(A) Simeon’s example: Jesus is worth waiting for (v.22-32)

The account picks up after the birth of Jesus and verse 22-24 tell us three things that Joseph and Mary do. We are told that they brought the baby up to Jerusalem, described this way because Jerusalem where the temple was located was located on higher ground. They brought the baby there specifically to present him to the Lord, for specific sacrifices and prayers to be made by the priests on his behalf. We are also told their sacrifices -- "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (v.24b). This was according to the law (c.f. Lev 12:8), and was the minimum requirement for the poor. Mary and Joseph were really the poorest of the poor, and they travelled all the way from Nazareth to Jerusalem with their newborn and their sacrifice. 

Why did they do it? Joseph and Mary were clear about something that we sometimes forget. The law said that the firstborn son was to be "called holy to the Lord" (v.23, c.f. Ex 12:2,12). He would not be holy just by his parents declaring it to be so. They knew from the law and teachings that blood and sacrifice had to be made as an atonement for sin. Here, we have hints of reminder to the Exodus account, where God took the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, and spared those of the Israelites who by faith, painted the blood of animals on their doorposts. Luke was reminding us of who this God is. This is the holy God who judges for sin. This is the God of the Bible. How then, do we approach and read His word? So do we come before Him with reverence? 

It was in the temple that they met Simeon. Who was he? In verses 25 to 28, we learn that: 

  • It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before seeing the "Lord's Christ" (v.26). For Simeon, when this was made, it basically meant that he would definitely see the promised One (c.f. Isa 53)! This was the promise given to him. 
  • He was "righteous and devout" (v.25). "Righteous" speaks about his horizontal relationships. "Devout" described his vertical relationship with God. 
  • We are also told that ever since the promise given to him, he was "waiting for the consolation of Israel" (v.25b). Remember how Israel was suffering under the Roman rule, a pale comparison to her former glory. The Jews were distressed, and waiting for their Messiah to console them. 
  • At the right time "he came in the Spirit into the temple" (v.27b), and took up the baby that he had been waiting for. 

Verses 29 to 32 is the song that Simeon sang, a song of praise that is commonly referred to as the Nunc Dimittis. In it, he talks about 3 types of people, and Jesus as being different things for them. To those who serve Him(v.29), Jesus is salvation. To the Gentiles (v.32a), Jesus is a light for revelation, so that we might see and know something which was not previously known or seen. Finally, to Israel (v.32b), He would be their glory (which is also translated as "weight"), that which is intrinsically valuable and worthy. 

Simeon was waiting his whole life for this moment, and this explains his outburst. Finally, he saw what he had been longing and hungering for every day, every week, all the years of his life. His immense satisfaction is palpable, and evident from his words (e.g. "now you are letting your servant depart in peace"). Simeon is really a picture of waiting faithfully, but purposefully. Simeon waited with hope and ke pt looking forward to one thing -- to see the One that he has been promised. What kept him going all the years? He could wait and he did wait, because Jesus is worth it. Jesus was worth the wait.  Do you know Jesus in this way? What does Jesus mean to you? If he is salvation, glory, light for revelation, then surely he is worth waiting for. Are you waiting for Jesus Christ? 

This is Jesus Christ for all who long for him and who wait for Him 

 

(B) Anna’s example: Jesus is worth consecrating yourself for (v.36-38) 

Luke tells us of another old person, Anna, in verses 36 to 38. We are told that was a widow for most of her life, and lived it in regular prayer and fasting. Not that she didn't eat all day, but she regularly and habitually abstained from food, typically for prayer and petition, for fasting is always tied to intention. In her economically vulnerable state as a widow (for remarriage was not a norm for the Jews), she committed herself to the temple. Like Simeon, she too, was looking forward to the Messiah and was continually waiting. She consecrated herself. 

This is all that we ever read of Simeon and Anna. Simeon and Anna were never mentioned elsewhere. The only time they are mentioned, we are left with a beautiful picture of what it means to wait longingly and in anticipation of Jesus' appearance. Have we consecrated ourselves to the Lord, or are we living for ourselves? Are we using and committing our dreams, fears, our sleeping and waking, our time, money effort and energy to looking forward to the day when we see Him again? Perhaps it might be good to pause and consider verses like Ps 35:28, where the psalmists speak of praising God all the day long, not just for short stretches of time during service on Sundays, not just for short periods when we gather on Wednesdays to study God's Word together, not just during times of our quiet Bible reading. 

 

(C) Joseph and Mary’s example: Jesus is worth being heartbroken for (v.33-35) 

How did Jesus' parents respond to Simeon? We are told in verse 33 that they marvled at what was said. Even after all that they had been through -- his conception, the miraculous conception of his cousin John, the visit by the wise men and the ensuing massacre -- the words of Simeon were still surprising! Simeon spent his whole life waiting for that baby. Baby Jesus was the culmination of this man's life of longing, waiting and desiring. 

Simeon also blesses Mary in verses 34 to 35. He says that this child will bring about the "fall and rising of many in Israel" and "thoughts from many hearts will be revealed". Jesus will simultaneously bring good and ill, as though he comes to bring light, the light may reveal things that people would rather run away from (c.f. Jn 2:24-25, Matt 9:4, 1 Cor 4:5, Eph 5:13). His truth shows us our sins, and sometimes, this offends us instead. 

Simeon also has a special word for Mary, telling her that "and a sword will pierce through your own soul also". Oh how true that became when eventually, she saw this baby grow up and hang on that cross. Seeing every lash on his back, every nail in his hands and feet, every mocking word from the soldiers, would have broken Mary. In that moment, it must have felt that everything was going wrong. Where was the promised salvation? Where was the revelation? How would He be the glory of Israel? What about all the promises of angels, shepherds and wise men? Why did God forsake Jesus? 

Mary would have had her heart broken, but because Jesus' body was broken, the true brokenness of her heart and the pain of this would could be fixed. In this Christmas season, let us remember that the light of Christmas casts the shadow of the Cross lying ahead of the baby Jesus. This quote by C.J. Mahaney [1] reminds us of why we should celebrate Christmas with the Cross in it: 

"Don't get me wrong--Christmas should be a wonderful celebration. Properly understood, the message of Christmas confronts before it comforts, it disturbs before it delights…The purpose of Christ's birth was to live a sinless life, suffer as our substitute on the cross, satisfy the wrath of God, defeat death, and secure our forgiveness and salvation…Christmas is about God the Father (the offended party) taking the initiative to send his only begotten son to offer his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we might be forgiven for our many sins.”

As we look forward to Christmas, let us continue to live in anticipation not for December 25, but for the day when we can see Jesus face to face, not as a tiny baby in a temple, but as the King of Glory, in the city that has no temple. Like Mary, we may get our hearts broken countless number of times here, but let us continue to long for the day, when all things will be made new, and there will be no more pain, sorrow and tears, but only joy evermore. 

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
(Taken from What Child Is This)

[1]  C J Mahaney, Disturbing Christmas: The Manger and the Horrors of the Cross (http://www.christianity.com/11624245/)