Some years ago around this time, I was asked to pen a holiday reflection for a certain publication. It happened that I was then immersed in a Bible study about the various characters of the nativity story, and Simeon wouldn’t leave my imagination. I think it was because he was, like me, an ordinary believer. Not a key player, but more than a mere observer—which is, often, what we’re called to be. Like most of us, he’s ordinary and yet still an active participant in God’s story.
So I chose to write about Simeon. And because I am a novelist, I made it a fictionalized retelling of the tale. Simeon’s is a story of hope and faith—these two elements combining to form a picture of expectant waiting.
What are you waiting for? What is your hope for the new year? I think Simeon has something to teach us about what it means to wait expectantly—and to be watchful, really seeing what God places in front of us every day.
Based on the account in Luke 2:25-35, told from Simeon’s perspective, here is, “What Simeon Saw.”
. . .
From the moment of first awakening, I knew something was different about this day.
I felt it even before I opened my eyes to see sunlight filtering through the slatted window after days of rain. Unbidden, words of the prophet Malachi sprang to mind. Then suddenly the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.
I lay on my pallet, flexing stiff limbs. Why did this Scripture come to me today? I’d not dwelt on it for months, even though it spoke clearly of the hope that propelled me forward into each new day.
Then my blood quickened as a new thought struck. Could today be the day? I recalled the promise the Lord once whispered into my heart—that I would see with my own eyes the Messiah before I died. But as the years crept by with no sign of fulfillment, I had sometimes been tempted to doubt I’d heard the Lord correctly. After all, why me? Who else had been promised such a thing? Many men in Jerusalem were more righteous than I. Why should I be so blessed? And yet the promise had settled deep into my soul. I felt it now as a strain of distant music, faintly discerned.
From the courtyard beyond my window came the clatter of iron against stone and the thick aroma of freshly baked bread. It was this, followed by the rumble of my stomach, that drew me from my bed, and I entered the courtyard, where I found my wife sliding rounds of bread from the clay oven. “Good morning, husband,” she greeted me with a glance toward the heavens. “I was just giving thanks that the Lord has chosen to bless us this day with blue skies instead of gray. After so many days of rain, it is as if we are experiencing His blessing.”
I sank to a reclining position at the low table my wife had set with a bowl of fruit. “Perhaps in even more ways than this,” I said.
My wife turned, face flushed from the heat of the oven. “Oh?”
I lifted a fig from the bowl and held it, hesitating. I longed to speak what was on my heart, as my wife had anticipated such a moment as much as I. But what if I were wrong? It would be hard enough to bear my own disappointment without adding hers.
But she stood before me, head tipped to the side, waiting patiently for my answer. “I think today is the day,” I said at last.
She drew in a sharp breath. “The Anointed One has come?”
She lowered her head so that a strand of silver fell across her seamed cheek. “I pray that it is so.”
After I ate, I ventured into the streets, my steps turning automatically toward the temple. Jerusalem was unusually crowded these days, with so many brought here to carry out the letter of Caesar’s law requiring every person in his empire to be accounted for. Though usually immune to the crush of strangers, today my senses were heightened, and I found myself studying the Jewish males in the crowd. Who might the Messiah be? Perhaps that tall young man with the square jaw and the confident stride? Or that older one, with the gray beard and wise eyes? But though I kept my ear attuned to the Almighty, no Voice spoke in confirmation.
The temple on its hill rose before me, and as I drew nearer, the smell of roasted meat, mingled with the sharp aroma of frankincense, grew stronger. And now the throbbing conviction I’d felt since awakening grew stronger, an accelerating drumbeat inside my chest. Of course, I realized. Here, in the Lord’s temple, is where I will see him. My pulse quickened as I approached the temple gates.
Once inside the temple courtyard, I lingered in the shadow of the colonnade, where I waited and watched. My gaze was drawn back toward the temple gates, where a young family had entered. The husband was stocky, his clothing simple and homespun, and he used his body to shield his wife from the jostling crowd. She carried a swaddled baby, and I guessed the couple had come to dedicate their child and offer sacrifices to the Lord.
A faint breeze lifted the woman’s head covering, and I saw that she was very young, hardly more than a girl. Still, there was something about her that hinted at a grace beyond her years. Her serene posture, perhaps, or the calm adoration shining in her dark eyes as the child at her breast stirred and emitted a tiny squawk.
Then a small pink fist shot from the bundle, and a frisson jolted through me. There, came the Voice. There is the One you seek.
Confused, I looked at the husband, now bending over the squirming child. He was so plain and unassuming, nothing like my vision of a Messiah. Him?
No, answered the Voice. Look to the child, and you will see the One for whom you have waited so long.
Wonderingly, I moved toward the couple. “The Lord be with you,” I greeted them.
“And also with you,” the man replied, polite but puzzled by my approach.
Gazing at the child, I said, “So this is the Anointed One.” The man and woman exchanged glances, and I held out my arms. “May I?”
The woman tucked the end of the swaddling cloth more securely around the child before placing him in my arms. Ohhhh. I had forgotten how tiny new babies could be, how practically weightless. I folded back a corner of cloth to look into the child’s face. Awe pervaded my soul as brown eyes fringed with spiky lashes like his mother’s gazed back at me.
A warmth stole over my body, and praise swelled inside my chest, overflowing to my lips. “O Sovereign Lord,” I murmured, “as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Again, the couple exchanged glances, and the husband cleared his throat. “How do you know this about our son?” he asked, his voice low.
“The Lord Himself has revealed it to me.” I smiled. “But you are not very surprised to hear such things, are you?”
The younger man returned my smile. “No, not very surprised,” he said. “Not anymore.”
I raised my hand, as gnarled and twisted as an ancient vine. “May the blessing of the Almighty be upon you both,” I said. Then my gaze rested on the young wife, who had stood silently throughout all of this. “My dear, this child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” I hesitated but then finished what I felt compelled to say. “And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
The girl’s large eyes widened, flashing alarm, and I felt a qualm, a moment of regret that I had uttered those words aloud. But then her features smoothed, and peace settled where fear had lurked. And I understood what I had seen in her from the first. This was no ordinary girl, but a woman of extraordinary faith. Clearly, she had spent a lifetime seeking the Lord’s face, and she would continue to do so. And with a sudden flare of insight, I knew that when the hour of darkness came upon her, God Himself would rise up to meet her there. As He had met me here, in this place.
. . .
Katherine Scott Jones grew up in cities on every U.S. coast and overseas as her family moved with her father’s Navy career. Today she makes her home in Seattle with her husband and their two teens. A graduate of Whitworth University, she established herself as a freelance writer before turning her hand to fiction. She edits the Open Door Sisterhood blog and writes about books that celebrate beauty at www.katherinescottjones.com. She is the author of Her Memory of Music and Shadow Sister.