An Old Man’s Faith

December 31, 2017/1st Sunday after Christmas

Isaiah 61:10-62:3/Luke 2:22-40

Mary and Joseph may have had an unusual introduction to parenthood, what with the virgin birth and angel visitations and all, but they were determined to be faithful Jewish parents.  When the infant boy was eight days old, they had him circumcised, according to the law of Moses, and named him Jesus.  After forty days, when the time came for Mary to undergo the purification rituals and for them to present their first-born son to the Lord, they went up to Jerusalem.  They couldn’t afford a lamb for the sacrifice, so instead they presented two turtledoves.  While they might have given five shekels to “redeem” Jesus, they did nothing to change his status as belonging to God.

Entering the temple, they were met by an old man, whose entire face shone brightly when he saw the baby.  Simeon swept Jesus up in his arms, cuddling the infant as he began to sing.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:                                                                            your word has been fulfilled.                                                                                                        My own eyes have seen the salvation                                                                                      which you have prepared in the sight of every people:                                                            a light to reveal you to the nations                                                                                            and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon’s song must have frightened Mary, speaking, as it did, about welcoming his death.  In the infant Jesus, this old man saw the fulfillment of all that he longed for, the deliverance of all people, as promised by God.  Not only would this baby bring the redemption of Israel; he would bring the redemption of the world.

And so he sang.  He sang of the joy of future salvation.  He sang of the faithfulness of God.  He sang of the new light that his eyes beheld.

When Simeon’s song ended, he turned to Mary.  His words to Mary were even more startling.  “This child of yours will cause many people in Israel to fall and others to stand.  The child will be like a warning sign.  Many people will reject him, and you, Mary, will suffer as though you had been stabbed by a dagger” (Luke 2:34-35, CEB).

How Mary’s heart must have stuttered at his words!  No doubt she pondered them as she remembered the words of the angel Gabriel.  No doubt, in the years to come, as she watched the infant grow, she considered them time and again.  No doubt, when the end of his days came, she felt that dagger pierce her heart, hearing Simeon’s words echo in her mind.

Simeon’s words – full of promise and full of pain.  Full of recognition of the work of God in his presence, a work that would be for all people.  Maybe, in time, Mary was able to draw comfort from them, draw comfort from the faith of an old man who was ready to die because he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

What Simeon saw, we also see.  “With the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, we need no longer fear … anything.  For in the birth of the Christ-child so long ago, we, too, have seen and heard, tasted and felt, God’s steadfast and tenacious commitment to be both with us and for us … forever!”[1]

[1] David Lose, “The Oddest Christmas Carol,” Dec. 25, 2011,


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