Simeon and Anna: Discovering God in the Seemingly Insignificant

In my previous post, we looked at Christ's Presentation in the Temple 40 days after His birth and what we, as believers, can learn from His ransom as the firstborn.

I encourage you to embrace the wonderful truths of being radically ransomed out of Adam and gloriously raised to the status of the Firstborn--a joint-heir with Christ: Christ's Presentation in the Temple

There's another part to the story, however.

All first-born males were brought to the Temple for presentation according to the Law. So nothing appeared out of the ordinary that day to the priests, attendants, and scores of worshipers flowing in and out of the Temple courts. Most people probably simply nodded at Joseph and Mary as they passed--perhaps noting that the couple could only bring an offering permitted for the poor ( two turtledove or two young pigeons).

Astonishingly, only two people besides Joseph and Mary were able to see a promise fulfilled amid hundreds of weary worshipers .

"And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name
was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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.

So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

'Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 
For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.'

And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this
Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against  (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:25-35

Notice that Simeon is described as a just and devout man who was full of the Holy Spirit. He was not a priest nor was he mentioned as being prominent or a man of means.

Based on a personal word from God, Simeon was assured that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah; consequently, he lived expectantly surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the Temple on this particular day where, with spiritual eyes, he was able to recognize that God was present in an unusual way; through all the noise, converse and rituals, he discerned the uncommon from the common, the divine swaddled in plain humanity.

As a result, Simeon became a pivotal mouthpiece for God, whose prophecy concerning the ministry of Jesus continues to be proclaimed thousands of years later!

Isn't it interesting that the priest--the "official" representative of God--was clueless?

Anna, eighty-four years-old, had been widowed early in life. Instead of remarrying, she lived at the Temple and spent her days in prayers and fastings. Needless to say, Anna was also easily moved by the Spirit of God, and she walked by at the very moment Simeon was prophesying over the Savior.

And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." Luke 2:38

Notice she did not have to stop and ask, "What's going on?" She instantly received a Word of Knowledge and began to prophesy with Simeon.

Anna, widowed at age twenty-one, watched year after year as other mothers proudly brought their children to the Temple.

Tradition claims that Mary's parents, who had long prayed for a child, brought their little girl to the Temple at the age of three to live a consecrated life, much as Hannah did with Samuel. According to pseudo-canonical writings, Anna tended to Mary. Although herself childless, no doubt the aged saint found great solace in raising the mother of Jesus.

The reward for Anna's faithfulness and sacrifice didn't come until she was very old. Yet, through the ages, untold millions have read about Anna and her devotion to the Lord. She will always be connected to Christ's story!

Simeon's and Anna's prophetic words about Christ are significant; they are the last ones we hear from an old era of salvation by works until Jesus steps out of the Jordan to begin His ministry of redemption by grace. What an honor to hold and bless God, the Son, and proclaim the arrival of His Kingdom!

Simeon and Anna are two of my favorite people in the Bible. Their lives give me hope that I, too, can find the divine in the everyday places and people of life.

As a whole, the Jewish nation missed their day of visitation because they  had preconceived notions as to how the God-king and rescuer would arrive on he would look and live.
The people were taken off guard and even offended at the lowliness, humility, and gentleness of Jesus.

I've missed many days of visitation, I'm sure. That's why I pray for a heart like Simeon's--so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that I can spot God wrapped in the smallest and most unpretentious packaging.

I know I've passed up opportunities to be blessed because I didn't recognize him in that dirty, smelly homeless guy that I use to pass on the way to work. To be honest, he offended me for living off the prosperity of others and lacking the motivation to better his circumstances.

And for sure, promotion would have come if I had taken the time to look a little closer into the eyes of the rude clerk at Wal-Mart. I would have seen Jesus through the fatigue of a single mom standing on her feet hour after hour, only to pick up a screaming child from the baby sitter's after work and silently wonder if she could put off her car payment one more time.

We cry, "God, where are you?" and then go blindly through the day. We look, as did Elijah for the dramatic wind, earthquake, and fire for evidence.

We often miss Him because we forget that when God came redemptively to earth, He chose to do so incarnate in human flesh. Nothing has changed, beloved! God continues to work in the world incarnationally--human to human.

The Church is the visible Body of Christ--His heart and His hands--the continuing ministry of Jesus on earth.

But God is also working in the lives of the most unlikely, unfortunate, and unlovely of humanity; He challenges us to push past the "outer court" and look deeper.

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed
You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did
it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ " Matthew 25:34-40

Did you know that the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was covered with gray badger skin? To the undiscerning, it was just a large, dull-looking tent.

However, the ugly shell served an important purpose because it was resilient and waterproof--ideal to protect the treasure within!

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

Father, may we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, recognize you in the people we come across in our daily lives. They bear your image and likeness, though marred and muddied. Help us see past the badger skin to the treasure within.

Unlike Anna, I do not physically reside at church twenty-four hours a day, but my heart is a home (temple) for the Holy Spirit, and I can continually commune with Him.

I've been praying for some things for what seems like a lifetime, haven't you? But we must draw encouragement from Anna's "suddenly"!

It's never too late; you're not too old. Thing are never too bad (Israel was under oppressive Roman occupation when Jesus arrived). You may have been abandoned by men, but not by God.

What did Anna and Simeon have in common?

1) they were not ordained or "in the ministry"

2) they were ordinary people with an extraordinary commitment and sensitivity to God

3) they allowed the Holy Spirit to interrupt their day (even those noble, religious duties)

4) they had pushed aside fleshly expectations and used their keenly-exercised spiritual senses

No wonder ancient Christians included Simeon and Anna in the Christmas Story! They waited to take down their holiday greenery after February 2, the day the early Church set to observe Christ's Presentation in the Temple (Jewish Law required parents to present their firstborn male child 40 days after birth).

Jesus' ransom in the Temple beautifully foretold the imminent reality of humanity's long-awaited redemption and glorious rise in Christ to divine heirship! It also challenges us to follow the examples of Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna, who were able to find God in the small and unassuming.

We need to celebrate this event* throughout the Protestant churches, as do our Catholic and Orthodox brethren who have kept it alive for centuries!

This observance is also called CANDLEMAS (Candle Mass)  because of the prophecy of Simeon following Christ's presentation (Luke 2:25-32) that proclaimed the Savior as a "Light to lighten the Gentiles".

Candles are carried in procession before the service, blessed and distributed as a symbol of the Church to go forth as the light of the world. It is the Christian's "Festival of Lights".

The observance began in the undivided church in 472 A.D. by Gelasius I. He often provided pancakes to sustain weary travelers to Rome, so the tradition began of having pancakes on this day and sharing them with the needy.

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