Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.
The recent events in Boston and in West, Texas remind us once again that we live in a world longing for something—longing for God to bring relief, security, peace, and justice. We are neither the first people nor the last to wait expectantly for God to do something. This week’s events drew my heart and mind to old Simeon in Luke’s account of the Gospel.
Nestled right at the end of Jesus’ birth narrative, Luke introduced us to Simeon. He was old. He was holy and devout. He was present at the temple, and he was waiting. Simeon waited for God’s redemption to appear, and you will recall that Mary and Joseph arrived at the Jerusalem temple to celebrate ritual ceremonies after Jesus’ birth. There they were greeted by Simeon, who was longing and waiting because he had been given a promise.
The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah, and this promise shaped Simeon’s life. He was watching, waiting, expectant, and hopeful. Indeed we share that same longing and desire. We rightly long for peace in the face of senseless cruelty and comfort in our tragic losses.
At long last, the promised One arrived. All of Simeon’s longings were answered. He held Him, he blessed Him, he prophesied, and he sang. We call this song from Luke 2 the Nunc Dimitis, meaning, “now dismiss.”
“Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” —Luke 2:29–32
In this infant, God was not only answering the longings of Simeon, but of everyone who longs for salvation. God Himself was working the defeat of sin, evil, and death in order to bring forth life, peace, and salvation. Do you see the amazing contrast? There was (and is) powerful redemption in the Person of this infant.
I wonder at Simeon’s reaction at seeing the infant Jesus. Did he think the Messiah would be a fierce warrior or a regal King? All we know is that he received the child and sang, “Lord, let Your servant go in peace.” For Simeon, God had kept His Word and that was enough. Even though Simeon would not see the end of the story, it was a day of great rejoicing. It was a day of completion.
Simeon knew that the salvation story beginning with this tiny infant would expand beyond him to many people. He was the dawn of a new day, scattering the shadows and darkness in His radiance. He would be a beacon of hope, but also of judgment. In the illuminating light of Jesus’ salvation, it should not surprise us that we see evil more clearly. A key part of Jesus’ ministry would be to illuminate wickedness in the world—every intention, every secret sin, every horrendous evil would be laid bare and judged.
After the Newtown shooting, People Magazine ran a cover story featuring pictures of 26 smiling little faces with the caption, “Unbearable Loss, Enduring Love.” The pain and brokenness of our world is not far off in some other place. It is here. Regardless of whether or not we know anyone in Newtown or in Boston, we see the brokenness in our families, in our neighborhoods, and at our workplaces. Simeon saw it, too, but he placed his hope in God’s perfect redemption. His hope was that God would repair the exposed brokenness.
Think on Mary and Joseph for a moment. They heard this old man’s lullaby and they “marveled” (Luke 2:33). And also remember that they had talked with the angel Gabriel. I find that to be comforting. Even they marveled that this helpless Child would accomplish all that was foretold of Him.
Sadly, we often do not continue reading Luke’s passage further. After Simeon sang, he blessed the holy family and spoke specifically to Mary. The blessing might surprise you.
“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” —Luke 2:34
I’m not sure what Mary thought of that blessing—it sounds more like a curse. Mary would have to watch Jesus’ rejection, betrayal, and death. Her soul would be crushed as His was crushed. Jesus would walk into opposition and suffering, and so would Mary.
One of the mysteries of the Gospel is that real peace comes through conflict. We rarely discover the beauty and power of the Gospel when all our longings are fully met—when our family stops being dysfunctional, when our work fully satisfies us, or when we receive everything we want. Rather, we find God in the midst of our longing. In our sorrow we find His peace. In our weakness we find His power. In our fear we find His strength. Paul told us, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21). Because of this, Christians are best equipped to step into the brokenness of this world and shine forth as light. In the midst of this broken world, we too are longing, but with hope. Like old Simeon, we wait, longing for Jesus’ arrival, and with Him the full and final redemption of all things. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.