Peace, Consolation, and Glory
In the Gospel Reading, Simeon is waiting in the Temple, because the Holy Spirit has revealed to him that he will meet the Messiah there. When Simeon does finally see Jesus, the Gospel tells us, Simeon had been waiting a long time.
Waiting can be so hard. Think of the young mother waiting for lab results about her cancer, or the old lady waiting for news about her son in Afghanistan. Think of the aspiring novelist waiting to hear if the press will accept his manuscript or the scientist waiting to know if his life’s work will be honored with a great prize. Peace is so often lost by such a wait.
While a person is waiting, he is anxious—what if the thing he is waiting for never comes? And he is sad or sorrowful, because he does not yet have the thing he wants and is waiting for. Then there’s the undeniable humiliation of having to wait. A person who waits knows that what he wants depends on things outside his own control. Having to wait brings home to him his vulnerability and neediness.
And so look at what Simeon says when his wait is finally over and he sees Jesus.
Seeing this baby, Simeon says, let Simeon die in peace. This baby overturns anxiety and brings peace—not a theoretical kind of peace which has no purchase on a person’s emotions, but real peace, the kind that brings with it easy breathing.
And why peace? Because, as the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon, this baby is God’s consolation for all his people. If God himself gives a person consolation, he will have God’s peace as well.
And, finally, this peace is not the kind of peace that makes a person ready to accept defeat with resignation. No, on the contrary: it makes a person rise to glory. That is why Simeon says in his prayer that this baby brings glory to God’s people.
And so here is the thing for us to think about at Christmas time. In our anxieties, in our sorrows, in our defeats and humiliations, can we turn and look at this baby? No matter what anxiety, sorrow, or defeat the world has given us, nothing can take this baby away from us. Our consolation, our peace, and our glory lie with him.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University