2 February 2017Luke 2:22-32
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.” (v. 25)
Psalm: Psalm 24
Faithfulness is rewarded and expectations heightened in this dramatic encounter in the temple in Jerusalem. In accordance with the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought their firstborn son to be presented to the Lord, offering a sacrifice indicative of their lowly standing - "a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons" (v. 24). In the process Mary fulfils her obligation to be 'purified', 40 days after the birth of her son.
There to greet the happy and obedient parents is Simeon who was "righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him". Simeon was expecting to see "the Lord's Messiah" (v. 26) before he died, and here on this day he comes into the temple and his faithfulness is rewarded.
And so on this date in the Church's calendar, the festival of Candlemas celebrates the presentation of Christ in the temple and his being 'the light of the world', as suggested by Simeon's words. It is heart-warming to see the patience and faithfulness of Simeon culminating in this encounter, and it is a timely reminder to respect those among us who have walked a similar road. But there is a hard message here too about the consequences of this revelatory light and for those upon whom this light will shine, including Mary herself.
Light is often viewed as good and warm, friendly and reassuring, and so it can be with reference to God. But to encounter the living God is an awesome thing so, as amazed as Mary and Joseph were at the words they heard that day in the temple, one can also imagine that they returned to Galilee a little troubled. This was no easy, comfortable journey upon which they had embarked. Clearly life was never going to be the same again - and a safe, conventional existence was unlikely to be their lot.
For many Christians in the world today following 'the light of the world' means that discomfort is still very much part of their experience. There is strength to be found through looking to Jesus but also to the saints who have borne witness, whose lives have been rooted in worship and praise, and which have embodied patience, courage and hope. There is no guarantee that such faithfulness will be rewarded like Simeon's but it will hold a candle to the darkness - shedding a light of revelation to the nations.
- Are there people like Simeon in your community? When did you last listen to them and how are they celebrated?
- In your context how is 'the light of the world' both comforting and discomforting?
- Identify a situation in the world where Christians are finding life particularly difficult. Learn more about their plight and hold them in your prayers.