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 (Luke 2:25,26).
Can you imagine how differently you might live your life, if you had bullet-proof assurance from God that your life would not end before you had witnessed some upcoming event?
Maybe it would be the distantly future wedding of your unborn baby; or, the university graduation of a child that struggles with a learning disability; or, the promise of your spiritually hostile parent coming to Christ…something that would be massively meaningful to you.
The Christmas story as recorded in the New Testament is populated with enigmatic figures – and Simeon sure fits that definition. We know very little about him other than that he was an aged Jew who possessed the Holy Spirit, and was upright and devoted to the things of God.
But what makes him most unusual and unique – and I can’t think of another biblical character who had received quite this type of promise – was that the Lord had promised that he would not die until he had witnessed with his own eyes, the coming Messiah!
The Lord’s people had been awaiting the coming One for thousands of years. The Messianic promise had been woven together throughout the dramatic narrative of the Old Testament with multiple strands. The first thread was in God’s threatening promise to Satan directly after the Fall of man: “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel” (Gen.3:15).
And there had been hundreds of thousands of faithful descendants of Abraham who had looked forward to the Consolation of Israel. But only Simeon got the privilege of signaling at the holy temple on Mount Zion that the Messiah had finally arrived. The temple encounter was not very dramatic really, when compared to the rest of the Christmas story; but it gave Simeon a extraordinary place in Luke’s gospel narrative.
But I don’t want us to miss the subtle connection between the Messianic title used in the narrative and the words that the Baby in Simeon’s arms would utter 3 decades later. While in the upper room on the night before His crucifixion as the mood progressively turned dark and cold with uncertainty, dread, fear, and imminent loss the Lord Jesus promised to send to His disciples “another Comforter” (John 14:16).
Here’s the link: the Greek word Simeon used (paraklesis) and the term selected by Jesus (parakletos) are closely related nouns. The Child – the long-promised Consolation of Israel – would send to His people another source of consolation to take up residence in their very lives when He ascended to His coronation 40 days after the resurrection. The Holy Spirit – the Paraclete – is also referred to as the Helper, Counsellor, and Advocate of the people of God.
Takeaway: In my life do I experience what Jesus promised? For every follower of Christ, the Consolation of Israel continues through the Holy Spirit to be our source of comfort, encouragement, strength…and consolation.
*photo of Baby Leah by Maria Tchajkova.