I’d like to begin with a confession. I am really inpatient.
Mainly with myself. When I was about 5 we were given the opportunity at school of taking up a musical instrument, and much to the delight of my parents, I chose the violin. I persevered for about 6 months – religiously practicing most days – but when it became clear I was not going to get a scholarship with Yehudi Menuhin I gave it up!
I expected to be brilliant straight away.
This became a bit of a pattern throughout my early life – I’d try a hundred and one things, and if I wasn’t spectacular at them instantly, I’d give up. I learnt resilience later in life! But the root of this was simply impatience.
Our current culture suits my character defect rather well.
Our attention spans have rapidly reduced – if we can’t get what we need on a sound bite, or a ten-minute TED talk we lose interest. Even podcasts don’t help – we probably listen to podcasts when we are multi-tasking – driving, walking the dogs, cleaning or ironing – we rarely give our full, undivided attention to anything – well we wouldn’t want to waste our time would we?
So when I was reflecting on our gospel reading this week, what jumped out at me was the man Simeon, a man not mentioned before or after this encounter. What struck me was his character, his faith, his trust but most of all his patience.
I think I have a lot to learn from him!
It was Verses 25 that stopped me in my tracks,
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel.”
This was a glass half full chap. He wasn’t lamenting – as quite a lot of biblical characters seem to – he was full of hope, of expectation – of trust. He knew the consolation, the comforting, the restoring, of Israel was on it’s way – it was just a question of when.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of despair. We do today; the world has never been in such a terrible state, the poverty, the pain, the suffering. It can look bleak out there. With this mindset everything looks dark and the light seems to fade. Hope is squeezed out.
A friend of mine shared an acronym for hope with me this week which resonated – Hold On Pain Ends.
But I wonder what Simeon would say to us today? Where is our hope placed? Pain does end and those of us with a faith can trust in a God who has the bigger picture, who offers us glimmers of light in the darkness.
So Simeon was a glass half full guy, full of hope, of trust, of expectation – perhaps because he was righteous – right with God, and devout.
God gave him the strength and the vision to see the world this way. Amidst the chaos and the confusion of what he could see, Simeon waited patiently for God to reveal the Messiah. He waited in the darkness for the light.
We have yearly seasons that speak of this; as we emerge from the cold, long, dark winter nights of winter and begin to see the first signs of spring, but also in our lives.
We have personal times of darkness and confusion as the world as we knew it stops making sense and we struggle to find our bearings. We may lose loved ones, our jobs, a relationship turns sour, the list goes on.
Simeon gives us hope. We can look at a man, content in his waiting, positive in his outlook, trusting in his God to lead him and guide him by the Spirit.
There is also a contentment and acceptance within him.
And as the Nunc Dimittis shows us Simeon could see the future of Jesus – he glimpsed his destiny – the highs and the lows of his life – and he also knew he would not witness them. It was enough that he had just seen him.
Simeon was content with the part that God had given him to play – he didn’t need to be there at the end.
There is such humility in this, such acceptance of the fact that he was not in control. He trusted in a God who knows all things, sees all things and has the end worked out from the beginning.
Simeon’s job was just to recognise the Messiah and tell others the good news, not to work out all the details and see it through to its conclusion.
And so to us.
We too are messengers of hope, people to point to the light, to recognise the glimmers that sparkle in the darkness.
There is light and love all around us, perhaps, like Simeon, it is our responsibility to reflect this for others who are surrounded by darkness, hopelessness, and despair.
We may never see the end game, the bigger picture but if, like Simeon, we are right with God, are in relationship with Jesus and are open to the guiding of the Holy Spirit, we too can be glass half full people; the people of God who can speak of the hope, contentment and expectation that is found in union with each other and with a power greater than us who we call Father.