Recently I reread the story of Simeon, in Luke chapter two. The name Simeon means “hearing.” I began to consider the promise he had heard through the Holy Spirit, which was, “ . . . he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,” (Luke 2:26). He knew about God’s gift and I'm sure lived in anticipation of seeing this gift.
Reading how Simeon heard the Holy Spirit reveal the promise to him—rekindled a memory from 22 years ago—when I too heard the audibly voice of the Holy Spirit speak to me, or maybe an angel. Whoever spoke, I knew it was from God and the same phrase was spoken at five different times in unexpected moments of the day over a period of three months. He said, “The child will be yours.” At this point, my husband and I were caring for an unwed mother and her child. I can’t recall how many times I stormed heavens gates for the protection of this baby and her mother—but I know it was often and sincere.
I knew the lifestyle of the mother at that time and the company she kept, which was unhealthy for the both of them. I’d pray, “Oh God please, if this mother cannot care for her child, please place this child into a good Christian home. But please help her to be the mom she needs to be.”
Simeon, who was considered a “Righteous and devout man,” also must have prayed continually for the salvation of his people (Luke 2:25). He must have agonized over their need for a savior, for the Messiah to come and save his nation, to save a people who perhaps were far from understanding and experiencing God’s great love and His covenant to them.
Before the Holy Spirit whispered the news, that the child I was praying for would be mine, He had given me this verse of hope, “I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please . . . what I have planned, that I will do,” (Isaiah 46: 10-11). Even though I did not understand what that actually meant, I knew it was God’s promise to me and for Athena. He would take care of this child and he would take care of her mother. Whatever plans He had for them would be fulfilled no matter how enormous their circumstances seemed.
The first day I met Athena's mother, Brenda, I was in love. Her blonde hair was straggly, and straight. Her eyes worn, deep, and empty. She appeared lost and alone. My heart welled with a love, which I cannot explain—a love beyond my own capabilities. When looking back, I see God's desire to connect my heart with hers, as the child she was carrying in her womb—unknown to me—would one day be mine.
Simeon was an old man by the time he witnessed Joseph and Mary at the temple. They came to offer their purification sacrifice, which was to be done 40 days after the birth of the first-born son (this made Jesus about six weeks old). I wonder how long Simeon waited for his promise to be fulfilled—ten, twenty, thirty, forty years? Was he ever tempted to give up hope? Or was he certain that he knew what he knew. Did Simeon’s righteous and devout reputation develop as he was, “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” (Luke 2:25)? Does waiting help us to become more righteous and devout Christians? I think so, as it teaches us to trust what God says.
I also wonder if he told others, I well see God’s salvation before my eyes close in death. If so, did his fellow Jewish friends think he’d gone mad? Or was it something he too pondered in his heart in silence and with great patience, like Mary did?
I did not tell others what the Holy Spirit said to me; least they think I was, you know, a bit off my rocker in not just hearing a voice but claiming to hear the voice of God. But I also knew that I knew I heard God speak to me. I found it actually frustrating, as I had no idea what God meant by the child will be yours, or how He was going to make that happen and why. The child and her mother no longer lived in our home. On the contrary, it was not our goal to take a child from her mother.
Simeon was waiting for the promise of God’s, “consolation.” In other words he was waiting for the comfort of Israel. The promise of peace and he knew God’s promise would come in the form of a child. Did Simeon comprehend how God was going to do that? Or did he simply trust his Jehovah. God's Word says the, “Holy Spirit was upon him,” doubting would be far from Simeon's mind, as he knew the God who said, “My purpose will stand . . . what I have planned, that I will do," (Luke 2:25, Isaiah 46: 10-11).
Busy, and all alone at work, the familiar voice spoke again, starling me. I turned to see who was in the room. There was no one, just the lingering of those words, spoken four times before, which said, “The child will be yours.” After this fifth declaration, I felt confused by what God intended. Why I did not do this before I don't know, but I finally asked the Lord, "What do you mean the child will be mine?" That evening we received a call from Athena’s mother telling us she was in jail and would we please go get her daughter. Right away, of course, I whispered, "Ah God, that’s what you meant—we will take care of her daughter until she’s out of jail." And that settled that. We became foster parents.
When Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to go into the temple, he saw the consolation of God. The angel Gabriel told Mary her baby’s name would be, Jesus, which in Hebrew means Yeshua. Yeshua is a form of Joshua and the literally meaning is “salvation.” Therefore when Simeon cradled God’s Promise in his arms, he literally was holding the salvation of the world. Did the infant Jesus gaze back into Simeon’s eyes when Simeon praised God saying—
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel,” (Luke 2: 29-32).
I’ll never forget the day we went to pick Athena up from Social Services, she had been in a transition home for three weeks—she was ten months old. We sat in steel chairs in a plain tan room, filled with nervous anticipation—would she remember us? They brought her into the room and she was wailing until such time the worker placed her in my arms. Athena looked at me then looked at my husband, then looked at me and back at him. She sighed deeply and literally collapsed in my arms, as to say I’m safe now. Peace settled in her heart and the comfort she needed was there in the arms of people she recognized.
I wonder if Simeon memorized every facet of the Christ child’s face. I would as there is nothing like the face of a newborn. Was Simeon overwhelmed with peace for all humanity? Was there a deep sigh of relief, as he knew his people were saved? Hope delivered. Hope revealed. Love given. A promise fulfilled in this little bundle of human flesh he held and blessed in his arms.
Three years, through unfortunate circumstances, we were given the opportunity to adopt Athena. On April 26, 1991, God fulfilled his promise, which he spoke to me, “The Child will be yours.”
As I reflect on Simeon, I rejoice that God fulfilled his promise to all mankind, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6 KJV).
Christmas, to me, is a time to rejoice in the revealing of God’s love He promised through His One and only begotten Son. Just as Simeon anticipated he would not see death until he saw “ . . . the Lord’s Christ,” (Luke 2:26)—we too wait in great expectation of the promise declared by himself, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” (Revelations 22:12-13).
Are you waiting for a promise to be fulfilled? If so, I pray God will find favor with you. I pray you will hear God's voice of hope, the voice that promises He can do more then what we ask or imagine (See Ephesians 3).
Peace, Hope, and Love be yours this Christmas.