Full disclosure: We named our son Simeon, so I might spend more time than your average person thinking about Simeon’s encounter with Jesus.
Following Jewish customs, baby Jesus was taken to the temple to be presented and blessed. This was an ordinary occurrence (one every first born male needed to participate in), and yet, with Jesus it becomes extraordinary. A righteous man named Simeon has waited for the Messiah for a loooong time. Scripture says, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” And then one day, Simeon entered the temple, held Jesus, and realized the prophecy given to him was now being fulfilled. The ordinary day has become extraordinary. Simeon was moved to sing, “Lord, you now have set your servant free, to go in peace as you have promised. For these eyes of mine have seen the savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see. A light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel”.
A small aside: I LOVE singing the Song of Simeon, which I learned to sing at summer camp in the fourth grade and have sung most nights ever since. Should you want to hear the version I (and many others) love, you can do so HERE.
Simeon literally sees God in Jesus. Simeon sees the light of God, and proclaims that light to all. I love thinking about Simeon holding Jesus in the temple singing about how his eyes have finally seen God that light to enlighten the nations. The longing, and hopefulness, and brightness of that moment sing to my heart.
Today is also a secular holiday, Groundhog Day. To be honest, my ideas about Groundhog Day are more formed by the 1993 Bill Murray movie than anything I learned about the groundhog in elementary school.
In the film, Bill Murray’s character relives the annual Groundhog Day celebrations over and over again in an endless loop. COVID-tide sometimes feels like we are stuck in that Groundhog Day loop doesn’t it? Where we see the same rising COVID numbers, unsettling news, and continue to live with the realities of not seeing our beloveds who are at a distance from us.
I think it’s a holy coincidence that Groundhog Day and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple fall on the same day every year. Here’s why: when we are feeling like we are in a never ending loop of ordinary—or worse yet, negative days—something extraordinary breaks in. We, in the shoes of Simeon move from the ordinary day of knowing that one day the Messiah will come to the extraordinary when the Messiah actually comes. We enter into the extraordinary day when we, like Simeon, get to see the light of God right in front of us.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple reminds us that the light of God is here in our world, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. The key is for us to look for the light of God around us.
Where can we be like Simeon and see the light of God today?