1999-12-16 - Simeon and Anna
The Christmas Characters Series, Part 2 - Originally Published 1996-12-12
In continuing with the theme of reviewing important figures from the birth of Jesus, we will move from Jesus' parents to Anna and Simeon. These two were present at His circumcision and naming. This was eight days after His birth. His parents probably offered turtle doves as sacrifices, since they would have been considered among the poor. The setting is in the temple as Mary and Joseph walk in to meet the Priests for the ceremony for their newborn Son.
Luke 2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 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. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought the child Jesus. to carry out the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 "Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. 30 For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, 31 which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A light of revelation the gentiles and the glory of His people Israel." 33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul - to the end that many thoughts from many hearts will be revealed." 36 And there was a Prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with a husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as she was a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
These few passages are about all we know of Simeon and Anna. But they appear to be very special people as well. Anna is described as never leaving the temple grounds, and while it is not specified, I get the impression that Simeon spent a great deal if time in the temple. Anna is blessed with the title of Prophetess. Having this office conferred upon her points to the fact that women may certainly contribute to the spiritual life of the community. With Simeon, I also get a sense that he is in the temple a great deal, even though it is not specifically mentioned.
Imagine yourselves in the place of either Joseph or Mary. They have both been visited by angels to announce the coming Messiah, and Mary's role in that plan. They have waited nine months through all the trials of pregnancy, the disappointment of a hurried marriage, the taunts and disapproval of those around them, and more no doubt. I would not be surprised if the small seeds of doubt had begun to creep in to their minds. Mary would certainly have the knowledge that she had not been unfaithful to Joseph to bolster her faith. Joseph had displayed remarkable faith and trust in obeying the angel in his dream. But, just perhaps, he is not thinking back and having trouble drawing strength from his memory of the commands of Gabriel.
Their doubts and fears must have been staggered when only hours or perhaps minutes after Jesus' birth, they are visited by the Shepherds. The Shepherds come with their story of angels announcing the birth of the new King and Savior. Even Mary who must have been completely exhausted from her trip and labor, must have flushed with faith along with her young husband Joseph.
And now they enter the temple eight days later. Before they can begin their business with the priests, they meet Simeon. Keep in mind that this is before the ascension of Jesus and the distribution of the Holy Spirit at large, and Simeon is said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In verse 33 "And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. " Simeon has some mind blending things to tell Mary and Joseph. Jesus will be the Salvation not only of the Jews, but also the Gentiles as well. Simeon leaves no doubt but that Jesus will save all peoples. No wonder they were amazed! Then this kind elder statesman of Jerusalem turns to Mary with warnings about the anguish she will one day suffer as Jesus' mother. Joy and sadness mixed together seem to reflect the earthly life of her Son. Simeon has one last thing of note to mention. The man who holds the One he had waited for for so long, now asks that the Lord allow His servant to depart in peace. Simeon was an old man by this time, but he had been promised by the Lord that he would see the Christ before he was released from the shackles of this life.
Anna had been married for seven years and then widowed. After the death of her husband, she became a resident of the temple. She is credited with devotion to fastings and prayers. There are true to life prayer warriors in the church today, but they are, like Anna and Simeon, too few and far between. Simeon apparently recognized the Messiah without prompting and Anna came without call to praise God. Lives deeply in touch with the Spirit. Her great advancement in years does not hinder her from fulfilling the duties of her office. She had seen the Lord, and she continued to tell the people she knew were awaiting His arrival that their Savior was born. What a wonderful message to have to share. After the angels, Anna was the first recorded person to share the good news.
Both Anna and Simeon seem to be anomalies among the regular residents of the temple courts. There were, no doubt, members of the religious leadership that still awaited the arrival of their Messiah. We see Joseph of Aramethea and Nicodemus as examples. We also see the High Priest and his father as the driving force behind the money tables and the stalls where goods and sacrificial animals could be purchased. The dichotomy between faith and worldliness is intense. But, then as now, the Simeons and Annas are in too short of supply. Anna and Simeon had been obedient to God, and in so doing had become mileposts for Mary and Joseph. They had also been a tremendous encouragement to two young people in a tough situation. It is my hope that we will all become closer to God during this holiday season, and become more like Simeon and Anna in our faith and our ministry to others.
Lord Jesus, Simeon and Anna where placed right were they were with a purpose. That purpose was accomplished and Your name and person were glorified. Reach in to our hearts and begin the changes that we need to be as obedient and as much of an encouragement to others as Anna and Simeon. Give us courage and joy to tell those around us that we celebrate the coming of our Lord and King at this time of year especially. Make us keys to unshackle the hearts of many. Amen.
Grace & Peace,