First Thursday of Advent: Suspended in Mid-Air
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
My friend Christopher lost his good job a couple of winters ago.
He believed he could replace it in less than four months. His plan was confident and methodical: “Network, get referrals, tell potential employers what I have to offer.”
Those four months passed. Then another four—and another four. Nothing but dead ends.
A year into his job search, Christopher courted a company for yet another four months. It would be a dream job, a perfect fit—but he got beat out. Rejection again.
A mutual friend and I sat down with him to see how he was doing. “I know our jobs aren’t where we’re supposed to find our worth, guys, but when you go through this for this long, it really screws with your identity,” Christopher told us. “It affects how you interact with God, with your family, with your community. It’s hard coming home from another missed lead and sitting at the table with nothing to say.”
Simeon, the man who greeted Mary and Joseph as they brought Jesus into the temple for the first time, speaks to those moments when we wonder how (or if) it will all work out.
He receives his fulfilled promise, praises God, and speaks words of prophecy over the young Messiah, calling him “a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The first Advent has come, and Simeon dies in peace, but his prophecy hangs in the air.
How have the Gentiles been given light?
How is Christ Israel’s glory?
It is not until Jesus is crucified, resurrected, and ascended that we see the expansion of Simeon’s vision.
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the booming number of followers emerged as the Church. The inclusion of Gentiles as fellow light-bearers of God’s work took on world-shifting implications as the Church grew far beyond the Decapolis, to the ends of the known world. Today we confirm with the apostle Paul that “the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Colossians 1:6).
How do we know that God keeps his promises, even if it’s only about providing work or food for our families? As theologian David Willis writes, God “draws potential reality forward into actualized reality.” We see it happen in others, like Simeon, and in our own lives, and the resulting faith becomes “the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
For Christopher, it would take a full year and a half before the job offer came in.
Every day until then, he got up, got dressed, and drove to a coffee shop “to see what might happen.” He was expectant, if frustrated. The daily routine “kept me from going batty,” he said. And he recognized the power of community. “The deeper the support network, the better, and yet it didn’t take much. For me, even one person helped.”
When I asked what happened to his original plan, the self-confident plan, he didn’t turn to a trial-tested list of personal accomplishments. Instead, he confessed, “In the end, this job came unexpectedly. It was outside of my doing.”
This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.—Mark 4:26‑28
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. —Hebrews 10:23
Sam Van Eman is a resource specialist for the CCO’s Experiential Designs team, where he co-creates transformational experiences for college students, professionals, and organizations. He is the author of Disruptive Discipleship: The Power of Breaking Routine to Kickstart Your Faith and On Earth as It Is in Advertising? Moving from Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope. As a public speaker and facilitator, Sam has taught (and played) in barns and boardrooms, canyons, classrooms, and auditoriums.