“Now you are dismissing your servant in peace.” That’s what Simeon says in this evening’s gospel (Luke 2:22-40) after he took the child Jesus in him arms. Simeon’s experience of receiving and holding Jesus was one of being set free, let go of, released, dismissed, sent away.
But from what was Simeon being set free and released? And what does that mean for us?
I wonder if Simeon was being released and set free from waiting, anticipation, expectation; from feeling like his life was on hold; from wondering if he would ever experience fulfillment. Here’s why I say that.
We know that Simeon “was righteous and devout.” He was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel.” And he had been told that he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Messiah. Today’s gospel tell us those things.
But there are some other things you should know. Our sacred tradition says that Simeon was one of the translators of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, what we call the septuagint. That translation began around the middle of the third century before Christ. Are you doing the math? Do you get what that means? Simeon was a really, really, really old guy. One strand of the tradition says Simeon was 270 years old when Jesus was presented in the temple. Another strand of the tradition says Simeon died at the age of 360.
Let’s not get stuck on his age and whether he really was that old or how someone could live that long. Let’s focus on what it might mean. One thing it might mean is that Simeon’s life was one of expectation, anticipation, and waiting.
I suspect you know what that’s like. We’re all waiting on something. We’ve all stood with Simeon waiting for, wanting, and needing something to change or happen; living in expectation and hope; anticipating the future and wondering if today would be the day of fulfillment.
Every day for weeks, months, years, decades, centuries Simeon has waited and wondered. “Is this the day? Is this the day I will see salvation? Is this the day I will experience the fulfillment? When will it happen? How much longer?” You know what that’s like, right? We’ve all been there.
I wonder what you are waiting on today. What has yet to be fulfilled in your life?
I’m not asking about things like waiting on the Amazon truck, the weekend, success or a promotion, warm weather, or retirement. That’s external waiting. It’s waiting for circumstances or people in our lives to change.
We do a lot of external waiting and it’s not unimportant or to be ignored. But there’s also internal waiting when we’re waiting for something to shift or change within us. We’re waiting for things like wholeness, something to be healed, forgiveness and reconciliation, something to come alive, a sense of fulfillment and completion. I think that’s what Simeon was waiting on.
So when I ask what you are waiting on today I’m asking you to look deeply into and examine your life. I’m asking about what really matters and makes a difference to you. What would change your life and the way you relate to yourself and others? What would let you walk away fulfilled, without regret or second guessing yourself, satisfied and confident that you have faithfully and fully lived your life? I think that’s what happened for Simeon.
I think Simeon took the child into his arms, looked in the face of Jesus, and saw the fulfillment of his life. Maybe that’s what Simeon is describing when he says, “For my eyes have seen your salvation.”
Simeon has given his life to waiting for, anticipating, and living in expectation of this moment. What about you? What is that moment for you? What does salvation look like for you? What fulfillment might you experience if you take the child into your arms? What is the most important, the most significant, the most meaningful thing that you are waiting on today?
You got it? You know what it is? How long are you willing to wait for it? A few days? A couple of weeks? Six months? A year? Would you wait for it three years? Fifteen? Forty? What about a hundred years? One hundred fifty years? Two hundred-fifty? How about two hundred-seventy years? Would you wait that long? Simeon did.
Simeon waited two hundred-seventy years to see his life fulfilled. That’s less about longevity and more about the meaning and value of what he is waiting on. Some things are worth waiting on, others aren’t.
What are you waiting for today and is it worth the wait? Is it worth waiting two hundred-seventy years or more to hold it? And if it’s not, why are you still waiting and what is worth it?
I don’t know what that thing is for you. I can’t answer those questions for you. I’m asking myself those questions and having difficulty getting to an answer. I’m realizing that I’ve often waited and hoped for something that wasn’t worth the wait. I may have gotten what I wanted but I wasn’t set free, released, or let go of. It didn’t fulfill me.
On the one hand we might say that that time was wasted. But on the hand, I was getting more clear about what really matters and what fulfillment might look like. I think that’s what was happening for Simon.
What if fulfillment is more a process than a point in time? What if fulfillment isn’t an ending but a new beginning? What if waiting is not a delay of fulfillment but a preparation for it? And what if waiting is a necessary part of fulfillment? It was for Simeon. Why wouldn’t it be for you and me?
The promise of this day is that fulfillment will happen for you and me. When, where, and how will that happen for us? What will it look like? I don’t know. Let’s wait and see.
Image Credit: Simeon the God-Receiver by Anonymous Russian icon painter (before 1917). Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons