Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

In this time of remembrance and recognition of the coming of our Messiah, one of the words that most comes to me is “Compassion”.

My oldest son and I were talking today as we were wrapping gifts, and we happened upon the topic of stories which could bring tears to our eyes. The written word is sometimes hard to infuse with the passion and weight it truly deserves. Even so, I told him of the one passage in Scripture which still brings tears to my eyes – with the first time being five years ago when I read it as part of my first time reading the Bible from cover to cover.

When the Old Testament comes to a close, even though the children of Israel have returned to Jerusalem and set the foundations of the Temple. But even so, their longing for a Messiah is a palpable, bottomless ache. The prophecy of Isaiah 40, which pointed to the return of Israel from Babylon, also held for them a deeper, more fulfilling promise.

And this deep yearning comes to the fore in the story of the Essene, Simeon, in the Temple:

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 on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

And I can see this man, whose patience had been lifelong, hoping for the comfort promised by God through his prophet, 700 years before.

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 may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

And so it is, this old man, whose only heart’s desire is to see the Messiah, is given the privilege of blessing him at the time of his circumcision. He was able to hold the Creator of the universe in his hands and offer a blessing to Him and to his mother and adopted father.

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

And it is in Simeon that we first feel the full weight of the joy at the coming of the Messiah, and the first contemporary glimpse at Jesus as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles”. And so it was, this Good News, came to us about 2010 years ago, and whose story we tell and cherish today.

And it brings us such great comfort and joy.




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