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HAVE WE SEEN GOD IN THIS CHILD?

Father Francis's picture
The Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22-40

One day in the temple in Jerusalem an old man named Simeon offered a most unusual prayer. “Now Master You can let Your servant go in peace.” He was telling God he was now ready to die but what is so unusual about that? Many old people have told God of their wish to die because they felt tired, useless or helpless and death would be a welcome release. But not Simeon. His prayer was not an expression of weakness nor despair. It sprang from a sense of fulfilment. He felt that now his life was complete and he was ready to go.

This feeling, strangely enough, was conveyed to him by a Child, the Baby Jesus Whom he recognised as the long awaited Messiah. This did not surprise Simeon because he had been expecting it. Somehow, God had told him, “he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ the Lord.” That promise came true when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple. Simeon looked at that little Baby and saw what God was going to achieve through Him. This Baby was a sign of hope.

You and I can understand that experience, because it is not entirely strange to any of us. There is a sense in which every new-born child is a sign of hope. Babies awaken within us a mood of expectancy. You can never tell what a little one might do. We habitually think of them as needing care, and indeed they do. But we also need them because babies get things started. They blaze trails. They open doors to new eras and new ideas. Think back to the fifteenth century. In Genoa, in Italy, a little boy was born. No one thought much about him although, of course, his family loved him. He was Christopher Columbus. So long as there are babies we will never know what may happen next.

The Child Jesus is the hope of all nations. If we trust Him and follow Him we will be saved. If we reject Him and His way of living, we are doomed. This is what Simeon predicted. “You see this Child; He is destined for the fall and for the rising of many.”

It is easy for us to become sentimental about babies, to be touched by their helplessness and charmed by their innocence. They make us feel good. No doubt Simeon had those same feelings when He held the Baby Jesus in his arms but he did not stop there. He looked beyond the Baby to the Man He would become and saw Him as the decisive factor in people’s lives.

History confirms the truth of that prophecy. Over and over again, those who chose the way of selfish power and glory have fallen. Those who chose the way of service and love have endured. Nero, along with his empire, is gone and remembered only for his infamy. But Paul, a contemporary of that Caesar, is more influential today than he was when he lived. The difference between those two men was the Baby that Simeon held in his arms.

Which shall it be with you and me? We cannot take it for granted that Jesus will necessarily be a redeeming influence in our lives. So much depends on us. Have we, like Simeon, seen God in this Child? If so, are we going to rise by following Him, or fall by rejecting Him? We can start by embracing the Child Christ today, and at the end of our lives, please God, like Simeon, we shall depart in peace.