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22 When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord….
25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,
29 “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30 because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.”
33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. 37 She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Simeon was “led by the Spirit” to the Temple area. Luke said God had promised Simeon that he would see God’s Christ (i.e., “anointed one”). For Simeon, this was a “dream come true.” Yet his blessing to Mary (verse 34-35) was also somber. “Mary’s blessing…. brought hardship, confusion, and grief but it was still a blessing.” * Anna, another elderly saint “who never left the Temple area,” “approached at that very moment and began to praise God.”
Lord Jesus, thank you for coming into the darkness of our world as light and glory for me and the whole world. Empower me to use my gifts to share your light, pushing back darkness wherever I can. Amen.
In our reading today we see Mary and Joseph have traveled from nearby Bethlehem to the temple in Jerusalem for Jesus’ circumcision, naming, and temple presentation. And while this was all pretty standard for their day and age, we find two interesting interactions in this passage.
Mary, Joseph and Jesus are in the Temple where priests, elders and even the high priest would have been. And yet who recognizes the Christ but two elderly people, Simeon and Anna. I am sure many people had written them off… “Oh, that’s just old Simeon…there is that widow, Anna…what could they know?” But they did know!
The first interaction we see is through Simeon, a man who was led by the Holy Spirit and trusted that “he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (vs 26). We even see Simeon’s response and praise to meeting the Christ child as found in Luke 2:29-35. However, I love the way it is retold through the lyrics of Simeon’s Song, by Ordinary Time…
Now You can dismiss Your servant in peace,
As You have promised, so You have done.
This child will make a child of me,
Just before night my morning has come!
Some will say that the Lord need not come,
Holding their torches to light their own way.
But I am old, hopes have faded away
Save this one hope in my arms today.
My eyes have seen Your salvation,
You are the Lord, Your lips do not lie.
Promised to Adam, promised to me,
My eyes have seen. Now I can die. *
The second interaction comes through Anna who we hear called a prophet, daughter of Phanuel and from the tribe of Asher. The fact that she is named at all is amazing, and then we learn of her steadfast faith. She had the expectation of hope even after 84-years of praying and waiting. She still had eyes to see and to welcome the Christ.
Through both interactions, these strangers to Mary and Joseph not only recognize the Christ, but through their words and actions they help to encourage Mary and Joseph on the path that is before them. It won’t be easy. It won’t be without trial. But they will have strength from God for the days to come.
May we have our eyes open to encourage others and to receive encouragement along the way. And as we look to a New Year, may we have the expectation of hope to persevere even through the long days, months, and years to come.
* You can listen to “Simeon’s Song” by clicking here.
* Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, sidebar “Blessing” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016, p. 1288.