What gave him the quickened pulse, the surge of emotion, the awareness that this child was the one he had been waiting his whole life to see?
At this time of year, little children prompt me to think about Jesus. It’s the infant season. So, whereas my usual reaction to sitting down in an aisle seat on a cross-country flight next to a young mother and her six-month-old daughter might be a steeling up for a long, loud journey, this time, my heart went out to them.
The little girl, when she came out of her hooded car seat, was delightful -- with wisps of brown hair, ears that protruded and dark, bright eyes. I found those eyes intent on the sketches I was working out for this week’s event in Napa, California. Knowing that babies enjoy high contrast, I quickly grabbed my largest brush markers (What, you don’t have a dozen markers in your carry-on?) and the drink napkin from my tray and drew her this dog. While holding it in the air so she could see. While in the air over the Midwest.
The ultimate air-brush drawing.
Back to Simeon. I found a few classic paintings of this scene. Rembrandt’s take explains the ease of identification of the Christ-child. Just wait for the beam of light to land on a baby.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation…”
Of course, the answer to my opening question is that the Holy Spirit alerted Simeon. And God didn’t have to break in to grab the aged follower’s attention. Simeon came “in the Spirit into the temple.” He lived in daily contact with the Lord. The lines were constantly open.
I find it fascinating that so many of the depictions have Simeon staring up into heaven, as if he is diverting his attention to enter a state of blessed prayer. That’s why I like the 15th Century German rendition in the opening image. I like to think that Simeon blessed Jesus while looking full into his delicate, innocent face.
Here’s the other thing I love about this painting. Above the scene, there is a strange, chaos of structures and vines. It’s dark and threatening, as if claws are descending on the figures below. Simeon knew this impending trouble, too, from the Spirit: the salvation Jesus was bringing had a cost. A cost to many who would fall and rise. And to Mary, his mother.
Little Raya’s face didn’t hold any revelations for me. The deepest pronouncement I could come up with was, “She’s adorable.”
But looking into the face of Jesus is still the path to insight. He can be found throughout the Bible, woven into the fabric of the entire narrative.
And the Spirit is still at hand to point him out.
Father, we want to see Jesus. Reveal him to us through your word. Draw us daily into your presence and speak to us through the Spirit so that we can readily identify your Son everywhere we encounter him.
Reader – What reminds you of the infant Jesus during this Advent season?