All his life he had been waiting, and sometimes it seemed like the hardest job in the world. He had seen the impatience with which men usually waited: for a betrothed to reach marriageable age, for a baby to be born, for a feast day, for a business transaction to be completed so that they had the money or the goods were in their hands; he had seen and he had marvelled. What did they know of waiting who only had to endure for such a short and measurable season? For him the years grew long, and the weariness immeasurable, but the sweetness of the Promise still held him fast. No other thing could ever be so precious.
It had begun in his youth. He had come to Jerusalem to study the scriptures, and had stayed there ever since, to be near the Temple, where the presence of God was enacted every day, and to wait for the Chosen One while he studied the Holy Writings to learn more. The more he read, the more he understood, the more he knew how desperately Israel needed her Messiah. From the day that the first man and the first woman had eaten of the fruit and been driven from the garden, the promise of restoration had been there. And down through history it had grown more specific: the Servant, the Branch from the stump of Jesse, the Messenger who would suddenly appear in the temple. The Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, of Judah, of David, as down through the years the Promise became more specific, and his house would be established forever. And as his understanding grew, Simeon had cried out to God for the Consolation of Israel to come.
And his prayer had been heard. It had not been a blinding flash of revelation, but slowly, surely, the Lord had shown him, as the Holy Spirit spoke to his spirit, an amazing promise: that he himself would not die until he had seen the Messiah come. And so he waited; summer and winter, day and night, through the fat years and the lean, as the world seemed to him to grow more dreary and more desperate, he waited for the Chosen One to come. And as he waited, he grew in wisdom, for he saw, more and more clearly, that Israel needed military success far less than she needed to be renewed and transformed. The ‘Consolation of Israel’ was her only hope of salvation.
And finally, when age had so bent him that every bone in his body was crying for release, the day came. Moved by the Spirit, he went to the temple courts, and there he waited, watching the line of pilgrims come to make their sacrifices. And there they were, just another poor couple with their baby boy, and their offering of a pair of pigeons. And yet, when he saw them, the Spirit spoke to him, and a fierce joy and a gentle wonder flooded through him. This was the one! This child, this baby settled quiet against his mother’s shoulder, was not just Israel’s hope, but the Salvation of the world.
Afterwards he never remembered what he said to the young mother, but she willingly passed the child to him, and as he held the most precious thing in the universe, with steady hands and streaming eyes, he whispered his prayer of thanks:
“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your promise. For my eyes have seen your salvation ...”