There he is, standing just inside the temple gates, his eyes scanning the approaching crowd. What is he watching for? What is he waiting for?
There he is, standing where he has stood so many times before. There he is, his gentle eyes searching the people coming towards him.
In the distance, he sees a man and a woman making their way towards the temple. She’s carrying a baby; he’s carrying a cage with two pigeons.
“Hmm,” the old man says to himself, “Another child ready to be presented; another baby to be dedicated.”
Reaching out, he takes the child into his wizened arms. Holding him gently, the old man’s clouded eyes meet those little bright brown eyes. He needn’t ask, “Is this the one who is to come.” He knows the answer to that question. This is the one.
He takes a long, deep breath, closes his eyes and prays,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2: 29-32)
I like to think that wasn’t the first time—and maybe not the last time—old man Simeon prayed that prayer.
I like to think that early on—long before cataracts clouded his eyes, long before whiskers sprouted on his face, maybe even before his voice went deep—Simeon was taking babies in his arms, looking into their eyes, and praying that prayer.
Maybe it was as a baby that Simeon first prayed that prayer. Maybe not in those words but surely in the seeing and in the reaching out.
I imagine Simeon a young boy sitting in the temple courtyard, listening to the rabbis, looking around, catching and holding another in his gaze and saying with all the confidence he can summon up, “This is the one. This is the one who bears God’s image. This is the one who is to come.”
Taking a look at a little baby, seeing hope, seeing salvation and saying, “Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised” takes some chutzpah. That kind of confidence, that kind of surety, that kind of faith is not born in a moment. It comes from a lifetime of looking out expectantly at the world and at the moment.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews says, “Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Seeing things not as they appear but as they are deep inside. Seeing the possibility, the potential, the promise in the person or the moment before you. That’s a gift. A gift of grace that grows over time. A gift we can give one another.
I imagine that all of us in this room tonight have people in our lives who have that gift—people who see the possibility within others; people who pave the way for others to grow into the possibilities, the gifts of their lives; people who see Christ’s light shining through the darkness.
Tonight we are celebrating Dia de la Candelaria—the Feast of Candlemas. Over a thousand years ago on this night people prayed as they carried their candles in procession,
“Our bright shining candles are a sign of divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant.”
But that radiance depends more than a little on you and me. We, you and I, are Simeons to the world in which we live. Scanning the crowd before us, we reach out to the smallest, the most vulnerable, the poorest, the least. We take them in our arms, we cradle them, and we say to them with all the confidence we can summon up, “You are the one. You bear God’s image. You are the saviors of the world.” Then we do what we can to help them and us live into the future God has prepared for us since the beginning of time.