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Simeon, Anna, 2019

Simeon, Anna, and a New Year

Advent Message #6 - 2018

What a beautiful season we are in. 

Yes, Christmas Day is over, but the season continues because the joy of Jesus coming to be with us - a coming that includes His ministry, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection - is to last long after Christmas Day. The challenge is that it last every day of every year.

I trust last Christmas was a good day for each of us. I trust each of us had some time, among the gifts and food, to remember Jesus is the reason for the celebrating. Now, today and next Sunday, we are going to consider some important things that happened shortly after the birth of Jesus. For today, two people who had the privilege of meeting Jesus a few weeks after His birth. Simeon and Anna.

We pick up the report in Luke 2. The report begins with information about when Simeon and Anna met Jesus took place. In verse 22 of Luke 2 we are told it happened when Mary and Joseph and Jesus were in Jerusalem for Mary’s purification ceremony.

Before that, when Jesus was eight days old, He was, as was the custom, named. As told to Mary and Joseph several months earlier, He was named Jesus.

Then a few weeks later - four-and-a-half weeks after Jesus was circumcized and named - when He was 4o days old - it was time for Mary to be purified. According to Jewish law, a woman was considered unclean for 4o days following the birth of a son. It was 80 days when the baby was a girl, but for Mary, 40 days after giving birth to Jesus, the time of uncleanness was over. On that day, she and Joseph, with Jesus, went to Jerusalem, six miles away. They went for Mary’s purification, which included an offering and sacrifices of a lamb and a bird, or two birds if poverty was an issue.

The purification ceremony was Jewish tradition. A tradition mandated by religious law, which is why Mary and Joseph and Jesus were in Jerusalem at the Temple at the time recorded in Luke 2, beginning with verse 22.

At the very time Mary and Joseph and Jesus were there, so, too, was a man named Simeon.

I find it interesting there is nothing written about Simeon having any kind of position at the Temple, meaning there was nothing that required him to be there that day. It just happened that he was there when Mary and Joseph and Jesus were there.

Of course, it did not just happen. God worked it out that they would all be there at the same time, and close enough together for them to meet. I think that was how God rewarded Simeon for his faithfulness, described in verse 25. Simeon was “righteous.” That word means he treated both God and others rightly. His constant desire was to please God and be at peace with others. Simeon was “devout.” That word means he was dedicated to studying God’s word, learning God’s word, and obeying God’s word. Both his righteousness and devoutness were displayed in his “looking for” - hoping for and trusting it would come - “the consolation of Israel.” He was looking for comfort for the people of God. Comfort that was to come in the form of a Savior.

The other description of Simeon is that “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” It was through the Holy Spirit that Simeon had a special revelation. The revelation that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ - the Savior for whom he was constantly looking.

The day Mary and Joseph and Jesus entered the Temple for the purification ceremony, before they arrived, the Holy Spirit inspired Simeon to be in the Temple. I assume Simeon often went to the Temple, but there was no doubt an urgency in Simeon to go that day.

Fortunately for him, Simeon answered the inspiration. He did go to the Temple. When he was there, Mary and Joseph and Jesus did indeed enter that place of worship and prayer. As soon as they entered, Simeon became filled with joy. A joy that drew him right to Jesus.

Simeon took Jesus from Mary and Joseph. He put Jesus in his arms and blessed who? Not Mary and Joseph yet, but God, saying, “Lord, now let me, Your servant, depart in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have now seen Your salvation.” Remember the Holy Spirit had told Simeon he would not die until he saw the Savior. Simeon was, as he held Jesus, seeing the Savior. He knew the prediction of the Spirit was complete.

“Lord,” Simeon said, “my eyes have now seen Your salvation, which You have prepared” - listen - “in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.”

What an important thing those words announced. Simeon, like all Jews, knew they were the chosen people of God. They usually considered themselves superior to all other people of the world. But Simeon knew - it was revealed to him - that the baby he held - that the Savior he held - was not just for God’s chosen people. Chosen at that time. Jesus had come for all people everywhere for all time. What an important statement that was. A prophetic statement of the reach of Jesus’ salvation.

