By Mike Glenn
And Now, I’m Simeon
One of the interesting realities of acting is there are certain roles an actor can play only when they are old enough. Roles like King Lear and Macbeth have to be played by actors who have lines in their faces that aren’t drawn on with a make-up pencil.
Age is only part of it. The actor has to have lived a certain amount of life before the depth of the character can be truly understood and then presented on stage. If you’ve ever attended a college production of a classic play, you’ll remember you may have seen some pretty good players, but there was something missing. It won’t be that they forgot their lines. No, these young actors will say everything well.
It will be the silences that give them away. People who have born the weight of the world, have endured the great battles, have a certain way of holding themselves that you just can’t fake. There’s a weariness of life, a frustration with words, a realization that dreams don’t always come true that you hear best when the actor isn’t speaking at all.
One of the best scenes illustrating this is Tom Hanks when he plays Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13”. In the movie, the wounded Apollo capsule has to loop around the moon to begin its return journey back to earth. In the scene where the capsule passes by the moon, we see Lovell’s face in the capsule window and the reflection of the moon passes across his face. In those few moments, we see Lovell losing his dream. He can see the moon, close enough to almost touch it and yet, in this moment, he knows he’ll never get there.
An actor can’ t fake that. You either have it or you don’t.
I was thinking about this as I was rereading the story of Christmas and all of the characters we’re introduced to in these four chapters of Matthew and Luke. There’s Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah, the shepherds and the wise men, the inn keeper (although he or she is never mentioned in the story) and for most of them, it’s the only time we hear about them. There’s Herod and Caesar and scribes, and of course, there’s Anna and Simeon.
There are a lot of people in the stories of Jesus, and we know these characters almost by heart. When we read the stories, we try to put ourselves in the shoes of these people and wonder what we would have done if we had been there.
Would you have believed the angel’s story if you were Mary? That you would become pregnant without ever having sex with a man? And the child would be the Son of God? Really?
Would you have believed Mary’s story if you were Joseph?
Would you have followed a star across the miles hoping to see the child whose birth was announced in the heavens? Would you have given the expensive gifts the Magi gave to the Child?If you were the shepherds, would you have believed the angels? Why would God waste His time telling people like shepherds about this time warping event? Shouldn’t somebody more important be told about this?
Why would Herod hate this child so? What threat was this baby to Herod? Would I have been driven to try and kill this baby?
Maybe you’re like me. You read the stories of Jesus and you put yourself into the story. Somedays, we’re Peter. We really love Jesus, but we’re thick headed about it sometimes.
Sometimes I’m David writing beautiful poetry about how much I love the Father, and other times, I’m David stalking Bathsheba. I’m Solomon begging for wisdom and Solomon trapped in the swamp of leadership and administration.
I’m Elijah calling down fire and Elijah begging God to kill me because my enemies have threatened my life.
I’ve been Joseph trying to make sense of the miracle of Christmas.
I’ve been everybody. Well, almost everybody. Like I said, there are some roles you can only play when you’re older.
But this year, something’s changed. This year I’m older… much older. This past November, I turned 63. People are asking me what I’m going to do when I retire. Retire? I never said anything about retirement…
I have to go to the doctor more. Nothing is wrong, I’m told. This is all routine for people who “get to my age.”
And I realize I have more days behind me than I have in front of me. I’m not going to be able to do everything I wanted to do. I’m not going to have time. I only have time for a few precious things that matter – really matter. Everything else will be jettisoned or abandoned. Not all of my dreams are going to come true.
And this brings me to Simeon. For Simeon, everything in his life had been abandoned or jettisoned. For Simeon, only one thing mattered. He wanted to see the promise of God come true. He wanted to see the Messiah. He prayed so intensely about this; God granted him the moment to see Jesus before he died.
Simeon did. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, Simeon was waiting. After seeing Jesus, Simeon praised God and said he could now die in peace.
Why? Because the one thing that mattered to Simeon had happened. He had seen proof God wasn’t going to give up. God would complete His redemptive work. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of Hope becoming Reality.
That’s me. This year, I’m Simeon. Every day, some expert is telling me the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But I don’t believe that. I don’t believe God has given up. I believe Christ is coming.
And like Simeon, I’m waiting.