I Think Simeon Had His Doubts
Bonnie A. Perry
February 2, 2014
I think Simeon must have had his doubts. Promised early on as a young man that he would one day see the messiah, how long can a man wait? How long can a man hold his breath? The world knew him as a righteous one, devout. Early on, he knew the Spirit's call and heard clearly the words that came to him: you will see my beloved one, you will see the Lord's anointed. You will not die before the hope of Israel is revealed to you. You, the Spirit promised him.
If you think about it this type of promise well it has its upsides and its down. "You will not die before you see my chosen one." Does that mean that after the messiah is revealed that it's then just one great, big, slippery slide off to the end?
Or is there more to come after the Holy One is made known? Does Simeon then carry on, but now with celestial insights? After he sees the messiah what then?
But, of even more interest for me is what of before? What's it like to spend one's life actively looking for God? To be on the lookout for the Holy? Did he frequently take himself to the Temple looking for the incarnation of God's promise? Were there many with whom he confused? While there at the temple watching, looking, thinking this must be the one, rejoicing and then, then as the individual's composition revealed more clay than Christ lamenting. What was that like for him, week after week, day after day, moment after moment?
What the heck was Simeon like He is the first person in Luke's story of Jesus who we are introduced to after the shepherds have seen Mary, Joseph and Child laying in the manger. He is the first person we meet after the shepherds have returned to their fields. What was Simeon like?
Was he a man who lived in a constant state of disappointment or bitterness? Always subtly discontent, half hungry no matter how much he had eaten. Always waiting for that thing to fill him? Or was he a man of wonder? Open, looking, longing, being, staying forever in a moment of grace: eyes and ears, nose attuned, pricked waiting for a whiff of holiness. Was he always looking for what must be coming, always looking beyond never actually seeing who and what was in front of him or had he mastered the zen of life and only concerned himself with the proximity of now? Living acutely in every single moment as it ticked by thinking this could be the time when my eyes will see the Savior.
What was Simeon like? I think he might have been like us. Like me. Like you. We have a promise: at baptism the water is splashed on us and the priest says, "You are sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own forever." Is the promise of holiness enough? For him or for us?
I have to say, frequently it is not enough for me. I want more from God. Perhaps I am greedy, or as Susan is want to say a bit too literal. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I want more. I want to see, touch and know holiness in my pores and in my bones. If I were to tell his story I'd say Simeon was a man who was restless and bit bummed, wondering if he'd got it all wrong—that part about the Spirit telling him he'd eventually see God's holy one.
I think he was restless, but here's where I think he differs from many others who are longing for God. I think he was tenacious. I think his longing may have displayed itself as a bit of discontent, yet it was always coupled with a commitment to see it through. Simeon, keeps showing up, over and over again. He keeps looking. And so he was there on that day when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple there he is open to the calling and scent of God. There he is in the Temple courtyard when he sees the family he has looked for his entire life. The promise becomes fact as he holds the little ones in his arms and says,
Lord you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.
So here is a bit I hold out to all of us who may be looking and longing for the Holy and not getting near enough the blessed one in this fraught world of ours. Showing up is what matters. If we do not look, if we do not go, if we have no expectancy of God than no God we will find.
Just as the big wet blobs of snow that fall from the sky rarely add up to a storm's worth of accumulation so too for our prayer life or holiness search. It is the tiny, granular pellets, the small crystals that seem so minute in the air that collect, build and pile up to solid drifts. It is the small tending to our spiritual lives, the stepping daily on the elliptical of prayer that enables God's promise and God's presence to seep through our calcified bones to the marrow of our souls.
Simeon showed up. And Simeon saw the Holy. What about you, what about me—how are we showing up?