Simeon reminds us that the birth of Jesus changes everything.
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Simeon was eager with anticipation. Many years earlier, God had promised a savior for the world and he badly wanted the savior to come. His people needed the Messiah. They had become discouraged, divided and confused. They needed someone to draw them together, to guide them along the right path, to challenge them to be more generous and kind. Simeon fervently hoped for a wise and powerful leader who would unite the people more closely to God. Simeon wanted God to send the Messiah right away, but he knew that He would work it out in His own time
One cool and clear day in the middle of winter, Simeon made his customary visit to the temple. He assembled with a group of self-appointed elder statesmen at their usual spot near the east portico. The group had met regularly for many years to hash out all the problems of the day and to outline the solutions they would implement if they were in charge.
After enjoying an animated round of banter, Simeon bid farewell to the group and made his way to his favorite bench in a shady spot with a great view of the main courtyard. He surveyed the temple crowd from that spot often, taking note of any new faces. He knew most of the Temple regulars. In fact, he had been at this so long that he even recognized many of the faces of the out-of-town visitors.
As morning began to move into midday Simeon noticed a visitor he had seen on a few other occasions. The man’s rough clothes and strong build suggested that he was a laborer from the countryside. Simeon observed that the man now had a wife and a little baby boy. As Simeon gazed at the little boy resting in his mother’s arms, all the noise and activity of the temple simply faded away. He heard himself say, “Your wait is over.” Somehow Simeon knew that his savior had come.
Our wait is over, too. Our Messiah has come. During this Christmas season we remember Simeon and recall the reasons he was waiting in the first place. The world still desperately needs a savior to bring love, reconciliation and peace, and to show us how to live. Simeon knew that we are quite incapable of finding our way to God on our own, but was confident that the promised savior would lead us in the right direction. Year after year Simeon waited in the Temple for the savior’s arrival, knowing that it would make all the difference in the world.
Most people in the temple that day did not realize that the world was any different than it had been before. They were busily going about their lives, oblivious to the work God was doing right in their midst. Sometimes we are too busy to notice ourselves, so we spend some time with Simeon and remember again that the world was changed on Christmas day 2,000 years ago, and that it has not been the same since.
For the Mass readings for December 29, click here. To learn more about the painting of Simeon and Anna, click here.
[Editor’s note: The end of December will conclude Fr. Daly’s reflection series for Aleteia on characters from Scripture. Readers may continue to find his reflections for the new year on his Facebook page.