Summary: A look at a piece of the Christmas story that is often overlooked and how it shows us how to properly respond to Jesus..
-it’s that time of year again, Christmas. There is a certain something in the air, that joy of people cramming into crowded shopping malls to buy things they don’t want for people they don’t visit. Ah, how we honor our Lord.
-but as we like to do every year, we’re going to go through the Christmas story. But today I want to focus on one part of the story. A piece that seems to be overlooked every year, it’s never in the Christmas plays, and I’m going to guess some people here have never even heard of these people, Simeon and Anna.
-but, let’s go to the beginning.
-Zechariah in the temple. I know, most people start later, let’s do the whole story. Zechariah is praying, doing his duty as a priest, when an angel tells him his wife is pregnant with a boy who will prepare the way for Jesus. Zechariah questions the angel and ends up mute, he can’t speak.
-three months later, a teenage girl named Mary who is engaged to a guy named Joseph is visited by the same angel. Except this time the angel says she is pregnant and she is going to have a Son, the Son of God named Jesus.
-she tells Joe, who probably doesn’t believe her (I don’t think I would), so he says he’s going to divorce her quietly. But an angel visits him too and tells him not to, that he will be the Son of God’s dad.
-a few months later, Mary goes to visit her cousin, a woman named Elizabeth who is married to a priest named Zechariah who hasn’t been able to talk for about six months now. When she sees Mary, her baby starts jumping inside her because he knows it’s Jesus. Elizabeth is so excited she sings a song and tells Mary how blessed she is.
-finally, after months of people doubting Mary, someone believes! She is so excited she sings a song too about Jesus and who He will be.
-after a nice visit Mary goes home and Elizabeth gives birth to a baby boy. They are going to name him, but Zechariah was told by the angel to name the boy John, so he writes it down to tell the people there, and suddenly he can speak again, which the first thing he does is praise God.
-then Zechariah is so excited, he sings a song of prophecy about Jesus and his son’s role as John the Baptist (although they don’t call him that yet).
-back in Nazareth, Mary is at home, but the Romans decided to do a census, and everyone must return to the husbands’ home town. So Mary and Joseph go back to a little tiny village called Bethlehem. Here Mary and Joseph show up just as she is going to have the baby, but because of the census there are no hotel rooms available, so Mary and Joseph go to a stable and there they have the Baby Jesus.
-this same night, there are some shepherds out and about, watching their sheep and an angel shows up, telling them the Messiah is born in Bethlehem. Then a whole host of angels (one of the very few times this happens in history) and they sing a song of praise to God about Jesus and tell the shepherds to go see the baby. The shepherds show up, see the baby Jesus, and they go throughout the town waking people up and telling them about the Messiah being born.
-up until now, you’ve probably heard a lot of this. Here’s the little piece we’re going to focus on. It’s not the wise men, they show up after this, and all the babies are killed and Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt. No, this is just after Jesus is born. Let’s read:
**Luke 2:21-40 -> 21When the Baby was eight days old, He was circumcised and was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before the Baby began to grow inside Mary. 22When the time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the law of Moses taught about being made pure, they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. 23(It is written in the law of the Lord: “Every firstborn male shall be given to the Lord.”) 24Mary and Joseph also went to offer a sacrifice, as the law of the Lord says: “You must sacrifice two doves or two young pigeons.” 25In Jerusalem lived a man named Simeon who was a good man and godly. He was waiting for the time when God would take away Israel’s sorrow, and the Holy Spirit was in him. 26Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Christ promised by the Lord. 27The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. When Mary and Joseph brought the Baby Jesus to the Temple to do what the law said they must do, 28Simeon took the Baby in his arms and thanked God: 29“Now, Lord, You can let me, Your servant, die in peace as You said. 30With my own eyes I have seen Your Salvation, 31which You prepared before all people. 32It is a Light for the non-Jewish people to see and an honor for Your people, the Israelites.” 33Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what Simeon had said about Him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, “God has chosen this Child to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God that many people will not accept 35so that the thoughts of many will be made known. And the things that will happen will make your heart sad, too.” 36There was a prophetess, Anna, from the family of Phanuel in the tribe of Asher. Anna was very old. She had once been married for seven years. 37Then her husband died, and she was a widow for eighty-four years. Anna never left the Temple but worshiped God, going without food and praying day and night. 38Standing there at that time, she thanked God and spoke about Jesus to all who were waiting for God to free Jerusalem. 39When Joseph and Mary had done everything the law of the Lord commanded, they went home to Nazareth, their own town in Galilee. 40The little Child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s goodness was upon Him. (NCV)