On the Edge of Our Seat

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There are very few experiences that send us to the edge of our seat. When we’re in first grade and know the answer. A suspenseful movie. Waiting for a loved one just outside airport security after too long apart. Anticipation is a unique human emotion. We rarely feel it.

When we do, we rarely feel anything else.

Christmas brings with it a great deal of anticipation. In our family, the countdown occurs with an advent calendar dispensing a small gift each day. We take part in various traditions — watching certain Christmas movies as the Big Day approaches, driving around to view Christmas lights, participating in activities at church. It’s all leading to The Morning. My kids love every second. They can’t wait to dig into those presents! They’re on the edge of their seats.

Then, under the mountain of unsalvageable wrapping paper after an hour of opening presents, the first twinge of disappointment hits. It’s over, they realize.

What now?

It’s sort of like what’s going on in the middle of Luke 2. By verse 22, the manger scene is over. Angels have been heard on high.  The Silent Night, if it ever was, is no longer. Midnight, whether or not it was in fact clear, has passed. Jesus has already made an impact, but while his incarnation is an exclamation mark for many, as Luke continues his Gospel narrative we see that Jesus’ parents go about the business of raising him like any normal Jewish family would. It’s time for baby Jesus to be dedicated. They head for the temple. It is the custom. They are good parents. So on Jesus’ eighth day of life, off they go. But as they go, they bump into a man who’s been waiting to meet Jesus for a long time. He is a man on the edge of his seat.

His name is Simeon.

Simeon doesn’t say much. Not much is said about him. But like a lot of men who don’t say much, when he does speak, everyone listens. We should listen. Let’s read from Luke and listen to what Simeon says. It’s not that much; but it’s significant.

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

We don’t get much background on Simeon, but it’s obvious he’s been anticipating this moment. We know that he is devout. We know that he is led by the Holy Spirit. We know that somewhere, somehow, at some time in his past, though we don’t know precisely where or exactly how or exactly when, God had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah.

How old is he? How long as he been waiting?

Simeon is most assuredly a Jewish man. He’s not the only one who’s been waiting. In Genesis 3, thousands of years before, God promises that the offspring of mankind will crush Satan. The Prophets promised it hundreds of times, sharing specific detail in some cases concerning how the Messiah would arrive on the scene. Simeon knows the Prophets well. He is anxious to see the Messiah. Mysteriously, the Lord leads him to the temple on the very day that Mary and Joseph are presenting Jesus for ritual purification. Simeon’s eyes catch a glimpse of the baby and he is elated. He can’t help himself. He scoops Jesus up into his arms and celebrates:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

If there is no other lesson to be learned from Simeon’s life, we have a simply profound one in this: now that he’s met Jesus, it doesn’t matter what else happens. All that matters, all that is dear, all that is sacred he holds in his arms at last. His salvation reaches the nations. All nations. All people.

And it reaches Simeon.

And it reaches me.

And it reaches you.

I don’t know if you’ve taken time yet this Christmas to stop and ask this question, but just in case you haven’t, I wanted to give you that opportunity right now:

How has Jesus’ arrival on earth changed your life? Have you ever longed for the Messiah like Simeon did? Do you cherish His arrival among us like Simeon? When was the last time you were expectant, anticipatory, on the edge of your seat about Jesus? The days after Christmas can sometimes leave you with an empty, disappointed feeling.

What’s next?

What should keep us on the edges of our seats is the fact that knowing Jesus means anything could happen. He didn’t come once and then leave. He came and made his dwelling among us. He dwells with us still. Our eyes have seen his salvation. At last. And forever.

May we long for him with the same fervor that Simeon did, and may that anticipation never be satisfied.

 

 

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