Delivered as a pre-communion message at Woodland Christian Church on December 23, 2018.
In my children’s story Bible there are over 130 stories. As you can imagine, these stories hit the highlights of the Old and New Testament. Intriguingly, one of the gospel stories featured is that of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2. Tucked in-between the story of the nativity and the story of a twelve year old Jesus amazing scholars in the temple, these two individuals are often overlooked. That is unfortunate because this passage is rich with insight for us Western Christians trying to keep Jesus as the “reason for the season” in such a distracting world. I would like share three of those insights right now:
- Simeon and Anna were elderly whereas Jesus was an infant. This sharp contrast symbolizes the Old and New Covenant. Just as Simeon and Anna were nearing the end, so the Old Covenant was nearing its end. And just as death of Simeon was conditioned on the arrival of the Messiah, so the death of the Old Covenant was conditioned on the arrival of the New Covenant.1 As the writer of Hebrews explains, God called it a new covenant precisely because the first has been made obsolete. And “what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
- Simeon and Anna were witnesses for Jesus Christ and used the event of his birth as an opportunity to tell others about him. Simeon was waiting for the Consolation of Israel and rightly proclaimed that Jesus would break down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile and be a light to the whole world. Anna, upon meeting Jesus, “gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Their devotion to God compelled them to not keep quiet about the hope that is in them but share it boldly, even knowing it would offend many.2
- Simeon and Anna were not distracted.3 When Simeon took up Jesus in his arms, he did not see a baby with a cute birth story, a future king to deal with Israel’s foes, or an inspiration for kindness and merriment. Instead, he says simply, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” Not in a set of commands, customs, or traditions but in a person. For every Christian today, the distractions are limitless: traditions to uphold, family to see, gifts to give, food to eat, rest to enjoy, not to mention the culture war surrounding Christmas which excites our political inclinations4. While all of these have their place, that place should not be a place of preeminence in our hearts and minds.
With that said, let us do now for communion what we ought to do this Christmas season as a whole: lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us and look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, so that we can declare with confidence, as Simeon did, “my eyes have seen your salvation.”
- Simeon also reminds us that the peaceful departure of any believer is tied to Christ.
- In the case of Anna, it would offend their fellow Jews, which is why Simeon said that this child was destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel: believing Jews would rise to salvation and unbelieving Jews would fall to perdition. (2 Peter 2:6-8)
- Space constraints prevent me from mentioning here that Anna instantly gave thanks to God and began sharing of the coming of Jesus (Luke 2:38).
- Indeed, this year the nativity scene previously displayed at Horseshoe Lake Park received enough complaints to prompt its removal from public grounds.