Encounters

Luke 2.22-40

Over the years I have met a few famous people, though I think I’ve met more working behind a bar, than I have done in the church. I remember the naturalist David Bellamy, ('peering through the undergrowth' ) while at the New Inn at Horning, and the wrestler Mick McManus with his cauliflower ears, who was a very nice person and nothing like his nasty persona in the ring. And when I worked in Greenwich we had the musician and presenter Jools Holland come into the Star and Garter, he asked to play the piano and bought me a drink as a tip.

Seeing someone famous, can produce odd reactions. Though we might try to pretend they are just ordinary people who should be left alone to go about their business, we might also want to go up to them ask for an autograph and utter something banal and ridiculous, so we can say afterwards, 'I’ve met so and so…..'  

The person whom Simeon recognizes  is not someone he knows. He recognizes someone he has waited a long while to see, but he is just that person in embryo, a 40 day old version of the promised saviour. Simeon’s recognition is truly remarkable because all babies look the same, they look like Winston Churchill, but there is something about this baby that makes him stand out as special. How many first-born children had Simeon seen presented in the temple in his long life? What did Simeon see in the baby Jesus?

This encounter might easily never have happened. Unlike Anna who never left the temple, Simeon was not at the temple, but was moved by the Spirit to go there. So he was there when Joseph and Mary arrived to dedicate their first-born child  to God. Was this pure chance, was this coincidence, or was this one of those spirit-prompted encounters that put him in the right place at the right time?

Some people call it fate that they were destined to meet. I suspect there are some couples who might never have met, if one had been just five minutes late that day. There is another spirit-filled dimension to our lives, which we may be tuned into or we may not. This grace-filled way of looking at life requires us to look beyond the immediate pressing priorities  that crowd in around us and blinker our vision. It requires a recognition of the presence of God in everything, it requires a prayerfulness that makes us open to encounters. It requires an open disposition towards the people around us that we might receive a blessing through them and grace from the creator.

Grace-filled encounters can happen to us if we are disposed to receive them. Words and gestures that acclaim worth and repair self-esteem can transform a day or even a whole life.

The encounter of Simeon with the baby Christ, was the culmination of his life. He could die a happy man, he had seen the one who would bring light to the world. He had trusted that he would see him, and God had kept his promise.

The gospels are a series of encounters with Jesus, right from the beginning: with the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna, with the deaf, the blind, and the lepers, with Romans, Samaritans and Greeks, with fishermen, tax-collectors, soldiers and thieves. The gospels are a long sequence of memorable meetings, lives are changed. The inner thoughts of many are exposed. This series of encounters led up to his death, when he would be lifted up from the earth and would draw all people to himself as the greatest encounters of all followed, with the risen Jesus. But the encounters have not finished, they go on. Jesus lies waiting to be discovered, in the pages of the gospel, waiting to be recognized in the breaking of bread. He wants us to see him in the least of our fellow human beings. He promises to be with us til the end of time. May our eyes  be opened to see the salvation which sets us free.