Simeon: a believer who welcomed the future
There is much to learn from Simeon and how he lived a verse often recalled at the start of a new year, writes John Rackley
This post-Christmas reflection is based on Jeremiah 31:7-14 and Luke 2:25-32 and suggests that for the believer in God, it is not Man’s plans that our important but the guidance of God, the Alpha and Omega. It is an ancient wisdom enshrined in one of the Proverbs of Solomon.
In the Christmas stories many people get all sorts of shocks and surprises. One moment they are going along with nothing much different happening in their life and then out of blue come change and opportunities to do things differently.
Simeon the Righteous,
Alexey Yegorov: Wikimedia Commons
Joseph has a dream and discovers his fiancée is going to have a baby boy. Meanwhile an old priest is in the Temple, meets an angel and is told his long barren wife Elizabeth is going to have a son too. He is dumbstruck.
Mary is quietly growing up in Nazareth; she too meets an angel and finds she’s going to have a baby.
There is a pattern here – life is not straightforward; there are interruptions and God is involved.
The shepherds out in the fields around Bethlehem stop looking after sheep and listen to a heavenly choir. The Magi meet Jesus and go home another way. The birth of Jesus disturbed the lives of people around him. He upset the course of events.
But there is one character in the stories who isn’t surprised. His experience is quite different. It is Simeon. He is a wonderful example of a verse which is often recalled at this time of the year.
In our hearts we plan our course
but the Lord determines our steps
This is just the right verse for a church looking into its future and wondering what God will do. It’s just the right verse for you and me as we pause at the beginning of another year in our life.
Simeon shows us how to live with the verse at the centre of our life.
This is what we are told about him:
He was devout and righteous – he was devoted to God and his Faith and he lived a life which was based on high moral and personal standards.
He looked forward to the consolation of Israel – he trusted that a day would come when God would restore the welfare of his people – no more confusion, no more opposition, and no more oppression.
Our reading from Jeremiah would have meant a lot to Simeon with its conclusion: there is hope for your future.
Simeon took responsibility for his life. He made choices about its direction and purpose. As the memory verse says: in our hearts we plan our course.
This verse from Proverbs is not an excuse for inaction. It does not allow us to think that our trust in God removes from us the need to make choices, decide what we shall do. We are responsible for our lives – but what it goes on to make clear is that we need more than our own ideas to complete the purpose of our life.
For we are told one more thing about Simeon:
The Holy Spirit rested on him
What a lovely picture. The gentle Spirit of God, as soft as a dove’s descent on our shoulder and as calming as a summer breeze overshadowed the faith of this man.
And because this was so he could meet Mary and Joseph coming into the temple and know for sure he was meeting his Saviour: the Spirit has literally guided his footsteps and he knew he was being placed in the will of God.
This verse from Proverbs is not an excuse for inaction... We are responsible for our lives – but we need more than our own ideas to complete the purpose of our life.
My grandmother was a serious, hardworking wife of a Devon fisherman. They had a tough life. He was as happy as she was solemn. One of her favourite sayings was "Man proposes, God disposes".
That is an old translation of Proverbs 16:9. She used to witness her husband getting into all sorts of scrapes; trying all sorts of ideas and she would shrewdly bring him down to earth. They both had a strong faith in God and for her that meant you didn’t get carried away by your own self-importance or plans.
Simeon set himself to be devoted to our Lord, living to high standards of behaviour, resting in the Holy Spirit. It was a way of life that recognised that we make our choices but this is not to become a pathway to arrogance.
Do you remember the story of Peter and the disciples after the resurrection of Jesus? They went home to Galilee. One day Peter made up his mind. “I’m going fishing” he told the others. He caught a great catch. As he was bringing it in Jesus turns up on the shore and tells them to bring the catch to him and they breakfast.
Peter decided to go fishing but the Lord decided what to do with the fish.
Lord of the Years as we start another year we thank you for your generosity and faithfulness to us. We cannot see into the future but can trust you for it. Help us to place our lives and faith into your hands and like Simeon let your Holy Spirit rest on us.
May Jesus be our companion throughout the year and guide us.
May your fatherly care enfold us and reassure us as we receive your forgiveness and your blessing.