Summary: Simeon and Anna are people who call us to live lives focussed upon God from beginning to end.
By Rev Bill Stewart
Who are your role models in the Christian faith? Just before Christmas I received this card from old friends. I have known Kevin and Audrey for almost twenty years now. They were a great support and encouragement to me when I was at theological college and have continued to be even though their health has failed in recent years. The card tells me that they are now 81 and 85 years old and there is a picture inside of them celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary earlier this year. But nevertheless they remain active in their church in Sydney. Although they are one of only three couples over 60 in their congregation they delight in meeting together with "the young ones" as they call them. And they still regularly attend their weekly Bible study and, to quote from their Christmas card, "the challenge is to apply it to life". I am not sure I am the best person here to give today’s sermon. After all I have only been serving God for half a lifetime. My friends Kevin and Audrey are much better equipped to give this sermon. And there are people here in this congregation who have been serving God much longer than I have. It is regrettable, I believe, that Simeon and Anna do not usually receive much attention among most Christians. But today the Bible reading speaks to us of two people – one man and one woman – who were able to see God’s saving work in the world. They had waited all their lives but they were still ready to see Jesus when he came.
Before we continue can I ask to you to make sure you are able to see a Bible as we go through today’s reading. Please look at the references from Luke’s Gospel as we go and later we will turn briefly to the text of our first reading from Isaiah, chapter 52. This morning I just want to look at how Simeon and Anna are described in the Bible and then to ask the question: Are we ready to see what they saw?
SIMEON AND ANNA
Luke begins by telling us that, "There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout" (v. 25). Simeon is described as "righteous" and "devout" – both words used for people who faithfully kept the commandments of God (for example, read Acts 8:2 and 22:12). And it is also said that " the Holy Spirit rested upon him" (v. 26). In fact, Luke mentions the Holy Spirit three times in verses 25-27: "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit..." in v. 26 and we are told that Simeon was "Guided by the Holy Spirit" in v. 27.
Then Luke tells us that, "There was also a prophet, Anna… She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day" (vv. 36-37). Anna was worthy of special mention for many reasons. One of them is that she was one of a small number of women prophets recorded in the Bible. We are also told that she was "a great age". 84 years was a very great age in the ancient world without our modern health care. But what’s the point of this information? Isn’t it that that age is no barrier to serving God? It is no barrier to seeing God at work in the world and being a part of it!
It is also worth noting that in the books of Acts, his sequel to this Gospel, Luke describes the life of the early Christian communities in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42, 46) and later in Antioch in Syria (Acts 13:2) in very similar terms to his description of Anna, who never leaves the temple courts and who worships God day and night in prayer and fasting (Raymond E. Brown). Let’s compare Anna’s life with the first description of the life of the early church in Acts 2:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God…" (Acts 2:42, 46)
Luke tells us that both Simeon and Anna were not just people who kept God’s commandments. Luke says of Simeon that "this man … was looking forward to the consolation of Israel" (v. 25). And he tells us that when Anna saw Jesus "She began to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (v. 38). Both Anna and Simeon were people who were actively looking for the fulfilment of God’s saving work in the world.
KNOWING THE BIBLE