THE STORY OF SIMEON – Luke 2:25–32 – Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke includes several stories that the other Gospelwriters omit, especially surrounding the birth of Jesus. Simeon doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Bible, but his Christmas appearance provides a perfect example of watching for God while we wait on God.
The text uses the word “waiting” for Simeon, specifically that he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). Like many of his fellow Israelite believers, Simeon was waiting for God to send his promised One—a king like David, a liberator like Moses, a prophet like Elijah. The longing that Simeon expresses (“Now I can depart in peace!”) implies that Simeon had been waiting for this promised One for a very long time. Most scholars conclude that Simeon was a very old man at this point.
The text doesn’t use the word “watching” for Simeon, but Simeon’s actions show it. Given the promise that he would see the coming Christ (a word meaning “anointed one” or “king”), Simeon responded by returning to the temple, day after day after day. He became a “righteous and devout” man, not because he was attempting to curry God’s favor, but because he wanted to be ready when God entered the scene.
There are two ways to wait: One is passive and the other is active. Passive waiting doesn’t keep watch. Active waiting does. It’s the difference between waiting for your number to be called at the DMV and waiting for the birth of your child.
What transforms waiting into watching is eager anticipation, the promise of something good and beautiful around the corner.
This was Simeon’s life. He waited and he watched for years, perhaps decades, for this King.
And then one day, he saw Jesus, and he knew him because of the very hope he had in his time of waiting.
One of the psalms vividly reflects this posture of watchful waiting. In Psalm 130, the psalmist writes, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:6). If you’re a watchman staying up all night guarding a city, you aren’t passive. Your very job is to strain your eyes into the darkness, looking for any hint of danger. Most of what you watch for is unwelcome.
Except for the sunrise. As the night draws to a close, your eyes shift to the horizon. You wait for the dawning sun with hope because that sun means safety (and, for you, a nap!).
The only experience I have in waiting for the sunrise is keeping watch over a fussy newborn. Comforting a crying baby through the long hours of the night wears on the body, the mind, the soul. But then, so slowly you may not believe it at first, the morning light comes. I can’t speak for the watchmen, but I can speak for myself: Things always look a little better in the light of day, even if I haven’t slept at all the night before.
Simeon’s life was one long night of watching and waiting. But like the watchmen of the psalms, Simeon kept his eyes trained on the horizon, looking for the coming King. Because of his vigilance (and God’s grace), he got to see the sunrise of the King that many others missed.
Christmas is the promise that something good is on the horizon. As Tish Harrison Warren writes, “The believer’s constant posture is to lean slightly forward in anticipation. We wait for God to act, to set things right, to show up and work, whether that work is surprising and miraculous or a quiet change of tides.”1
This is not wishful thinking or blind optimism. We can watch and wait with confidence because God has already showed up in surprising and miraculous and quiet ways. Like he did by becoming a poor, helpless baby.
Keep waiting. And in your waiting, keep watching. The sunrise of Christmas is coming.
Read this prayer aloud to God.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.2