If anyone in the nativity stories could qualify as a potential patron saint of Advent, it would be Simeon. His life was about waiting. It was an ongoing season of Advent.
I suspect that he was old and that he had been waiting for some time. He had been waiting for the consolation of Israel: one thinks of the beautiful words of Isaiah 40 and the Lord’s comfort of his people.
The Holy Spirit was active in his life and had revealed to him that his waiting would not be in vain because he would see the Lord’s Christ.
So it was that the Spirit led him to the temple at just the right time – the time when Joseph and Mary had brought their son to present him to the Lord.
Simeon spoke twice: first to God, in a prayer of surrender and recognition of what God was going to do through this child; and second, to Mary, talking about what lay ahead for her son and for herself.
While the little family were at the temple, another faithful worshiper joined them. Anna’s life had not been easy, with its long years of widowhood. Like Simeon, she realised that this was a significant moment: an occasion to thank God and share the news with others who were waiting for redemption.
I suppose there is a degree of artificiality about the four weeks that run up to Christmas. We now how long we have to wait. Christmas will arrive on December 25. It did last year and that’s what the calendar says for this year. It’s like reading a story when you already know the ending. But for Simeon and Anna and the faithful among their contemporaries, the wait was uncertain. It had been long. Centuries had passed since the Messianic promises of the Old Testament. Would the answer ever come? You think of the words of the haunting Advent hymn:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And rescue captive Israel…
But of course there is a second sense to the Church’s observation of Advent: the reminder that we wait for him to return. We don’t know when he will come. But we know that God’s plans are still centred on Jesus.
Like Simeon, the church waits.
It’s the cry of the church at the end of Revelation:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus