Luke 2:22-40 (NRSV)
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Let us pray – In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen.
Today before I begin, I want us to do a little experiment. I would like everyone to close their eyes and picture the things that you most want to see happen during your lifetime. It may be anything – from being held in high regard by the community so that you will leave a legacy, to gaining wealth, security.. the happiness of loved ones… whatever is your hearts greatest desire, hold it in your mind.
Ok let’s open our eyes again… did you see the thing you most desired?
When we imagine the things we most want to see in our lives we have an unlimited number of things that we can list off… and almost all of them are inward looking… we want wealth for ourselves, security, happiness for us and those we love, we want to see things and do things… but the man Simeon from our Gospel account wanted something else – something which wasn’t restricted to a narrow reference of himself alone. Simeon wanted nothing other than to see the unfolding of God’s promise for His people.
You see Simeon was so focussed on God that all he sought was that he might be a witness to the fulfilment of God’s will. He sought nothing for himself, other than the satisfaction of knowing that God purpose was being achieved. Simeon put aside his own wants and needs and placed all of his hope in the will of God. What a model of faith is this man!
How often I wonder do we as Christians put God’s will – Gods satisfaction – above our own desires? For Simeon, placing God first in his life meant that he was able to recognise when salvation was in his presence… he was able to see God in his midst when the infant Jesus was brought to the temple.
Not only was he able to know the presence of God and recognise it, but he was also given greater understanding and knowledge of God’s purposes – our scripture tells us that the ‘Holy Spirit was upon him’, and he spoke prophetic words over Jesus when he said – “for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Like Simeon the prophetess Anna whom we are told was so dedicated to the Lord that she never left the temple, and was always in prayer and fasting night and day, was able to recognise the action of God in her midst. She saw in the Christ child the redeemer of Israel, and proclaimed the news to all who would listen.
You see for Simeon and Anna the glory of God was revealed. Everyone else was milling about in the temple paying no attention to this baby and his parents. After all it was quite a common thing to see parents with their new born at the temple to fulfil the redemption sacrifice for their first born. But Simeon, and Anna were different. Their focus wasn’t on their own preoccupations, rather it was on God and because they were focussed, because they had their gaze firmly fixed, they were able to see the action of God. They recognized God’s will being fulfilled right in front of their eyes while everyone else couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Brothers and sisters how often do we wonder about God? How often do we ask questions like where is God in this? How could God allow this? Is there really a living God active in the world?
I wonder if we are a little like the rest of the people at the temple that day, who had God incarnate right there in front of them but couldn’t see him. For Simeon, and for Anna these other questions fell away, not because they are not worth asking, but because they had made a decision to place God, and the fulfilment of God’s purposes at the forefront of their own lives.
When we look to the Gospel today, and when we recall all those times when we have felt that God was a long way off, we must ask ourselves the question – Am I like Simeon and Anna? Have I placed God first in my life, or do I still cling to those things which call to me from this world?
Now brothers and sisters, I am not suggesting that it is all straight forward and easy. It is not, we are called to a life of living sacrifice, in the service of the King. Jesus says that we are to take up our cross and follow him, and that means that sometimes we will be tested, and our faith will struggle, and we will begin to ask those questions again… where is God… it is in that moment that we must not be discouraged, but where we should look to the example of Simeon and Anna, and submit to God. It is when we begin to falter that we must recommit ourselves to placing Christ at the centre of our lives, and placing all of our faith, hope and love in the one who is creator and sustained of all.
There is still more we can learn from this Gospel passage though! Not only do Simeon and Anna show us that it is through placing all of our faith in Christ that God is revealed to us, but they point us to what we should do once we have put God in charge of our lives. Let’s read again what Anna did when she recognised who Jesus was… ‘At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.’
The very first thing Anna does when she sees that the promised redeemer has arrived is to start telling people. Anna could be called the first evangelist, as she went about proclaiming the good news of the arrival of Jesus to all who sought salvation.
Brothers and sisters if we are Christians it means that we must place God first in our lives. And if we have placed God first in our lives that means that we recognise Jesus as the redeemer of humanity. If we can see that Christ is the redeeming son of God, who offers forgiveness and salvation to all, then we are called to tell all who would listen! We are called to be like Anna and Simeon.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us all as we go forth from this place today, leave with a renewed purpose, and hope. Let us go forth into the world placing God’s purposes above our own, for it is in the fulfilment of the divine will that we will find true happiness. Finally let us be bold as those who see Christ as our salvation, to proclaim to all who would hear, that we have seen salvation come and its name is Jesus.