I groaned out loud when I read the scriptural text for the day. My ladies small group and I are walking through the book of Luke together. So when I realized the text was on Simeon, an obscure character in the Christmas narrative, my first inclination was to skip over it and get on to the “good stuff.” However, I knew better. Often my own preconceived ideas and presuppositions that I bring to the text keep me from experiencing the full truth that the text wants to reveal to me. This was when it got amazing that day.
Although we don’t read about Simeon until after the birth of Christ, he is often included in the Christmas story. I soon discovered: His is an amazing example of the spiritual life: a life lived in attentive responsiveness to God.
25 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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Upon reading the account, something immediately jumps out. Three times in three verses is a reference to the Holy Spirit’s activity in Simeon’s life. We first read that he was righteous and devout and “…the Holy Spirit was upon him” (v. 25). I am not always sure what that means or what that looks like. I assumed it must have something to do with going to the Temple and spending hours in fervent prayer there. We get a clue, however, from the passage itself of something quite different. I don’t think those were the things that made him righteous but rather those were the things that had trained his heart to live in faithful responsiveness to the Spirit’s work and leading in his life. The outward evidence of his devout, Spirit-filled life is seen in his responsive posture of expectant waiting. For Simeon, and for us, the devout life is lived as an ever-increasing responsiveness to the movement and sway of the Spirit in his life.
We see this same evidence in the next verse, “It had been revealed to him by the Spirit…” (v.26). Simeon had developed the ability to live with an awareness and attentiveness of the presence and activity of God. It seems keeping in step with the Spirit requires not so much doing for God but paying attention to what God is already doing.
This kind of sustained watchful is difficult in a culture of sound bites. We are easily distracted by so many things. Simeon was waiting for God to show up. Yet his waiting was not a lazy, sort of settling in but an increased alertness…a heightened awareness and sustained focus kind-of-waiting. Was it this practice in a deep, interior place of his heart that sustained for so long him in the midst of an unfulfilled promise?
One thing for sure, if we don’t keep our eyes open we can miss God’s presence all together.
C.S. Lewis, in writing on prayer recommended wakefulness as the way to see God in our ordinary days: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the Presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more to remain awake.” Is it no wonder we feel so often disconnected from God? We rarely give him our full attention.
When we begin to see God, like Simeon, in the ins and outs of our lives and live in faithful responsiveness to him do we begin to truly live “righteous and devout” lives that are alive and awake to God’s presence in our lives.
Questions for Reflection:
How would you define “righteous and devout”?
What are some ways you can live more attentively to God’s presence in your life?