Monday, December 22, 2008

Simeon and Anna waiting no more. Luke 2:22-40

Luke's Christmas story ends 8 days after Jesus' birth. His nativity ends with the careful fulfillment of the law by Mary and Joseph and the fulfillment of God's promises for Simeon and Anna. Matthew in contrast finishes his Christmas story with μάγοι magi who came from the east and Joseph's dream that lead to the young families flight from Israel. Luke has none of those stories.

In Luke Joseph and Mary came to Jerusalem offering sacrifices to God in thanks for their new born son. They came to the temple just 8 days after Jesus birth as the law proscribed. These two faithful elders, Simeon and Anna, were waiting in the temple to see God's promises fulfilled. They weren't in the temple accidentally. They lived in prayer staying in the temple day and night waiting on purpose, in faith and hope, to see the promises of God fulfilled. When Jesus arrived in the arms of Joseph and Mary these two elders became witnesses to the light of God that came into their presence.

Simeon understood Jesus significance as a light for the nations of the world. He saw the Messiah and knew Jesus was sent not only for himself and his fellow Israelite's. He met Jesus and guided by God's spirit said,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servanth in peace, according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 NRSV
Jesus is the light. He is the light Simeon yearned to see. He is the light for the nation of Israel. He is the light for people of all nations. He is the light for those who have been saved through faith and those who still need to be found. Nancy Marshall, a pastor at a deaf church, who blogs at Leaning on the Everlasting Arms has written a great meditation about coming into the light of Christ at Christmas. We live in what many call a dark world. We live in a time of great uncertainty when it becomes too easy to be lost in the dark, Pastor Marshall writes,
...waiting, confused, lost, wanting to see a glimmer of light. If just a little light appeared, people couldn’t help but turn and look at it. “What is that?” they would say. They couldn’t ignore it. It would be a compelling force, because people WANT to see. Most people. Some people who are in the dark don’t even know it. Darkness becomes habitual. It helps to conceal what they are doing. They think they are getting away with something that they couldn’t get away with in the light.

The people of God had lost their way. They had a list of rules. They had some stories that they would tell traditionally every year, but they were still way off the path.
The reality of Spiritual darkness is as ancient as the evil one and as powerful now as it ever has been. Simeon and Anna lived in a world full of darkness. Many around us today, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, our children, our dearest friends us live surrounded by the deepest darkness. In faith Simeon and Anna, and all of us believers, cling to the light given by God's promises. We need the light. We need Jesus in every dimension of our lives. And we need prophetic voices like Simeon, Anna, and John the Baptist and all the other witnesses of the faith who point us to the light.
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, 37 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. 38 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. Luke 2:36-38 NRSV
Anna was a sign, a witness for God. She was there to tell the people that the child who would redeem Jerusalem had come. She was there to tell the Good News to her own.


Nancy Marshall said...

Thanks for the encouragement and passing on my blog address. I can see that you are able to center quoted text. I havent figured out how to do that... can you explain sometime when you have time... no hurry.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

your words really got me thinking about Simeon's announcement that Jesus is the light this weekend.

FYI indenting a quote is pretty easy with blogger. I know two ways to do it. 1 is just to click on the quote button with your mouse and start typing. 2 is to paste in the quote you want, then highlight it and then press the quote button with your mouse.

Nancy Marshall said...

Ta da! Great! I can now center text. Thanks. I found I could do a lot of tweaking in the "edit/compose" mode.

More thoughts on the text:
Last week (1b) Simeon and Anna got me thinking about faithfulness--> that God rewards faithfulness. So that's the angle I took with the sermon. Sometimes our little church (24 +/-) gets caught up in the now. (Probably typical of any community with humans...and emotions and relationships). But the problem of getting stuck in the now is we forget the vision. So like old fashioned cartoon characters we spin our wheels and do the motions but don't move forward. When thinking about the faithfulness of Simeon and Anna I learned that the vision and looking to what God has promised, keeping our eyes on that hope...keeps us faithful and not stuck in the now.

So the inspired message was: what has God promised you? How can you be faithful to staying focused on that promise? God promised our church that whatever struggles we face...we WILL survive and thrive and eventually plant a baby deaf church in neighboring Corozal, Belize (where there is no church for deaf people now.) Someday...

"God can do anything, you know- far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us." (Eph 3;20 Message version).

Now there's a promise. I so admire the faithfulness of those who hold and believe God's promises. It's obtainable...not something just for the saints.