Simeon did not carry a title like prophet or priest, and you don’t have to assume he was an old man just because of the story told about him: “He would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Death knows no age boundaries. Little babies die, drunk drivers annihilate families, young widowers grieve.

But let’s leave standing the tradition that Simeon was pushing his age limit. A few days after Jesus’ birth, mom and dad brought their baby into the temple (in Jerusalem) to be circumcised, and Simeon happened to be in the same place at the same time. After the circumcision, Simeon picked up Jesus and held him while he prayed a famous prayer known as the “Nunc Dimittis.” It basically goes like this: “You can go ahead and let me die, God, because I have seen everything I need to see” (Luke 2:29-30).

Simeon did not “shuffle off this mortall coile” immediately after that experience, Luke goes on to say, because he laid some rather curious and sober predictions on Mary and Joseph about difficult days ahead. But here is a sad truth. Those with nothing more to learn, no one left to love, nothing left to experience really do begin to die inside. An old lay leader told us once about a widower who died one year to the day that his beloved wife died. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

After years of international fame as a cellist, an elderly Pablo Casals emerged from a practice session and said, “I think I’m getting better.” A master still learning, growing, changing. And at the edge of a new year, there stands Simeon, his arms filled with new life. You could do a whole lot worse than pray for God to do something of the same thing for you. “No mere man has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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