One of my favorite radio personalities was a man named Paul Harvey. He was from Chicago, and he had a 15-minute daily segment that was syndicated all over the country. He was a master story teller, and a part of his monologue always included back story to someone who would have been a well-known historical figure. It was always intriguing because he told obscure, but significant parts of their story. It helped the rest of their life story make sense, and he always ended by saying, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
If you ever heard him, his voice and the unique way he would weave his monologue were unforgettable. His use of the phrase, “the rest of the story,” has stuck with me over the last 24 hours. I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday, and we were reflecting on Luke’s narrative. While we were talking, it dawned on me that I left out a couple of the characters that were included in Luke — one in particular, whose name was Simeon. I don’t think this story is complete without him.
Simeon, like Zechariah, was a priest, serving in the temple. He, like Zechariah, was an aging man, but a man who had received a promise. Luke tells us that God had made him a promise that would not die without seeing the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the Messiah. He worked in the temple, and happened to be there when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in for his dedication. Luke says that Simeon felt compelled to enter the temple while Mary and Joseph were there. Coincidence? Doubt it. Chance meeting? More like the fulfillment of a promise made. As the narrative says, the reason he went in at that exact moment was because he was “compelled by the spirit.”
That’s just the way God is, and I think completes the way Luke tells the Christmas story. First, we are assured that God hears us. Second, Luke wants us to know that he finds favor with us. He then, by including the shepherds, makes sure that we all know, regardless of who we are, that Jesus came for everyone. And now, through this little “chance” meeting with Simeon and these young parents, a promise made was now kept.
Luke wants us to know in the midst of everything else he is saying, that our God is one who can be trusted. Again we are reminded that in the story, God never forgets the person. In the middle of this story of the arrival of the Messiah, we get this amazing news. He came to an old man, a young teenager, a group of stinking shepherds, and now a priest. So we can be assured that he hears us, likes us, included us, and can be trusted. They mattered, and so do we. Like Paul Harvey would say, “And now we know the rest of the story.”
Text for the week: Luke 2:22-35