Summary: In the story of Jesus being presented in the Temple we see the faithfulness of Anna and Simeon.
Jesus Presented in the Temple
22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
Simeon Sees God’s Salvation
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
29"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel."
33And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Christmas is probably the most exciting season in the year. Both children and adults anxiously await the arrival of Christmas. I think, however, it is the children who have the most difficulty waiting for it. For many children Christmas is about opening presents and eating candy.
For many adults, it is about holiday bonuses, rushing to the mall, time with family, and Christmas decorations. In the glitter and sparkle of how Christmas is presented in our culture today it is quite easy for the true meaning of Christmas to be lost. What is the real meaning of Christmas and what are the origins of Christmas?
Was Jesus really born on December 25th? Did you know that Christmas was not even celebrated by early Christians and did not even become a Christian holiday until the fourth century when Constantine became the Roman emperor. Prior to the celebration of Christmas, December 25th in the Roman world was a pagan holiday known as Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.
This feast, occurring after winter solstice, honored the Persian sun god, Mithras, widely worshipped throughout the empire. Another pagan celebration coincided with the Mithraic holiday, a feast honoring Saturnalia, the god of sowing and husbandry.
Celebrants exchanged gifts, feasted, drank, and fully gave themselves to debauchery. The priests of Saturn during the festival would honor their deity by carrying wreaths of evergreen boughs in their temples.
Since this feast was so popular in the empire, Constantine chose to reupholster it in Christian trappings to make Christianity more palatable to his subjects.
Even when Christmas was first introduced as a holiday it seems that most celebrants observed it for cultural reasons. Such even seems to be the case today. However in the story of Simeon and Anna we read that they celebrated their “Christmas” for the right reasons.
We see from the passage that Simeon was seeking the consolation of Israel. The word used here is the Greek word paraklesis, which means comfort, consolation, and exhortation. This is similar to the same word that Jesus used when He described the Holy Spirit as being the comforter.
Why was Simeon praying for the consolation of Israel? Israel was under the Roman boot. The Jewish people either lived under the harsh rule of King Herod who was as despotic as Saddam Hussein. Israel had lost her independence and the people were desperately crying out for a deliverer.
There are three qualities that Anna and Simeon have in their “Christmas” experience.