Following the custom of the law, obedient Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to present him to the Priest (see Leviticus 12:8 with Exodus 13:2,13). My favorite Ron DiCianni painting, "Simeon's Moment," portrays what happened during their temple visit beautifully.
(To see the painting go to:http://www.christcenteredmall.com/stores/art/dicianni/simeons-moment.htm)
According to Luke 2:25-35 the story goes like this:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
For me, this is the absolute best part of the Christmas story. Ron Di Cianni must agree with me. About his painting he wrote:"Imagine that moment! It has to rank at the top of any Christian's list of dreams —to hold the very Son of God in your arms with the understanding of His purpose for coming. This is what Simeon had been promised, and here He is. It was the final exclamation point to fulfill his heart's desire."Because of what his eyes saw and his hands felt, Simeon was content, ready to leave and go be with his God. We can only guess (I like to do that at times) what must have raced through Simeon's mind at that moment. He didn't have long to hold him, but long enough to realize that Messiah had come."In this painting I tried to let Simeon's face tell the story. Ecstasy. I have a feeling Simeon clutched that baby like no other. He knew that he held the 'light' of the world, which I symbolized by the star emanating from the Baby. Intertwined through them both, I put a map of the world with its obvious symbolism that Christ came to impact the whole world, and not just the Jews, as most of the people would have concluded. Those lands, like North and South America, as well as others, were not even known to Simeon's world, but God knew all along that you and I would need a Saviour. Simeon's tear was put in to reflect deep joy. But the more I contemplated it, the more I realized it could symbolize that Simeon also might have known that this Baby was born to be crucified. That was why He came."
We can rejoice with Simeon! Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we can clearly see God's salvation, just like Simeon did. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Picture of Woven Christmas Hearts by NotYetTheDodo, courtesy of Flickr.com