Summary: Simeon and Anna see the Messiah—a fulfillment of God’s promise to them. They are now able to depart in peace.
Luke 2:21-38. "Fulfillment of a Promise"
During the Advent and Christmas Seasons, we have had many messengers and models to encourage and direct us on our walk of faith. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel spoke to us in the Hebrew Scriptures. We have also heard from two angels, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. Today we see Mary and Joseph again, for a couple of verses and then meet two aged sages, Simeon and Anna.
By their examples, these four Biblical characters proclaim the gospel message and share with a us simple but profound lesson on nurturing our faith and our relationship with God.
The location of the first scene in the story of Jesus' birth was a stable. The second scene is located in the temple. In verse 21, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in order to have him circumcised. Later (in verse 22 ff) they bring Jesus to the temple to be redeemed. The redemption was an offering given because Jesus was Mary and Joseph's first born son, who was automatically dedicated to the Lord. The couple also came to the temple to offer a sacrifice for Mary's purification. This was an offering that was required thirty days after the birth of a child.
In one sense these are rather mundane scenes. There are no angels nor stars, at this time. Yet, these few verses do allow us to glimpse at the depth of Mary and Joseph's faith. They were deeply involved in the religious life and rituals of their Jewish faith. They brought Jesus up in the context of the temple and synagogues. Worship, sacrifice, prayer, study, discussion and fellowship were all a part of Jesus' life. These factors shaped him and molded Jesus' relationship with God.
We could presume that the religious practices of Mary and Joseph really didn't matter. Jesus would have been God's Son and the Messiah without their influence. Still, I believe that it was important for Jesus to be raised in a family of faith. These verses underscore how important our congregation and the fellowship of believers is for raising our children in the faith and for our own personal journeys of faith.
SIMEON AND ANNA
We first meet Simeon, who is described as a man who was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel. Later we meet Anna who is a prophet of great age who never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.
Today we place a great deal of importance in living out our faith. It isn't enough to believe in a certain set of religious principles and theological doctrines. We need to follow Jesus' command to "Love one another, as he loved us." We need to serve.
Simeon and Anna deliver a different, but important, message to us. Simeon was devout and righteous. His righteousness addressed his relationship with God and with the people around him. Simeon was in a right relationship with them. He was also devout. This means that he was active in worship and sacrifice, prayer and study. The hallmarks of Anna's life were also described as worship, prayer and fasting. The practice of using the Spiritual Disciplines were a part of the lives of these two people and are portrayed as notable and important.
At the beginning of this New Year, it might be advantageous for us to stop and review how we nurture our faith. In what ways do we open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Briefly reading a daily devotional and pausing for prayer can be life transforming. Participating in a small group and discussing the Scripture and our faith can lead us in to a deeper understanding of God's grace and of what it means to be a Christian. How do we want to grow in 2017 and how are we going to do it?
Both Simeon and Anna had been waiting for the arrival of the Messiah for a very long time. They understood that waiting was a part of the life of faith.
We struggle with the concept of waiting. We have been described as "People of the instant now." When we want something, we get it. We are more likely to charge something than we are to save for it. This lifestyle doesn't work in a life of faith.
Waiting doesn't mean that we sit back and twiddle our thumbs. As parents of faith, we pray and actively wait for our children to grow up to be people of faith who generously share God's love and grace. While we wait for God's kingdom, we use our talents and abilities to serve others and meet their needs. We wait with expectation by participating in fellowship opportunities and small groups where we can encourage each other in our faith. During the time we wait to sell our land and begin the next chapter of our life as a congregation of mission and ministry, we worship, pray, fellowship and serve.