Summary: The blessings of Simeon by the Spirit and the love of Mary.
I am not a traditionalist in some things as you can probably imagine. The traditional way to write a sermon is to find your biblical text, write the sermon and then pick the title. I work a bit backwards; I come up with the title, find the text and then write the sermon. Sometimes that gets me into a bit of trouble as you can well imagine. In some ways that was the case here. I thought I would find tons of research material on Simeon. But I came to find there were only a bit written about dear Simeon and only a bit more about Mary.
In a sermon written by Gwyn Walters in the prose style of an iambic parameter, it begins…
“We’ve had a baby,” says the parents proud,
With mingles sense of wonder, gratitude
And hopes and deep responsibility
Though young or old or married or unwed
We all may of our Savior say,
“To us a child is ours,” and likewise
A mingles sense of wonder, gratitude
And hope and deep responsibility.
I remember the sense of pride, wonderment, awe of giving birth to my first child, and of course the pain. Patrick was born 6 weeks premature. And due to birth complications for both of us, I was not able to see him till the next day. They brought him to me in a preemie incubator, all bundled up and safe and as they took him out to hand him to me, and I didn’t see a round faced chubby baby. Patrick was long and skinny and wrinkled. He looked like a very tiny wizened old man. He wasn’t the prettiest baby there was but he was mind and I thought at that very moment and every moment since that he was beautiful.
Patrick was born 2 days before my grandfather’s 69th birthday. For me it was very important that my grandparents, two very important people in my life, meet there first great grandson. When Pat and I were released from the hospital we were some pair. I could barely walk erect due to my Caesarean section stitches and Patrick this tiny scrawny baby with very little body fat looking like a 3rd world refugee child. But on our arrival home our first two visitors were my grandparents. My grandfather without hesitation picked up this child and held him and said, “He’s beautiful.” He then grabbed Pat’s tiny hand and said to him, “What’s up Charlie Brown?” In the years my grandfather was alive he and Pat shared a few birthday parties together. And till the day that my grandfather died, Patrick was Charlie.
Now step back with me to 2000 years ago. See the aged man moving slowly up the temple steps, pausing occasionally to rest. He has felt moved by the spirit to go into the temple courts. This wasn’t Simeon’s normal time to come to the temple but he felt moved to be there, beckoned if you will. He felt that he had to be at the temple that day.
The temple steps were a busy place for buyers and sellers of sacrifices. Beggars camped out on the steps, crying out, “Alms, alms, and alms for the poor!” The students and scholars scurried to and fro some coming to learn, some coming to teach all with the harried intellectual look. Then there were the people who came to make sacrifices. The sellers crying out they had the purest lambs and doves; the baaing of the lambs, the cooing and startled cries of the doves. The buyers looking at the animals and trying to quite the children and babes they held onto, soft murmurs and noises of comfort. Can you feel the chaos, can you hear the noise, can you sense it?
Simeon was no stranger to the temple, to the coming and goings of the people, the rituals of the courtyard. When suddenly a couple with a small babe catches his eye. They are like so many other couples there that day that have come to purify the mother and consecrate a child to God after the birth.
In Mosaic Law the woman was unclean for 33 days after childbirth, after which she made a burnt offering and a sin offering for her cleansing. If you were rich you could sacrifice lambs but if you were poor you sacrificed pigeons or doves. Simeon had probably seen them on the temple step as they were purchasing their doves.
Simeon feels drawn to this couple; he feels the Lord’s spirit drawing him near. And suddenly the dawning, the realization comes to him. The small family approaches him to do for them what the custom of the law required. Simeon takes the small child in his arms, the small babe. And he must have been amazed at what he held and what he was feeling at that time. For he knew, knew to his very marrow, that this baby he held was the Messiah, he had no doubts whatsoever about this at all, he knew what he held. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die till he saw the Messiah, the one promised by the prophets, with hs own eyes.