© John M. Connan
At first hearing Simeon and Anna’s presence in the Temple lends an almost fairy-tale air to the moment. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Their patience rewarded. Joy! Exultation! Praise to God! This is no ordinary moment. This is God breaking into history and into the lives of
But fairy tales often have a barely hidden menace within. Remember Sleeping Beauty and the evil fairy - her threat to the life and wellbeing of the child.
In some ways there are subtle parallels with this incident in the Temple. Despite all the joy and exultation in the aged prophet’s words, there’s a foreboding quality.
Prophecy as forth-telling is all too painfully clear. Prophecy as fore-telling is seldom as clear – though it can be even more painful.
Simeon’s prophecy is clear enough to suggest future pain in the life of the young child he holds in his arms – pain for Jesus and pain for Mary.
The hint of pain to come was plain enough to make Mary excessively protective of her son, to smother him, more than to mother him. But that was not the way it was to be with this loving young mother.
The hint of pain was plain enough – if Mary had shared the story of this moment with Jesus – to make him a withdrawn and cautious introvert or maybe an excessively foolhardy extrovert throwing caution to the winds. But that was not the way it was with this young child or the extraordinary individual he became.
I can’t help wondering how Luke knew this story – or any of the other stories: Gabriel’s visitation, the census, the journey to Bethlehem, the shepherds and the angelic choir. I can only imagine he either came across these stories which had come from Mary’s own lips or heard them from her himself. However he heard them, they were shared with the hindsight of his gloriously brief and bold mission through Galilee and Judea – with the hindsight of the sorrow which, like a sharp sword, pierced her heart, that day when he was crucified as a common criminal at Calvary.
However Luke heard it, Mary’s story was truly incredible. Though a betrothal was as good as a marriage - (If Joseph had died before the actual marriage took place, she would have been his widow) – it was scandalous that she was pregnant before the marriage. Take her story of her angelic visitor, Gabriel, with his extravagant words:
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” You have found favour with God,” about Jesus - and it makes it pretty incredible stuff, hard to believe. add this story of Simeon and Anna
Yet the story of her son is even more incredible – as hard to believe 2,000 years ago, as it is today. Some will not recognise who he is. Some will not accept him for who he is.
For orthodox, believing Jews it was almost impossible to find God in the form of a helpless baby, as it was in a carpenter, son of a carpenter, or in a plain-speaking wandering prophet crucified for his defiance of orthodox belief and practice.
2,000 years later it’s difficult for many people to see God in this man from an entirely different period of history, in an entirely different culture, expressing values so different from the commonly accepted values of this world captivated by technological innovation and individualism.
How can we expect anyone to find the Creator of the universe in a bawling, puking infant? And yet that is Simeon’s Christmas!
How can we expect
How can we expect
But there it was in Simeon’s foreshadowing of Jesus’ life, of Mary’s delight as a mother in her son and her pain in what was to be.
The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.