Can you even imagine waiting years and years and years for the fulfillment of a promise? In today's world we like instant gratification -- instant coffee, instant soup, quick fixes, happily ever afters when we watch a program on TV -- so waiting for decades for something we have been promised is almost more than we can even comprehend.
Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had actually seen the Holy One, Messiah, the Promised Redeemer of Israel. He was a young man when he received that promise, and when we encounter him in the Scriptures he was a very old man, probably in his 90s. That is a heap of waiting!!
Imagine the overwhelming emotion he must have felt when this rather ragtag couple approached him in the temple, holding their infant Son, seeking to present him to God as the Law of Moses commands, doing as they believed God would have them do, bringing with them the sacrifice which they could afford which was, by the way, the poorest of the poor. And when he gazed on that Child, the Spirit of the Lord confirmed that at last, the promise he had received decades earlier was now being fulfilled.
Simeon was old, he was tired. I have no doubt that there were many occasions when he wondered if God would ever fulfill that long ago promise to him. He was ready to go. He had served in the Temple for decades. " Surely, Lord, the end is near. How much longer must I wait?" Yet here He was, a tiny Baby, held lovingly in the arms of his parents, and Simeon's heart nearly burst. From him came the words we often say in the evening prayers of many congregations:
"Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised,
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior
whom you have prepared for all the world to see,
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel."
What is the lesson for us here? Perhaps we can actually commisrate with Simeon as we, too, wait for the coming of the Savior. The Church has waited for over 2,000 years for the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to return, to claim all those who have placed their faith and trust in Him as Lord and Savior. The early Church often ended their written communications with the word "Maranatha" which simply means "The Lord returns." It was the faith in that promise that carried them through 400 plus years of terrible persecution and sustained believers through wars and plagues and the dark times of religious corruption. It is plain in Scripture that the promise was made to believers over and over again. Even the Apostle John wrote, late in the first century, that "everyone who has this hope [of the coming of the Lord] purifies himself, even as Christ is pure."
And still we wait, and that is the life of faith, trusting that God is a promise keeping God, that the Lord's return is not a pipe dream given to believers to salve some ancient wounds. Rather, we have the example of Simeon and his friend Anna (who had remained in the Temple for decades awaiting the coming of Messiah) as templates of what it means to strengthen our faith in a promise keeping God.
"Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
Once for our salvation slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
Christ the Lord returns to reign!"