Let God surprise you, too
So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God… — Luke 2:27b-28
“Of course! A baby! What other Messiah would there be?”
That’s a little joke. I’m pretty sure Simeon never said those words to the silver-haired guys who gather on Tuesday afternoons to play chess in the park. The Jewish culture, as well as that national culture at the time, never expected a 40-day old baby showing up in the temple for the purification ritual to be the King of all Kings. Heavens no. The Messiah the people expected—even longed for—would be one of military might. A barrel-chested superhero with a divine sword slashing ability to release them from Roman oppression was the one their hearts and minds were set on seeing, not some rinky-dink bundle of joy who would need a diaper change.
“The Messiah. A baby? Yeah, Simeon,” someone chuckled. “The joke is on you, old man.”
Then again, maybe Simeon, who was an old man, did say to his peers and those nearby something like, “Of course! A baby! What other Messiah would there be?”
He may have said this because this devout and righteous old timer couldn’t pass on a teaching moment. The thought of the Messiah being a baby is as radical as the notion of the King of the Jews riding on a donkey through the gates of the Jerusalem for Passover. We can find ourselves praying for our will to be done because like those in the park (or other gathering places) around Simeon, we can question the power or existence of God when the Son of Man doesn’t eradicate our pressing problems.
Think about it. Jesus never wiped out the Romans. We live under oppressions and heartbreaks, too.
“If God is so good,” I have been asked, “then why isn’t life so much better? If your God is so loving, as you and other Christians purport him to be, dear William, then why do such atrocities exist in the world?”
The question really being asked is why is there sin in the world, and why does God allow it. The short answer is we have been given free will. To answer why God isn’t a million times better than Disney World every day comes in what Jesus says about why he came to earth. He also speaks to what those on earth should do if they want to follow Him. “Whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:44-45).”
No military might rolls in this language. Instead, what emanates in these gentle words are peace, humility, and a profound call for selfless service, not self-serving agendas.
Like me, you may want a type of Disney World here on earth every day. Where does this start? With your free will. What will you do with it? If we want God on earth, be here for God on earth.
Simeon may have been surprised in seeing the Messiah as he did. May you be surprised in how God will use you with old guys in a park, on a beach where you’re needed, or in your backyard where you’re called. After all, these lyrics in a Disney song are true. “It’s a small world after all.”
PRAYER: The Holy Spirit that was upon Simeon is upon me, too. Use me, Lord. And may You surprise me with what—and how—I will serve Your creation. Amen.