Summary: When we receive the bread and wine during Holy Communion, we are holding Christ’s very body and blood, which was nailed to the cross and poured out for our forgiveness. We have seen it with our own eyes and felt it with our own hands and on our tongues.
Have you ever heard of the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait”? If so, the story of Simeon, Anna and the baby Jesus in the temple in Lune 2:22-40 is a good example. The coming of Christ involved all manner of waiting on God. A young maiden, a dying man and an old widow all model hearts yielded to God.
The tale of Simeon and Anna is a tale of grace. Anna’s name means “grace”, an early reminder by Luke that his gospel is a story of God’s free gift of self to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna are recognized and graced by God. That is why the aged Simeon, over a long period of waiting and from the numerous children brought to the temple recognized God’s salvation in Christ.
Simeon and Anna waited for years for the coming of the Messiah. In Simeon’s case, the centre of his joy was the privilege of being God’s servant, and in return, God let him see the salvation of the world as it dawned. Simeon saw the baby Jesus as the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people throughout the years. In the Old Testament, God promised Moses that a prophet would come who would be unlike any other prophet. God promised David a son who would reign forever. God told Isaiah that a son would be born of a virgin and he would be called Emmanuel-God with us. The Prophet Micah predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Anna was an eighty-year-old widow who stayed close to the temple and served God through fasting and praying. In return, God blessed her by allowing her to see the Saviour of the world as a tiny, newborn baby. God fulfilled the promise he made to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. When God fulfilled that promise, Simeon uttered the words that are part of the funeral liturgy in the Anglican Church-the Song of Simeon, also known as the Nunc Dimittis-“O Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which hath been since the world began”.
Simeon and Anna are symbolic and representative figures. The world has never been without people like them, people with a forward look in whom there burned a great hope, people on tiptoe, the flame of freedom in their souls, the light of knowledge in their eyes, living in hope and expectation that a great day was coming when wrong would be righted, when justice would be done, when God would reveal his arm and bring salvation to mankind. One night over two thousand years ago, the Word became flesh in a baby born in Bethlehem. One day, it will become flesh again when Christ returns to set up his kingdom here on earth.
Simeon also told Mary of the suffering and death Jesus would have to endure for all of his people. Most people thought of the redemption of Jerusalem and God’s people in terms of freedom from Roman rule, but some had a vision of an even greater redemption-a vision of spiritual renewal. God’s salvation is for all of us, but not all of us will accept it, just like some people did not accept Christ and his teachings and salvation. Those who reject Christ are already condemned.
God’s salvation doesn’t mean that we will never suffer troubles, illness, rejection or death. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Mary. It will happen to us, but if we endure hardships with faith, we will have a great future. It takes faith to know a blessing from God. It is the joy of celebrating God’s goodness in the midst of our chaotic, suffering world.
As life passes us by, how do we grow old in such a way to end well and finish awaiting Christ’s message, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Since many of us will end our earthly pilgrimage alone with our spouse preceding us, how will we finish when we will be alone and old for some of those years? We are never too old, weak or sick to make a difference. Our attitude and behaviour will make a difference. Like Anna, God will guide us to share the story of Jesus with everyone we meet.
We have also been told of the coming Christ. Like Simeon and Anna, we are heirs of a promise. We are prompted by the same Spirit. We long to see the same face. To do so successfully, we must wait forwardly, patiently and vigilantly. When we look at Jesus’ face, we will know that it is time for us to repent and come home to our heavenly Father, just like Simeon knew it was time for him to go to his heavenly home when he saw the face of the baby Jesus.