For Simeon, Christmas meant death (Luke 2:27-32).
Simeon was told that he would not “see” death before he “saw” the Messiah, and when he “saw” the Messiah he was also “seeing” the end of his own life.
The aged Simeon cups in his arms an infant boy — old and young testifying to the work of God’s redemption.
Simeon’s life was shaped for his death; he lived for the Messiah (before the Messiah had life on earth); the Messiah’s life meant his death; the Messiah’s death meant new life for Simeon. This Chestertonian play with words is more than play with words.
Simeon’s song is laced together by allusions to Isaiah. Here is an old man who has drunk deeply from the prophet Isaiah, and his own song radiates the hope of salvation from that prophet.
40:5: Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
42:6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations
46:13 I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off,
and my salvation will not tarry;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.
49:6 he says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
52:10 The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
It saddens me to think that this old man lived for this event, the arrival of Messiah, but was told (like Moses perhaps) that he’d not get to enjoy the Messianic Age. We don’t know why, but maybe just because he was too old — by the time Jesus would be old enough Simeon’s age would exclude him.
Ironically, the death of Simeon is what he lived for.