Summary: What does the dedication of Jesus have to say to us about our New Year
If you were here early, you might have wondered at the music playing. After all, you don’t often have hymns combined with 1960’s pop music. They were chosen because of their theme. Each promotes a vision, a seeing, a looking forward to something and a hope in the coming days.
That was part of the back-story going on in this chapter of Luke’s gospel. He doesn’t mention the Magi or the slaughter of children in the area around Bethlehem. His concern is with how those who were the least likely to understand perceived Jesus’ true person. It is Mary’s aunt, shepherds, an old man and an older woman who really see Jesus. The least likely and seemingly the least important are granted the understanding of God’s gift.
Luke has done his research well. What we have in these verses are two incidents not one. Eight days after Jesus’ birth was the naming. It was then that Jesus was circumcised according to Jewish law. Verse 22 is about the visit to the temple 40 days after Mary gave birth. The naming would have taken place back in their home. The purification had to take place at the temple.
Joseph and family enter the outer court with their offering. There they are greeted by an unlooked for surprise. Ever had such a surprise? Sometimes they are called serendipity. An unsought blessing that comes while seeking something else. Julius H. Comroe, a researcher, defined it as "looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the Farmer’s Daughter."
Two people intrude on this young family. First is Simeon. The only thing we know about him is that he’s righteous and devout. The second word is only used by Luke in the New Testament. It is a Greek or Hellenistic religious word, which Luke uses in a positive sense for Jewish faithfulness. He is also on a mission. The Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that lives in those who follow Jesus, led Simeon into the temple. And it was the Holy Spirit that had told Simeon that he would see Messiah before he died.
Are we blessed with such a God driven direction in our life or do we just muddle along each day doing what seems to word? Here was a man who was living every moment for what God would show him. And as a result he is given the opportunity to see the Christ. But is message to the family wasn’t all sunshine and roses. In verses 34-35 he tells Mary that he would be rejected and that she too would feel the pain.
Second in line is Anna. She is one of those who whenever the door of the church was open she was there type. Martin Thomas, a pastor in Amarillo Texas at the time told me of an old man who never failed to be in church. He had 70 years of perfect attendance. When a horrible, storm of the century, shut down the city Martin called his elders about cancelling church. One of them said sure but reminded Martin that this old saint would probably show up. Too late to call him, Martin barely made it to the church and sure enough up came walking this old saint.
Perseverance like that is what drove Anna. Her life was the Lord and his worship. Her life revolved around the temple. Her focus was on God and the daily prayers and activities of worship. I believe that this focus is what allowed her to recognize God-with-us as this family came through the temple ground. The Christ, Messiah, the one looked for; prayed for; and longed for had come and was there—and she praised God for what had happened.
There is no way to know what was going on around them but I imagine that it’s not just these five people standing alone in the temple area. Others are going about their prayers and offerings. There would be temple police keeping an eye on the crowds. Outside the temple, in the court of the Gentiles there was the noise of a market as animals are sold and coins exchanged.
The recognition of who Jesus was and what He brought was made in the very midst of the busyness of the world. He was there for any who saw. He was there for any who listened to Simeon and Anna. But apparently no one does.
• It is possible to go through life and miss the God’s gift of hope and love.
• It is possible to celebrate Christmas and never see the reason for the holiday.
• It is even possible to be in church regularly and not see what God has done.
We can be so caught up in our things that we miss the things of God. We can be so self focused that we never look toward God except to pay lip service to his presence. We can be so in tune with the agenda of the world that we never attend to God’s will or direction.