty or importance; they were a poor family that could only afford the minimum acceptable sacrifice, two young birds. But this was the One that Simeon had been seeking for a long, long time. I love his response:

 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

Simeon said a lot more than I suspect he even understood. Or maybe not. But he rejoiced in having been blessed with the fulfillment of seeing the promised one before he died. His patience and devotion had received its reward. And he needed nothing else.

Most of us struggle with the distraction of day to day life and its problems. Life tends to draw our focus away from Jesus, because we let it. We get caught up in the immediate and lose sight of the eternal. As such we fail to understand the immense joy that Simeon experienced when he found the object of his desire, the Salvation of Israel. When Jesus becomes the focus of our longing we too can experience the joy of finding him. And like Simeon, He’s worth a lifetime of waiting.