At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:25-32, NLT)
The setting of the story is the Temple, the locus of God’s presence; the intersect between human and the divine. There are parallel plots at work, as the story opens with Joseph and Mary bringing the baby Jesus to the Temple on the 8th day of his young life. According to Jewish law, the first born male child was to be presented in dedication. The parents would offer a sacrifice and the baby would receive circumcision. It was a religious act of devotion, and the devout observed these rites of passage with great care and deliberation. It so happens that there is an old man in the Temple named Simeon. We don’t really know anything about him, except that he is described as a righteous and devout man. There is no mention of his life, his family, or his vocation. We get the sense that he is a frequent worshipper at the Temple. On more than one occasion the text tells us that he was directed by the Spirit of God. As the story goes, Simeon is “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” He’s living atop a promise. Here in the Temple courts, we find the divine intersect: The hopeful meets the fulfillment of the promise. Simeon takes the baby from the surprised parents, holds him, and begins to sing.
As people of faith we live atop the promises of God. They sustain us and move us along in a Godward direction. God makes promises that he always keeps. Faith is more than believing the promises of God, it is embracing the maker of those promises. Simeon’s faith enabled him to see God even in the smallest, least expected way. I’m sure you noticed Simeon’s spiritual sensitivity. On this very ordinary day, most of the people stood and watched just another young couple dedicate just another baby boy. Most of those who were there didn’t notice anything extraordinary whatsoever. But Simeon saw the extraordinary. He saw God at work in a baby. He saw God.
Do you see God at work? Do you expect to see God at work? Do you believe that God is at work even though you may not perceive it as such? We can learn something from Simeon. The lesson we learn is that God is at work in the daily, ordinary, and the routine.
What happens when you see God at work? You receive his peace. Any time you encounter God we receive peace. One of the reasons we lack peace is that we seek peace for the sake of peace. Don’t look for peace, look for God. He brings his peace with him.
When you see God at work you not only receive his peace, you become free. The word “dismiss” was used to describe the release of a slave. It means to discharge one from service and was used as a colloquialism for death. When you’re free you’re not only free to live, you’re free to die.