For Luke, it is clear that Simeon is able to speak of death so honestly only in the light of the coming of the promised messiah, only, that is, by the confidence that in this helpless child God has come to redeem Israel and save all the world.
This, then, is why we sing Simeon’s song after receiving Holy Communion. For at this table, in this meal, we too, like Simeon, not only hear, but also see, touch, and feel the promise of life God makes to us. And after receiving this promise from God in the bread and wine, we too are propelled to confident and courageous lives even in a world so marked by death and loss. This explains, too, why we sing Simeon’s Song in the evening and at funerals, for as darkness overtakes the world, be it the darkness of evening or death, we commend ourselves, all of our lives, and our loved ones to the God made known through the manger and cross, the God who has promised us life eternal in Holy Baptism.
And so we continue singing Simeon’s song, all these many years after the events Luke records, simply because it tells of God’s great love for us, a love that even death cannot destroy. For, like Simeon, we also need to hear and see and touch and feel God’s promise, the promise that God will be with us and for us forever, the promise announced in the birth of that innocent babe.
The presentation of Jesus (as well as baptism for all people) is a giving away of children to God. They no longer simply belong to their parents, but they belong to God.
Luke stresses the universal aspect of salvation. It is for all people — and for that we should rejoice. When Simeon and Anna see Jesus, their only response is to sing and worship, to thank God and share the news with others.
At the time of Luke, there certainly was a division within Israel about Jesus. Even among those who believe in him, there were some who did not rejoice that he was the salvation which God had prepared for all people.
So every year, as the Advent season draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we are presented with both a challenge and an invitation.
This child, born into our world, made possible for Simeon not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living. Seeing the Christ Child gave Simeon a fresh revelation of God and the way God uses suffering. This revelation is one that each of us can experience this Advent. The child in Simeon’s arms gives us a new ability to live a new kind of life, where both living in the present and living with suffering are immeasurably deepened. It is a life lived in peace in the innermost part of our being. The two names given by Isaiah for this Messiah child say it all: the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor. Because he is our Wonderful Counselor, he can also be our Prince of Peace.
Perhaps he too saw what Simeon saw and finally understood what it meant to be released to live and enjoy God’s peace, even in the midst of suffering.