The season of Advent called us to look in two directions at once: transporting ourselves into the ancient story, we entered the season of waiting for the first advent of the Messiah. But our own waiting is layered on top of it: we, too, wait for the coming of the Messiah.
The song of Simeon invites a parallel double-exposure.
As so often in Luke, the righteous person is someone who is waiting earnestly for the coming work of God. And so Simeon, directed by the Spirit, is waiting-knowing, it seems, that his own eyes will see the promised salvation of God.
Taking hold of the child Jesus, he says:
“ Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
because my eyes have seen your salvation.
You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel. ” (CEB)
Reading this, I think of adding a sixth candle to the advent wreath. I think we need a “faith” candle to go along with hope, joy, love, peace, and Christ.
Here we have a declaration of the arrival of salvation, an affirmation that in seeing Christ the salvation of Israel has arrived and the light of the nations has shone.
And all that, even though Simeon will not live to see the saving work Jesus enacts. Even though he will not see the ends of the earth enlightened.
The paradox for Christians even after the death and enthronement of Christ is that we, too, confess that our eyes have seen the salvation of our God–even as we live in the midst of an unredeemed world. We are an “advent” people, living in faith that the Messiah who came will come again. And yet even in full knowledge that what we hope for is not yet, we sing, with Simeon, in faith: “My eyes have seen your salvation, prepared in the presence of all people–on display for all with eyes to see, for all with eyes of faith.”