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Photograph by Katherine Ashdown

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“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.”

Luke 2:28-32

 

Simeon took him in his arms. Just think about that statement. Simeon took Jesus, the son of God, the creator of the universe in his arms. Jesus was about six weeks old, just beginning to hold up his head and focus his eyes and smile. I wonder what Simeon thought when he first looked into that tiny face. Did he know right away that this child was a promise kept? Was it a dawning? Or a lightning strike?

I remember the first time I held each of my grandchildren. There was a deep recognition within my soul that knew this child somehow. Knew she belonged to our family, our lineage, our history. Knew he was beloved by me, by us, by God. A connection of love that was anchored in grace and flowed between us. I wonder if that is how Simeon knew this was the One he longed for. I wonder if, when he looked in those eyes, there was a knowing. I wonder if the spirit within him knew the Spirit in this baby. He recognized in those eyes, in that smile, the one he worshipped and loved and heard. And he praised God. He praised him for the keeping of a promise, not just to him, and not just to Israel but to all of us. Jesus would be a light for revelation to all.

Anna felt it too. It didn’t matter that she was very old. (Depending on how you translate the text, Anna was either eighty-four or about one hundred and five.) She wasn’t too old to see a promise fulfilled, and she wasn’t too old to move toward him, and she wasn’t too old to rejoice and share what she knew.  Luke 2:38 tells us that “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Can’t you see this elderly woman telling all who would listen that the Messiah was here? The promise had been kept! The waiting was over!

And yet, Jesus didn’t look like a messiah. He wasn’t rich or powerful or mighty. At least not to the naked eye. He was an infant, small and helpless, dependent on his mother for life. How did Anna and Simeon know who he was? How did they see past the obvious? I think they had both spent so much time in God’s presence, praying, worshipping, and listening that they knew Him when they saw Him. They knew his voice. They knew his face.

Sometimes the word of God fulfilled, the promise kept, is wrapped and hidden in unlikely places. Sometimes the waiting is over, but we don’t see the birth of the answer right in front of us. We expect fireworks when God has sent us the soft glow of an ember. We expect the rush of a flood when the first drops of rain are splattering on the ground. We need spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear, as Simeon and Anna had, to recognize the light of his revelation. How do we attune our senses to God’s answers? Just like Simeon and Anna did, spending our days in his presence, getting to know his ways, learning to recognize his face.

God, I thank you that you do keep your promises, and you do fulfill your word to me. Help me, this Christmas, to spend time in your presence. To sit at your feet and ponder. Help me to learn the subtle beginnings of your promises kept, the tone of your voice, and the lines on your face.

 

By Beth McDonald