Simeon and the New Year
If nostalgia had a favorite week, it would’ve been last week. The final few days of the year prompt seemingly unending reflections on the previous 360–ish days. News organizations recap the biggest stories. Articles list the books of the year. If you happen to be the reflective type, you might even think on the various things that affected you personally in 2017.
Not only do people relive 2017 this time of year, they also make predictions about 2018. Those predictions might concern a bowl game, a political reality, or a broader cultural trend. The resolution–maker basically attempts to make predictions about his or her personal future. Everyone plays the prophet from time to time, to more or less success.
The turn of the year prompts a glance in both directions. We look back on those things we no longer await while looking forward to those things yet to happen.
If Simeon looked back
The Gospel of Luke introduces us to a righteous and devout Israelite named Simeon. As Simeon looked back on his previous months, he recalled a lot of waiting. Doctor Luke tells us that it had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Christ. So for what likely ended up being a lengthy bit of time, Simeon faithfully awaited the advent of the Messiah. One wonders the number of moms and dads who carried their baby boy past Simeon’s peering gaze. Were Simeon to reflect on his recent past, he’d find days and days of waiting.
Then, on one of those days, the right day, the Spirit led Simeon into the temple courts. In the same courts, near the same time, in Mary and Joseph’s cradled arms was the salvation Simeon looked for (Lk 2:30). His wait was over. As Simeon reflected on that day, he rejoiced in the God who kept His promise.
As Simeon looked forward
After he rejoices in seeing the Christ, Simeon prophesies about the future. He turns to Mary, whom he’d just met, and tells her that everyone won’t see her baby boy for who He is. In fact, her son would soon divide the nation she loves: Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel (Lk 2:34). While prior to this statement the tenor of Luke’s Gospel could be described as jubilant, Simeon’s prophecy sounds one of the first ominous notes.
Nonetheless, opposition or not, the purposes of God would not be thwarted. Simeon too prophesies about the salvation Mary’s boy would bring. He calls Him a light to the Gentiles, asserting that through this infant the revelation of God would extend to those outside the people group surrounding Simeon. In fact, this salvation would eventually go further than Jesus would ever step. Luke’s sequel to his Gospel, the book of Acts, details a precise fulfillment.
In the scope of our calendar year, we’re both “no longer waiting” and “waiting.” Some things happened in 2017 that we waited for; other things did not.
In the scope of salvation history, we’re too both “no longer waiting” and “waiting.” Like Simeon, we no longer await the glorious incarnation of the Christ. Therefore, we rejoice, looking back to the fulfillment of that promise. As we look forward to those things yet to occur, we need reminding: God is the keeper of future promises as well. And His resolutions are better than ours.