Honouring Simeon and Anna
Throughout December in our morning services we have been honouring various people who formed part of the first Christmas story. Honour is one of our values. And so, we’ve honoured Isaiah who 700 years earlier prophesied that a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and that He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6 NIV). We’ve honoured Mary who fearful but obediently said yes to God (Luke 1:38). We’ve honoured Joseph who stuck by Mary even though everything seems so weird and unnatural. We’ve honoured the shepherds who spread the good news about the coming of the Messiah. And on Christmas morning, we honoured Jesus Christ, God’s Son who came as our Savior, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, and the Giver of hope.
Luke now introduces us to two people Simeon and Anna. We’ve seen many Christmas pictures of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Wise Men – altogether in a stable. It’s interesting though that we leave out Simeon and Anna for they experienced Jesus way before the Wise Men.
Today, we are honouring Simeon and Anna who encountered also encountered the baby Jesus. But just before we do, a couple of important ceremonies took place.
Luke tells us in 21, “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived” (Luke 2:21 NIV). So, just eight days after His amazing birth Jesus was circumcised. Every boy was circumcised and named on the eighth day after birth (Lev_12:3; Luk_1:59-60). Circumcision symbolized the Jews' separation from Gentiles and their unique relationship with God. In the proceeding chapter verse 59, Elizabeth and Zechariah had their son John the Baptist, who was also the cousin of Jesus, circumcised.
After the baby Jesus was circumcised, Luke then says, “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22 NIV). That time would be around 40-days after His birthday that Mary and Joseph had come to the Temple to do what the Law of Moses required – that is purification rites for the mother who had just given birth (Leviticus 12:1-8), and to present the child to God. Also interesting is that parents had to redeem their firstborn son (Exodus 13:1-12). The ceremony included buying back—"redeeming"—the child from God through an offering. This way, the parents acknowledged that the child belonged to God, who alone has the power to give life.
Even though Jesus was God's Son, Mary and Joseph carried out these ceremonies according to God's law. Jesus was not born above the law; instead, he fulfilled it perfectly.
So, in comes Joseph and Mary into the Temple with offerings of doves or pigeons which indicate to us that they were poor as there was an expectation that people offered a lamb.
What happened next was an amazing encounter between the infant Jesus and a mature aged man.
Luke tells us in verses 25 and 26, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah” (Luke 2:25-26 NIV).
Just about all Jews regard themselves as the chosen people. And as such they saw that one day, they would attain supreme world greatness. To bring in that greatness some believed that some great, celestial champion would descend on the earth; some believed that there would rise another king from David's line and that the glory days would revive; some believed that God himself would break directly into history by supernatural means.
But in contrast to all this, there were some who were known as the Quiet in the Land. They had no dreams of violence nor power nor of armies; they believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until God came. All their lives they waited quietly and patiently on God.
Simeon was like that; in prayer, in worship, in humble and faithful expectation he was waiting for the day when God would comfort his people. God had promised him through the Holy Spirit that his life would not end before he had seen God's own Anointed King (Daily Study Bible, Luke, William Barclay).
God kept His promise and so moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon went to the Temple the same day that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus.
Then Luke tells us in verse 27, “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the
custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace” (Luke 2:27-29 NIV). Notice Simeon’s actions and words: “He took Jesus”; he “praised God”; and he says to God, now I can die in peace. Why did he take Jesus? We don’t know if Simeon was Priest. Why did he praise God and why did he say that he can now die in peace? Luke tells us in verse 30 what Simeon says, “For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30 NIV). In other words, Simeon is saying “this is the One”. This is the One who will bring salvation not only to the Jews but to the Gentile – the rest of the world to as mentioned in verse 32. This is the One! Simeon knew in his heart that this infant child Jesus was the One. The Spirit had moved Him. The Spirit moved Simeon to be in praise of God and inner peace that Jesus is the One.
And today, my question to you is, do you know within your heart and mind that Jesus is the One?
