Peripheral people fascinate me. Those who stand just on the edge of moment – who play a small part in wonder – who witness or ask or point. And because they show up, we see and know in new ways. Peripheral people are not the center; they are supporting, sometimes minor, characters. They help us with transitions, with gaps, with course corrections, with just enough light at just the right moment. And then, duty done, they are gone.
Maybe its because I am increasingly partial to old people who still show up for work – but among my favorite peripheral people are Simeon and Anna. They appear in a few scant verses in Luke’s introduction to the story of Jesus. Then, part played, they are gone, their whole life focused into one single moment, one flash of revelatory lightning.
He shuffled towards them, an old man all but dancing with excitement, sandals softly slapping the ancient temple stone floor, rheumy eyes, black as charcoal but alive with the fire burning inside, riveted on the boy. Decades of waiting might have dulled the vision of other watchers, but not his. His was sharpened by hope, by expectancy. Every day since hearing the voice closer to him than his own breath whisper promise of life until Life, he had been alert to wonder. And this day, drawn to temple by that same voice, he finds himself watching as wonder is carried towards him – a six week old baby boy.
Eyes sharpened by the Spirit, he sees past their disqualifying poverty, and rejoices in promise kept, in duty done, in journey now ended with one prophetic rush of celebration… and warning. Promise comes – but with pain.
Then comes Anna, her voice no less important for its brevity, no less needed for its gender. Every day and, often, as night turned to day, she was found here. Single hearted, focused hope; 84 years of looking forward collapse into this one moment of looking present. Here… now… Hope. 6 weeks old.
This is the One. Their duet soars through the ages. Hope has been born! We have seen Him.
Amazing to think what might happen one day when you show up, day after day, and mind your own business. And Who might be missed if you don’t.