Summary: Looking at Simeon's prayer to understand the ability to let go of this life comes from first embracing Jesus. We need to learn to accept that having Jesus is "enough."
Intro: I’ve read several different versions of monkey traps that are used in different parts of the world – in India, in Africa – a coconut is taken and cleaned out, then, a hole just large enough to let a monkey get his hand inside is cut into it. Some kind of bait is put inside – a nut, or rice or something else the monkey wants. Then, it’s chained to a tree. As soon as a monkey wants what’s inside, he sticks in his hand and grabs it, but with his fist around it, he can’t get his hand back out of the hole. Rather than let go, he hangs on because he wants it. Soon, the hunters arrive, and the monkey, in a panic, keeps hanging on because he doesn’t understand that he needs to drop it and forget the food in order to escape. Soon, he’s dead because he couldn’t let go.
How many times in a story or some movie has there been someone who wanted a treasure of some kind, and they hang onto it and it makes them fall or drown. The point is simple: sometimes our desire for something can lead to our undoing.
Extended hands. They may well be dubbed the symbol of our age. Grasping hands, reaching out. “Fill me!” “Help me!” “Give me!”
This time of year, people, with hands extended, go into stores and onto the internet with their inner longings: “Fulfill me! Show me something new. Show me more. Sell it to me, give it to me, so that I can be satisfied!”
The stores, in turn, extend their hands: “Pay me! Trade in the hours and days that you have worked. If that’s not enough, then sign your name and enslave yourself to our credit department. Fill our hands with your substance, and we’ll fill your hands with stuff.”
Extended hands. Hands that look full, but really are empty. Unfulfilled lives. Grasping at life, unwilling to let go.
Now let me point you to another picture. Instead of extended hands, look at the bent arms of a man – arms shaped to receive a baby and cradle Him. Gentle arms – not demanding or whining, but rather an offer of tenderness; an offer to give love and protection and kindness and attention to a helpless person – just like the love and protection a mother offers her baby.
Attached to those bent arms is a content person, a fulfilled person, someone who doesn’t feel compelled to extend his hands and beg or complain. There are no hands, grasping at life, unwilling to let go. Instead, they’re emptied of the stuff of life so that they’re free to hold onto what really matters. And they belong to a man who’s able to pray a prayer I wish everyone of us could leave here praying today.
Honestly, which would you rather have? I fear our hands are too often occupied with hanging onto life to hold on to what really matters. Take an inventory in your heart of hearts right now, and that may describe you. To some degree, it may describe every one of us.
Would you like to turn that around? Wouldn’t you love the ability, especially right now, to say to the stuff in life, “It’s enough.”? Wouldn’t you love to be able to lose it all and not be left wanting?
There’s a Bible character who shows up for what amounts to only 1-2 minutes in the NT. That’s all we have of him – a snapshot…
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
It’s 8 days after the angels announced the birth of Jesus. The little family of 3 has to make the 6 miles or so trip up to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the temple. That day, by direction of the HS, there’s this man named Simeon. We assume he’s old, although we don’t know his age. What we do know is that he’s a righteous and devout man. In others words, he looks good on the outside and he has it right on the inside too. He’s an Israelite, living like the rest of the Jews under oppressive Roman rule. Like the rest of the Jews have been doing for centuries, Simeon is anxiously waiting for the appearance of the Messiah that God had promised would deliver them someday. When it comes to what we know about Simeon, that’s about it. But I want to take what we know about him here and see what we can learn about our prayers at this time of year.