John the Baptist challenged people to prepare their hearts ready for the One who was coming to save the world (Matthew 3:11). He told them to repent and be baptized. And 30-years later as John was baptizing, Jesus came to the river and when John saw Him, he said out loud to the onlookers, “This is the One!” (John 1:15 MSG).
Likewise, do you know within your heart and mind that Jesus is the One?
Simeon was a person who was opened to being moved by the Spirit of God. We are told that he was a devout and righteous person, meaning that he strived to walk in obedience with God. And because of this, He saw the One and it gave him peace and hope.
My question to you is, do you know within your heart and mind that Jesus is the One? Most here would say yes. I do. I know without a doubt that Jesus is the One True Son of God. And so, for all who share with me that Jesus is the One, then we are to follow Him as our Lord. We are not to be half hearted followers. Jesus tells us in Revelation 2 that we are to be on fire for Him!
Perhaps you are wanting to see Jesus as the One, but you have so many questions and doubts. Maybe you need to be like the man in Mark 9 who wanted to believe and so he asked Jesus, “Help me with my doubts!” (Mark 9:24 MSG). There isn’t a genuine Christian who doesn’t have some questions about God. But in faith, many
of us decided to place our faith in Jesus. Maybe you need to say, “I still have doubts and questions, but in faith I will put my trust in You, Jesus”.
And on that same morning, Luke introduced us to another person who had a special encounter with the baby Jesus.
Her name is Anna. Luke tells us in verse 36, “There was also a prophet, Anna…” (Luke 2:36 NIV). Notice this she was a prophet. A prophet had a special gift of declaring and interpreting God’s message. There were many female prophets in both the Old and New Testaments.
It seems that Anna had a tough life. Luke gives us a little bit of insight into this: “she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four” (Luke 2:36-37 NLT). Widows didn’t have an easy time in that day; often they were neglected and exploited despite the commandment of the Law (Exodus 22:21-22; Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Isaiah 1:17). Widows today still find life rather challenging which is why the church is told to look after widows.
For Anna, as tough as her life could had been, Luke tells that “she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37 NIV). What an amazing woman. Despite what was happening around her, she was a devout person of faith who fasted and prayed.
And again, Luke seems to hint what the Prophet Anna was praying and fasting about; verse 38 says, “…the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 NIV). Like Simeon, Anna was another one who was known as the “Quiet in the Land” – that is they had no dreams of violence and of power and of armies; they believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until God would break through. All their lives they waited quietly and patiently on God.
Then we read about Anna’s brief but impacting encounter with Jesus. Luke simply says in verse “She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God” (Luke 2:38 NLT). Like Simeon, Anna just knew in her heart that this baby Jesus was The One. She came up to Mary and Joseph who had the 40-day old Jesus and Anna knew and began praising God. Her excitement after all these years were noticed by others as she could help but tell others about this child being The One. The impact of this encounter with Jesus upon this elderly lady was immediate – praising God and telling others about Him. Years of waiting had
culminated into this beautiful encounter. Waiting, waiting, waiting – and then God came through. The redeemer was here.
Both Simeon and Anna were people who waited and waited on the Lord. Both were waiting on God to break through. Waiting in prayer and even fasting is what they did, and for years.
Let’s puts this into perspective. When the Jews returned from Exile and Nehemiah and the people rebuilt their Temple and reestablish their worship and way of life, the Old Testament history ended. The period between the Old and New Testaments is called the Intertestamental Period which spanned 450 years.
Israel went through another wilderness. There was little hope during the Intertestamental period. For the Jews, the last time God spoke through a prophet was over 400 years ago. Then there were 400-years of silence. No prophet, no voice, no written record.
During this Intertestamental Period the world was experiencing its own global financial crisis. The Roman world had its beautiful buildings and shining cultures but beneath all this luxury and magnificence was unrest and poverty. Two out of every third person on the streets of Rome were slaves. Lot of the writings of back then that spoke of the Golden Age was generally a reflection of the time a few hundred years earlier.
In Palestine the financial crisis was bad. There was the disastrous aftermath of the war, the extensive extravagance of Herod the Great, the burden of heavy taxes and the growing population outstripping the production of food all contributed to a world experiencing a global financial crisis. Their wilderness was long and dry.
