Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:25-35 (NRSV)
Simeon’s prayer of praise to God over having the privilege of seeing Jesus – God incarnate- with his own eyes, is known as the Nunc Dimittus, which is Latin for, “now lettest thou depart.” Simeon was indeed blessed to receive the reassurance of his faith before he died.
God also revealed to Simeon the upheaval that would accompany, and follow Jesus’ coming on earth. As we know, the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, not long after Jesus’ death and ascension. Since that time the Jewish people (as well as many Christians) have been persecuted, exiled and even put to death for their faith. We long for peace on earth, but it has not been manifested here in the world of not-yet.” We are like Simeon in that we trust that we too will see Jesus and live in His fulfilled kingdom.
(Jesus said): Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. Luke 12:2-4 (NRSV)
When people prepare to move or to renovate their homes, there is a seemingly endless process of upheaval and mess that goes along with moving and/or renovating. The old things need to be torn down and done away with, while the new things must be put in place and made ready. Transitions are never painless or easy.
It’s not comfortable to throw out or do away with old structures or furniture or habits, but if we want to move on to an improved living space or a more positive existence, there’s old rubbish that needs to go away to make room for what’s clean and new and better. The pain and mess of renovation isn’t always pleasant, but it is at times necessary.
When we do that housecleaning sometimes we find some old and nasty things, like a half eaten dried up sandwich under the couch. It is said that cockroaches scatter when the lights are shined on them- they scurry back to their dark hideouts to avoid detection. Nasty things love to hide in the dark.
But when we shine the lights on everything and get out the cleaner, all the hidden nasties are out in the open. Revealing all the nastiness is only the first step in transformation and making things new. We don’t reveal the nasty things so that they can remain there. We reveal them so that they can be seen, acknowledged, and done away with. We welcome God-with-us in the world knowing that He will reveal all of the evil, injustice, pain and suffering and He will redeem it. (see Revelation 21:1-7)
Simeon knew that along with the joy and redemption of Jesus’ appearing that there would be sorrow, especially for His mother, who would endure the grief of watching her firstborn son dying an excruciating death on a cross.
In our lives we also experience joy as well as pain as we are being transformed and our world is awaiting the transition from the not-yet to the “it is fulfilled.”
Today we can relate to Simeon. We see that God is with us, and we know Him in the Person of Jesus, but we also know that the transformation and the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom is a work in progress.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:19-23 (NIV)
God is with us. He is here in the not-yet. He is here in and with and through the process of renovation and redemption.