I’ve always thought the account of Simeon in Luke 2:21-35 was a very precious and moving story. I’ve read it and been stirred by it at all times of the year. But it’s particularly striking around Christmas.
Simeon was an elderly man who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the promised Messiah, “the consolation of Israel” (2:25). We don’t know exactly when or how the Holy Spirit told him this, but we know that he believed it. He believed it and he waited, with great anticipation. I imagine a frail but bright-eyed old man who was ready to die in every way, except for one thing: he longed to see the promised king of Israel who would deliver his people.
There is something warm and wonderful about elderly people whose souls are aflame with some undying hope. There is something precious about a white-haired Jewish man with weathered skin and an arched back who still has a glow in his eyes because he knows that the last thing he’ll see on earth is the fulfillment of God’s greatest promise. Cindi and I have often shared this common observation: people seem to grow old in only two directions — sweet or bitter; soft or hard; pleasant or cranky. You get the sense that Simeon had grown old very sweetly, never ceasing to seek the Lord and cling tightly to the priceless promise that one day God would put the hope of the world right before his eyes.
This year I’ve been particularly struck by the way Luke describes Simeon. He simply says, “This man was righteous and devout” (2:25). But what made Simeon “righteous and devout”? What did his righteousness and his devotion consist of? How was it expressed? Luke makes it clear grammatically: “This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel.
There is no such thing as righteousness devoid of Christ-centered anticipation; no such thing as devotion that lacks Christ-embracing hope. Biblical holiness is not just performing the right duties and using the right words and knowing the right doctrine. Biblical holiness means having a hope-driven heart like Simeon’s. It means channeling the entirety of your desire and your longing and your anticipation toward the glorious Savior of the world whose redemption has surged into the world and flooded us with grace as far as the curse is found. It means looking forward to the coming of Christ so intently that you really can be described with a single action word, like Simeon: looking.
Simeon lived for one thing. He wanted to see one thing. He waited for one thing. He was searching for one thing. He cared about one thing. His heart was so driven by this one thing that when he finally held baby King Jesus in his arms, he literally said, “Now I can die” (Luke 2:29).
Is the promised Savior so precious to you that if you were to see him come during your lifetime, you could genuinely say, “I can die now”? And are God’s words so sure to you that you will wait expectantly until that day? Not waiting like you wait in the doctor’s office or the checkout line, but waiting eagerly with intensity and focus and a burning eye riveted to the horizon?
God had told Simeon that he would see the hope of the ages with his own eyes. God has told us that the coming of the Savior and the ultimate consummation of the kingdom is just moments away — one blink away, just around the corner, coming like a thief in the night.
All I want for Christmas is Simeon’s hope. That means two things: I want the same Christ that Simeon wanted, and I want to live with the same Christ-centered hope that Simeon had. I want Jesus to come, and I want to be someone who’s looking for his coming. Tonight I have neither in full measure: Christ is not fully reigning, and my love for him is weak. Tonight I am once again aware of my worldly distractions and my selfish ambitions and my short-sighted hopes. I feel anything but Christ-centered and Jesus-driven. But of all the times to believe that God is a giver of great gifts, tonight would be the night. So I ask for a great blessing:
May God plant Simeon’s hope in our hearts, may Christ return in our generation, and may we be found looking when he comes.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Adapted from December 24, 2006