Joseph and Mary marveled at what was said about Jesus. They marveled that what Simeon said is exactly what angels had told them about Jesus. That He was destined to be the Savior of the world.

That must have made them very happy, but then Simeon had more to say. Things that were not so happy and positive.

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph. He then said to Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel.”

The rising of many was a positive phrase. It was a prediction that all who would listen to and respond to Jesus would be raised spiritually. Raised into God’s presence.

But fall? That was a prediction many would reject Jesus, which would cause their spiritual destruction. That is serious in and of itself, but we know how people who reject Jesus act, do we not? They act with anger and threats, which Jesus would  eventually face.

Behold, this child Jesus was set for the rising, but also the fall of many in Israel, and “for a sign that is spoken against.” That was another prediction Jesus would be badly treated by some.

And this. It would be clear who would accept and who would reject Jesus. Simeon added that Jesus would bring out what anyone and everyone thought. He said, “The thoughts out of many hearts” would be revealed.

Simeon concluded with a troubling prediction for Mary. “And a sword will pierce through your own soul.” That is how much she would suffer when Jesus, as an adult, would be rejected and mistreated, all the way to death on a cross., Mary would see it all. It would hurt her. Though her hurt would not be physical, she would have severe emotional pain.

What somber words Simeon spoke. Life would not always be pleasant for Jesus. Of course there were times when He had huge crowds following Him, but other times almost everyone left Him and otherwise rejected or mistreated Him.

But here is a critical point. Whether He was accepted or rejected during His ministry, Jesus stayed true to His Father’s will. He did what God had for Him to do, no matter what. 

Which is what we, His followers, are to do. We are to do God’s will, which includes accepting Jesus as Savior and then worshiping Him and obeying Him, no matter what happens to us. That is a challenge stated very convincingly in chapter 3 of the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk. 

Listen to the problems listed in verse 17. Fig trees not blossoming, which would result in a food shortage. No fruit on vines, which would result in a food and wine shortage. Crops of olives failing. That would have implications all the way from a food shortage to a lack of what was needed for cooking. In addition, olive oil was used for anointing the sick and injured. A lack of olives would also have medical repercussions. Fields not yielding food. Flocks and herds disappearing, which would again cause food problems and sacrificing problems.

Everything listed by Habakkuk represents dire problems, but listen to what he wrote next. Verse 18. “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Why? Because God is our salvation. It is through Him that we can have blessings now. It is through Him - and Him alone - that we can reach Heaven. Of course we need food here and now, but even if that is not provided for us, we must not give up on Him because He still is, ultimately, the one and only way to Heaven, where all our needs and wishes and hopes and dreams will be satisfied.

Back to Luke 2, I think that is what Simeon was communicating to Mar, and to Joseph. Yes, some would reject Jesus. Some would speak against Him. Many would cause Him to suffer. And yes, Mary would suffer as she watched all that happening. But Mary - and Joseph and those of us even now who have any suffering of any kind - are to keep trusting Jesus because He is salvation. He is the spiritual light we need to overcome the darkness of the world. He is the one who can bring glory to us now, even in the midst of problems, and forever in Heaven.

Let’s make sure we are among those raised up by Jesus. Let’s make sure we allow Him to raise us, which is done by accepting Him as the Savior He is. When the thoughts of our hearts are revealed, may they be pleasing to Him.

The day recorded in today’s passage in Luke 2 was a good one for Simeon. On that day, he had the privilege of meeting the Savior. Something he had waited his entire life to do. 

That day, Mary and Joseph heard again that Jesus was destined to be the Savior. The Savior of the world. 

They also heard Simeon predict some difficult times ahead. But then someone else entered the scene. Another righteous, devout person, this one a woman named Anna.

Anna was a “prophetess.” That means she had opportunities to speak to others. To speak for God, in her case to tell others about the same hope Simeon had. The hope for a Savior to bring consolation to God’s people.

