Receiving a delayed gift unleashes pent-up joy. When we read a patient elderly prophet’s prayer in Luke 2, we may miss the joy that surely soaked Simeon’s words. He had received a promise that he would not die before he saw God’s Messiah, “the consolation of Israel.” Life in Roman occupied Israel starved hope. Substantial time had passed since the promise. Now, however, as two new parents carried their newborn child into the courts of the temple in Jerusalem, hope washed over Simeon as he prayed:
“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 all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Hope delayed had become hope realized. Simeon could die peacefully and happily because he had seen the Messiah, he had witnessed the beginning of God’s saving work in Jesus, if only by anticipation when he recognized the child as the one who had been promised.
We also wait, and hope may wane as Christ does not return on our timetable. We grow older. We suffer physically and emotionally. We struggle to pray; we doubt God will keep his promises. In our obsession with our pain, we ignore the sunshine peeking through the clouds.
Father, Thank you for the promise of joy. That hope sustains us. Help us to remember when distractions multiply, when deaths dismay, when world events horrify. Focus our attention to Jesus, and help us to discern the “great cloud of witnesses” who, having survived this test themselves, now cheer us on. In Jesus’ name, Amen.