CHARACTERS OF CHRISTMAS: Simeon & Anna - Waiting for Destiny
Pastor Terry Inman
I have a hard time being patient about promises. For one thing I have a short attention span. I was also promised a few things as a kid that didn't always work out. I have forgiven my father for getting my hopes up about a family train trip and then changing his mind. I forgave him but apparently I haven’t forgotten.
I get disappointed easy so to avoid the pain I start lowering my expectations ahead of time. You can ask my family they don’t always appreciate watching my favorite teams with me, because I start prognosticating defeat way before the conclusion. That way I’m really surprised when they win and don’t feel so bad when they lose.
Last Monday night in the last two minutes of the 49ers game I was braced for a season spoiling go-head TD by the Falcons. But an early Christmas gift, a turnover, changed my despair to gladness and joy!
A proverb that describes my problem says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick “…but that’s only the first half of the scripture here’s the rest…but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Prov. 13.12 (NIV)
Today’s Christmas Character is a senior adult, named Simeon.
He waited most of his life for the fulfillment of promises. There’s something we can learn from this story about “Waiting for Destiny”.
Here’s our final dramatic sketch featuring Simeon.
Post-Christmas is about sales, returns, re-runs, leftovers, and relatives. It’s a re-adjustment but nothing like a poor Jewish couple with a newborn.
The shepherd’s spectacular story was still spreading through the small village of Bethlehem when Mary and Joseph bundled up their newborn and took him to a local priest authorized to perform the rite of circumcision.
Jesus was clearly raised in a traditional Jewish family. On the eighth day he would undergo his male naming ritual. It included an anatomical procedure marking him as a true son of Abraham. Luke is a Doctor but thankfully he leaves the details undisclosed.
He does note that the newborn was given the name Jesus (Yeshua) “God saves”. It’s proof that his parents believed in his destiny. It was the name given by an angel even before he was actually conceived. Luke 2.21 (NIV)
The Law of Moses also required thirty-three days purification or medicinal cleansing following childbirth. Then every first-born male was consecrated to God in a Temple ceremony. The presentation of the infant also involved an offering. Typically livestock would be offered for atonement but doves or pigeons were allowed for the poor.
So just a little more than a month into marriage and parenting Joseph and Mary are off to Jerusalem for what we now call Infant Dedication. Once again their careful attention to their faith is met with more Holy surprises.
“When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2.22-24 (NIV)
I’m sure they felt an extra sense of accountability after several angelic visitations, a supernatural pregnancy, and a delivery room visit by strange but excited shepherds. I’m sure they would be very serious about conformity with all God’s requirements. They were raising His child.
While we thankfully do not live under these Old Testament rituals and regulations, there is something to be said, for a heart toward God that desires to please him in every way possible. That’s true devotion.
The word “devout” appears several times in the Christmas story. Here it is used to describe the character of Simeon. We might use the word “deeply committed”. Luke introduces this simple but serious follower of God.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2.25 (NIV)
There are four things about Simeon that make him the perfect candidate to participate in an unscheduled appointment with divine destiny.
First he is devout. He has a deep heartfelt faith in God. There is no mention of him being a priest or any other Temple official he is just a normal guy that loves God and expresses it with careful obedience.
Devotion is a trait that needs some attention in our self-serving culture.
It was much more than dutiful attention to religious traditions. After the phenomenal outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost the followers of Jesus became very devoted.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." Acts 2.42-43 (NIV)
How devoted are we? Is there something we can learn here from Simeon?
Secondly, he was righteous. The same word is used to describe the parents of John the Baptist. Zechariah and Elizabeth “were upright in the sight of God” Both of them observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.
Matthew says, Joseph, Mary’s husband, was also righteous. “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matt. 1.19 (NIV)
“Righteous” is a comprehensive term that includes moral innocence (blameless) and impartiality (justice). It is simply living right and treating others right. It’s this kind of person that God can trust with His revelation.
“The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.” Prov. 13.9 (NIV)
Third Luke says, Simeon was optimistic, something that I need to work on. “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Consolation means comfort. Simeon was anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises. He was expecting the advent of the Messiah.
There were many prophetic promises about the Messiah but the one that seems to be alluded to here was made by Isaiah hundreds of years earlier.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”
Then the prophet uses a metaphor for the construction of a highway for royalty. The Messiah was to be the long expected King of the Jews.
A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Is. 40.1-5 (NIV)
Simeon had been waiting for God’s salvation all his life. He held on to the promise. This is his moment! There is something here for us to learn as we anticipate the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Time and life can wear on and easily dim hopes. Just a few years after Jesus’ ascension to heaven people were beginning to question his return.
The apostle Peter warned, “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?’ Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 2 Pet. 3.3 (NIV)
Peter’s answer: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3.9 (NIV)
There is plenty of evidence that the Lord’s return is near. We should anticipate it with optimism. Paul’s writes to Titus, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” Titus 2.11-14 (NIV)
A hopeful expectation of His return contributes to godliness!
Finally Simeon was a man of the Spirit. There’s not a better complement that can be paid to anyone. Again v. 25 says, He “was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2.25 (NIV)
Before the coming of Christ the Holy Spirit had only come upon a few prophets, priests, and patriarchs. Leaders like David, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Saul, Gideon, Samson, and Daniel were empowered by the spirit.
Prophets like, Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zachariah were some that spoke and performed signs and wonders by the Spirit.
Simeon receives a revelation from the Holy Spirit, He is moved or directed by the spirit into the Temple, and by the Spirit he forecasts the destiny of this Christ child. The Holy Spirit loves to work though simple people who are devoted, righteous, optimistic and open to be used by His Holy Spirit!
Here’s Luke’s account of the Spirit’s incredible work in Simeon.
“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” Luke 2.26-27 (NIV)
As a righteous Jew he probably visited the Temple courts for prayer daily. But this is no coincidence. This is God’s timing. The Holy Spirit leads Simeon into the Temple courts at just the right time when Mary and Joseph are doing what thousands of Jewish parents had done before; they are offering their first born son to God. It’s a very touching moment!
Luke continues, “When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.’” Luke 2.26-30 (NIV)
What strikes me about Simeon’s expression of praise is that he was ready to die in peace. A promise had been fulfilled: salvation had come. Simeon address God as, “Sovereign Lord” and refers to himself as “your servant”.
This is the attitude that will enable each of us “see” God’s salvation. When we follow him, as our Lord and we chose to be servants, we will fulfill his destiny for us! We may wait but we will never be disappointed.
This is clearly Simeon’s point in the next verse. To see Jesus is to see salvation. “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2.30-32 (NIV)
While Joseph and Mary marvel at what is being said about their son, Simeon blesses them with a word about the child’s destiny.
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2.34-35 (NIV)
This is a mixed message. Unfortunately not everyone will believe. They will reject him and speak against him. Some will fall. Others will gladly believe, accept him and follow him. They will rise with him! John stood at the cross with Mary when her heart was pierced.
Later John penned this promise for all of us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3.16 (NIV)
Most of us are familiar with that scripture but let me read on.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3.17-18 (NIV)
John ends his gospel the story of Jesus Christ with this. “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20.31 (NIV)
Simeon was simple, he was devoted, he was righteous, he was optimistic and he was a person of the Spirit who waited patiently for his destiny!
How about you and I? Are we there yet?