It is reported what Anna’s age was and how dedicated to God she was. She was 84 years old. She was a long-time widow. She had been married for seven years before her husband died. Since a common age of marriage for wives was early teens, it can be assumed Anna had been a widow for 64 years.

During that time, she had not remarried. Instead, she spent her time worshiping, fasting, and praying.

If you are following along in the Bible, the wording is that Anna “did not depart from the Temple” and worshiped and fasted and prayed “night and day.” Obviously she had to sleep and eat sometimes. Of course she might have stepped outside the Temple occasionally. The point is that her main emphasis was being with God. That is how righteous and devout Anna had been year after year after year.

While Simeon was talking to Mary, and Joseph and Jesus, Anna arrived at the scene. As soon as she saw Jesus, she, too, gave thanks to God. She, too, had some wonderful things to say, not just to Mary and Joseph, but to others as well. Others who were also looking - anxiously waiting - for the Savior to come. What she said was that the Savior had arrived. What good news that was.

*       *       *       *       *

Today’s passage from Luke concludes with the report that after the purification ceremony - after the conversations with Simeon and Anna - Mary and Joseph took Jesus back to Nazareth, where Jesus grew and became physically strong. He was also filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him.

That is how the passage ends, but for a moment or two, let’s return to the thought that sometimes in life, things, as described by both Simeon and Habakkuk, get difficult. Let’s return to the challenge to stay true to God even during difficult times. In fact, let’s make staying true to God a goal as we approach and then experience a new year.

For this part of the message, two things. The first is a devotional.

The author writes that lyrics of hymns are filled with joy at Christmas - joy to the world, tidings of comfort and joy, how great our joy.

However, Christmas is not always filled with the great joy the angels proclaimed. At times we are burdened by health issues, the loss of a loved one, financial stress, or negative family relationships. Our hearts can be heavy and we can struggle to find any joy. Instead of a bright shining star, the only glimmer we might see is the reflection of our tears.

The author continues that after her husband died, Christmas did not feel joyful. Nothing felt the same as she went through the motions of life, trying to adjust to a new normal.

She adds that a few years later, the birth of her first grandchild brought the joy of Christmas back to her. But, she writes, “in moments when joy is lacking in our lives, we need to turn our thoughts to God. He is aware of our hurting, our questions, our confusion. In these times, the Lord is very near. Taking our concerns to Him, we can find rest and peace. As we allow the Lord to carry our sorrows, we can commune with Him and sense Him lifting our burdens. Then we begin to worship. It is here that joy begins. Slowly at first, and then increasing until we do indeed experience great joy in Him."

What important words. Words of encouragement to stay true to God, even in difficult times. Let’s remember that encouragement, and lets help others to remember it as well, which leads to this. 

 When you are lonely, allow God to give you love. When you know someone else is lonely, show God’s love to them.

When you are sad, allow God to give you joy. When you know someone else is sad, do what you can, in understanding ways, to remind them God is the giver of joy.

When you are troubled, allow God to give you peace. When you know someone else is troubled, allow God to use you to offer them a peaceful place to be.  

When you are empty, allow God to fill you with hope. When you know someone else is empty, be willing to fill them with God’s hope.

Throughout 2019, may we have sweetness in our words, peace in our minds, love in our hearts, strength in our hands, and spiritual victory. No matter what happens, good or sad, may we feel God’s love surrounding us in 2019.

Today’s closing song is a call to be with Jesus. The challenge is that those of us who are Christians will keep being with Him. The challenge is also that we will share the Lord’s love, joy, peace, and hope so others will decide to be with Him as well. O Come, All Ye Faithful.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, o come ye, to Bethlehem;

Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,

O sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above;

Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born on Christmas morning,

O Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Lord, You are the Savior, sent from God. As Simeon  and Anna knew that fact, so do we. As we have known it in the past, help us to remember it in the future. Help us remember on all the good days coming in 2019 and on any difficult days we have. We want to remember because You are the giver of blessings, not only now, but all the way to the eternal homes given to all who trust in You alone. Amen.

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