Seasons of Expectations
“I don’t want to know how I haven’t met expectations. I want to know how I haven’t kept my word.” I said that to a very dear friend when we were in the middle of a difficult conversation.
There are some expectations we have that come from within us and we place them on people who have made no such promises. These are dangerous. They leave us frustrated and they leave the relationship in need of repair. What matters are the agreements that we speak and make with each other. As disappointing as unmet internal expectations can be, it can be heartbreaking when promises are not kept.
That’s what I image St. Simeon was feeling.
Advent is a season of expectations. We know that. But the Christmas season is also a season of expectations. That’s why it concludes with Candlemas on February 2, forty days after the Feast of the Nativity. Candlemas is the feast where the Church recognizes the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the central figure in the story is Simeon.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
I have been fascinated with Simeon since a question occurred to me. How old was Simeon when God made that promise to him? Was he a young student of the Torah? Was he 18? 16? 14? God spoke a promise to Simeon, and I can’t imagine the feeling of expectation that he had. Israel had been waiting and waiting for the Messiah for generations and generations and God made a promise to Simeon that he would see the Messiah!
I imagine that since that promise was made, he woke up every day and said, “Is it today, Lord?” If that promise was made to him in his teens, what happened to his expectation as he matured? Did Simeon begin to doubt as he went into his 20s, 30s, and 40s? Did he ask if it was really the Lord that he heard? Did he doubt God’s presence or even God’s existence with each passing day, year, decade? Did he wake up on the morning that Mary and Joseph were to bring their child to the temple and say to God, “This is it. I’m an old man and my body has nothing left to give”?
Bethlehem is a long walk to Jerusalem, especially with an eight-day old baby. Was the Holy Family delayed in getting started? They were poor and could only afford two pigeons as an offering of sacrifice. Were the dove vendors hard to find? Did the day’s events bring them to the temple in the nick of time, the time when Simeon was leaving on this last day in the temple? Perhaps Simeon took his cloak and his walking staff and began to make his way home to retire, forever. Then he saw them. God fulfilled his promise. The expectation was met.
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
Advent and Christmas are about expectations that God keeps His word. He did to Simeon. He does to us. God is never early. Rarely on time, but never too late. He comes. He comes to rescue. He comes to save according to His Word. Moving from Christmas to ordinary time, we now move toward our own future with the Lord where we wait for the promises He made to us to be fulfilled because He keeps His word.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Vice President, EQSaints