This time in the calendar year always seems to evoke some sense of reflection about where one has been, where they are going and perhaps even on the question of “why?” Let’s face it, picking up a newspaper and reading the headlines these days doesn’t always leave someone with a great feeling about things. There is uncertainty in the world and people are hurting.
Yet, for those of us in the Christian tradition, we are in the time of the year we call Advent, a period of hope as we anticipate the birth of Jesus, the Christ child, who is to usher in a world of hope, peace, love and joy.
The Christian scripture doesn’t nail down the date of when all this is going to happen, just that our hope is in the certainly of its occurrence. To be honest, that’s not a lot to go on and we are a couple of thousand years in already.
I am reminded of the story of Simeon, from the Gospel/Book of Luke in the Christian scriptures. The passage is the agreed Gospel reading that is shared in services and prayer in most Christian churches on this day. Yes, we can come to agreement on some things!
Simeon was an elderly Jewish man who seemed out of shear determination, to prolong his life as he waited on the promise from God that he would see the coming Messiah before he passed. This story has stuck with me for years. In my college choir, our tradition at the end of every performance, was to sing a version of the "Nunc Dimittis," telling the story of Simeon. It was a display of our tradition and grounding, but also a looking forward, with anticipation. Rituals can provide those feelings of certainty, even in the midst of uncertainty.
It is this sense of certainty in the midst of uncertainty that I most appreciate from Simeon. While he was at an age where he was limited himself in being an agent of change in his world, he lived with a certainty that “better” was coming.
Whether one is of the Christian tradition or from other worldviews and faith traditions, we all have this same capacity. We lean on the lessons and witness of our elders who have lived through uncertain times. We can look to the hope that they have in their children and their grandchildren, that “better” is coming. That there is still work to be done, and more importantly, can be done.
Simeon, in a sense, handed off the task and the hope he had, onto the child Jesus he held in his arms. Do we not do the same with our own children and those in our community? Is it not in their fresh look at the world, their optimism that has yet to be tainted, their energy to ask the questions of WHY? Why is this a certain way and why can’t we do it differently and better?
Perhaps I am spoiled working with college students who are beginning their journeys? It is exciting and a privilege to watch!
While it could be said that the difference between the year 2018 and 2019 is merely the transition from a Monday to a Tuesday, lacking any remarkable epiphany or radical change from the one day to the next. At the same time, just as Simeon passed onto the baby Jesus, his hope in a better tomorrow, we, too, have that same opportunity.
May we each work toward the hope, the certainly of a “better” day, each day forward.
Dr. James Puglisi is campus minister for worldview and religious diversity at St. Edward’s University.