And yet there were a group of people that waited and waited and waited – and Simeon and Anna were those who also waited only that they got to see God’s promised Son.
God’s timing is perfect. In Galatians 4:4 Paul wrote: “but when the fulness of the time came”. God’s timing is perfect. “but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son…” (Galatians 4:4 ASV).
And for Anna and Simeon, the fulfilment of time was in their time and so when the encountered the baby Jesus, they knew. God had answered their prayers.
Are you going through a dry patch where God seems to be silent to your needs? You know what its like, all your friends are posting on Facebook these exotic holiday locations, fabulous restaurants, happy family picture when your life is tough.
I look at Simeon and Anna, people who had it tough, and yet they just waited. I don’t think we do waiting very well as our culture has fashioned us to want things now. We’ve invented Instant Coffee – tastes bad but its instant! We have our restaurants that are known as “fast food” because we want our food now. You know what it’s like, we have a little huff when at the drive through and they ask us to pull into the “waiting bay”. We huff because we don’t like waiting in the waiting bay. I mean, waiting another couple of minutes. It’s a bit like the internet. How many times do we complain about slow internet service? I mean, waiting a few more seconds for that page to load – how inconvenient! What about txt messaging. We expect instant answers to our texts. We have no idea what the other person is doing but we get a bit impatient when they don’t instantly reply to our most important question. Waiting goes against our hurried expectations.
The Bible says wait. More specifically, wait on the Lord. In the Old Testament, it is more about waiting for the Lord’s providential care. Proverbs 20:22 says, “Wait on the LORD, and He will rescue you” Proverbs 20:22 (HCSB). And most New Testament references relate to Christ’s second coming – again, a time when God will break through into the world’s affairs. In all cases, it is about waiting expectantly and with hope. Fundamental to being able to wait is trusting God’s character and goodness. Waiting on the Lord is about holding on tight, hoping with expectation and trust, knowing that our Lord will break through at the fullness of His time.
To wait on the Lord is to rest in the confident assurance that, regardless of the details or difficulties we face in this life, God never leaves us without a sure defence. As Moses told the panicky Israelites trapped at the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s army, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14 NIV). Perspective comes as we focus not on the trouble but on the Lord and His Word.
When we don’t choose to wait on the Lord, we are asking for trouble. Abraham and Sarah did not wait on the Lord for their promised child; Instead, Sarah offered her maid, Hagar, to Abraham in order to have a child through her. The account in Genesis 16 and 18 shows that their impatience led to a lot of hardships. Any time we fail to wait on the Lord and take matters into our own hands—even when we’re trying to bring about something God wants—it leads to problems.
The command to wait on the Lord means that we are to be near Him as Anna and Simeon were. Keep up your prayers. Keep doing your daily readings. Keep coming to church.
* Do you need healing? Be patient and wait on the Lord.
* Are you anxious for your kids? Be compassionate and wait on the Lord.
* Concerned about our world? Don’t despair, wait on the Lord.
* Stressed about conflicts. Be trusting and wait on the Lord.
* Fearful of Satan’s influence. Be watchful and wait on the Lord.
Wait, Wait and Wait on the Lord and He will come. King David says there are three things to do as you wait:
* Wait quietly: “I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him” (Psalm 62:5 NLT);
* Wait patiently: “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7 NLT);
* Wait expectantly -- “I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised” (Psalm 105:5 LB).
Pastor Rick Warren has written that this is so important: you must expect to hear from God. Expect for him to give you a dream, an insight; this is the faith factor where you wait expectantly. Waiting on God is never a waste of time. In fact, it's some of the best time you are ever going to invest in your life.
When people patiently and expectantly wait on God in the midst of horrible circumstances, God breaks through. Today, we honour Simeon and Anna – two godly people who waited and, in their lifetime, God broke through.
So, don't give up! Don’t stop believing! Stay full of hope and expectation. God's power is limitless, and He'll breakthrough for you.