I have read the account of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2 over and over this Christmas season and there are two people whose waiting and response to His birth strike me as intriguing; Simeon and Anna. Their “roles” in what we call the “traditional” Christmas story emanate with anticipation and excitement and I pray we “catch” a little of that today. Perhaps we will be filled with more active waiting and exciting responses on Christmas day by taking their lead! First, a little background to show us how Jesus got to them!
Jesus was circumcised at eight days old according to the law and brought to the temple in Jerusalem after Mary’s purification was complete, when He was forty days old. It was customary for infant sons to be presented to the Lord in the temple, a means of setting them apart unto the Lord. It is ironic that Jesus came from the Father, was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and now is presented back to the Father by a priest of the Lord as though He needed to be introduced to Father. But such is the love and great plan of God – He sent His sinless Son to be sin for us, and He was willingly submitted to the law to set us free from it. Romans 8:3-4 “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
When Jesus is brought to the temple the stage is set to meet the first of our two special guests, Simeon! Luke 2: 25-26 “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. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon was “just” toward men and “devout” towards God, a good role model for sure. He was WAITING for the “Consolation” of Israel, the Messiah, the Comforter! This waiting should fascinate us because of the faith it required especially in the midst of people miserably harassed and oppressed. Simeon could have gotten weary and frustrated in his waiting for the comfort he knew would come through their Messiah, but he didn’t and he remained faithful in his waiting!
This makes me think of my own waiting during the Christmas season because I cannot say I “wait” for Him with the same expectancy as Simeon, perhaps because of all the other things I need to get done. I love the tenacity I see in Simeon’s waiting for the One He had “heard” was coming! God has shown me a simple truth: Christmas is as much about “waiting” as it is about “preparing”. Just as Simeon waited for the baby Messiah, we wait for the coming of Jesus! It is true we are no longer waiting for the Messiah to come to earth as Savior – He has come! But we wait with the same eagerness for Jesus to return and bring us home to the place He has been preparing for us in heaven. And also, we get to wait every day of our lives for Jesus to “show up”! Simeon did not “sit back” and wait but actively prepared and watched for His coming in his wait. He remained motivated and encouraged by coming to the temple and serving the Lord, keeping His heart fixed on the promise of the coming of Christ! We can have this same active expectancy today!
Simeon possessed this ability to wait expectantly because Holy Spirit was upon Him! Simeon spoke prophetically, thinking and speaking things above himself because Holy Spirit filled him. We have this same Holy Spirit upon and in us giving us the same privilege to speak prophetically, thinking and speaking things above ourselves because Holy Spirit fills and gives us the fortitude to “wait” in faith for God to move in our lives. Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 2:38 “…Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon he would not see death before he had seen Jesus. He knew that he knew that he knew. We must ask ourselves what we know because when we know by faith, we will not give up in our waiting. We will not let discouragement, frustration, or distractions keep us from seeing Jesus. We will actively wait for the promises of God without turning to the left or the right. And then, we, like Simeon will come to where Jesus is in our lives and experience that which we are waiting for!
Luke 2:27-32 “So 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, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.’” Imagine Simeon’s excitement and elation in seeing Jesus after coming by the Spirit to the temple! The same Holy Spirit who had enabled Simeon to “wait in hope” now provided the path to his ultimate joy! We don’t know how he “came” but maybe he heard a whisper “Let’s go to the temple now to see the One you have been waiting to see!” I’m thinking he dropped everything and ran! Are we so attentive to the voice of Holy Spirit that we drop everything and come to Him? If we are waiting expectantly for Him to “show up” in our lives, we too shall come by the Spirit!
When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus in, Simeon took Him up in his arms, held Him close, and blessed God! This is a “sight” we should just pause and think about! When my grandchildren are brought in, I cannot help but take them up in my arms and bless God! I hold them close and smother them with kisses. When I think of Simeon FINALLY seeing and holding Jesus, my guess is He was overjoyed and held on tight! Then I begin to gauge my own response each time Jesus walks into my life; am I waiting expectantly or taking Him for granted. The Christmas season is a perfect time to meet Him, hold Him in our arms, and bless Father God for giving Him to us, our Consolation!
But then let’s not miss the “effects” of Simeon’s waiting and response to the presentation of Jesus! Luke 2:33-35 “And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then 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 ‘(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” Joseph and Mary marveled at the things spoken of their infant son as if to strengthen their faith at the blessing of Simeon. If anyone has ever spoke blessings over your child in the name of the Lord, you know how marvelous and humbling it can be. It encourages and inspires us to believe even more in what God has done and is doing!
Before Simeon leaves this story he blesses Joseph and Mary! How often do we “forget” to bless people because we are too busy, too self-absorbed, too much in a hurry, or simply not following the prompting of Holy Spirit? It only takes a moment to bless someone. Simeon then speaks some things to Mary that probably made very little sense to her at the time but most assuredly would come back to comfort her some thirty years later when her Son began His public ministry. This prophetic word would carry her through the sorrow and piercing of her own heart as she watched her child be mocked, beaten, and crucified thirty-three years later. Simeon’s faithful waiting and excited response at the presentation of Jesus had lasting effects on Joseph and Mary and even for us today!
And what about Anna? Luke 2:36-38 “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 viginity; and 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. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Anna was an elderly woman who received revelation of Scripture from Holy Spirit and taught other women, spent her life fasting and praying, and was in full-time service and devotion to God alone. She, like Simeon, was devoted to God but in her case never left the temple, probably having sleeping quarters on-site. The words “coming in that instant” make my own heart leap with joy because I can “see” this woman who has devoted herself to waiting for Messiah, finally hearing Simeon make his proclamations in the temple and so she runs to give thanks. All her years of waiting, fasting, and praying were rewarded by “seeing” the Lord – and her response? Thanksgiving!
Again this makes me wonder about my own response to “seeing” the Lord! I am not always thankful and excited but rather I take His presence for granted. When Jesus makes Himself known to us there is only one response – Thanksgiving! If we are spending our time actively waiting we will come instantly to give Him praise, honor, and thanks.
Notice what Anna does next – she spoke of Him. Being a prophetess, people listened to her because she was trustworthy- another great role model like Simeon. If people know they can trust our testimony because of our integrity and devotion to the Lord they will listen to us. And also notice who she told about Jesus; those who “looked” for redemption in Jerusalem. To redeem means to keep a promise or fulfill a pledge along with paying a price to buy something back. Father God sent Jesus as a baby to “pay” for our sins and Anna recognized in an instant that He was the One who was REDEMPTION! Others were looking for redemption and she was there to tell them He had come! Oh, how that stirs my spirit!
Simeon and Anna – great examples of what it means to be devoted to God, wait with expectancy, listen to Holy Spirit, come when He calls, thank and bless Him, and share Him with others! They did the hard part in waiting on that first Christmas because they had not seen Him. When they saw Him they exploded in praise and thanksgiving. We have the easier “wait” at Christmas because we have seen Him! Let us explode in praise and thanksgiving this Christmas because REDEMPTION HAS COME!