Advent: Also Starring Simeon / Anna
Advent Also Starring: Simeon and Anna
Sermon for December 27, 2020
Given by Craig Minke – Vancouver, Online
The theme of this week is “hope in God who is always in control.” Our sermon is from Luke 2, the story of Simeon who blessed the newborn Jesus. He connects this baby into the story of hope that had been centuries in the making.
Let’s read the account found in
Luke 2:22-40 22 And 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
23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,
37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (ESV)
This passage introduces us to two new characters in this story of Jesus’ birth—Simeon and Anna. Let’s start with Simeon.
From the context, we determine Simeon was an OLDER MAN whose whole life has been one long wait.
· We surmise that his life was dedicated to waiting for the fulfillment of the promise that their God loved them, was faithful to them, and would one day bring his kingdom to their door.
· At one point in his life, Simeon heard a promise and felt the Spirit tell him that he will see the Messiah before the end of his life.
Let’s look at what Luke says about Simeon:
LK 2:25-27 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple…(ESV)
Simeon was DEVOUT (GOD FEARING MAN)—not just someone who did religious activities just because it was expected of him.
He was RIGHTEOUS and PATIENT—waiting, we are told, for the consolation of Israel, the Messiah.
· Luke says the Holy Spirit was on him, this event was 30 years before the day of Pentecost when God poured his spirit upon mankind.
· The Holy Spirit guided Simeon to the right place (the temple) at the right time (when the child Jesus was brought to perform what was customary under the law.
· The meeting of Simeon and the Messiah (Jesus) was not a chance encounter. He was guided by the HS to come to the temple as the same time Mary and Joseph came with a pair of dove or a pair of pigeons.
As with most religious communities, there was plenty of “going through the motions” practiced by many. There were plenty of people who went to the temple because that was what they always did, and no doubt there were a number of priests who were just doing their job because they didn’t know how to do any other job.
But not Simeon. Simeon not only spoke the right words, but he believed them. He wasn’t one to just let his actions define his relationship with God, but he sought and deepened that relationship in his own heart.
In the Christmas story as Luke tells it, THOSE WHO UNDERSTOOD WERE THOSE WHO PAID ATTENTION.
· Mary was open to the angel’s announcement,
· the wise men paid attention to their dreams,
· Elizabeth was aware when John kicked in her womb.
· Here we see Simeon as someone who was paying attention, someone who was watching and waiting for the promised Messiah.
Do we do that?
· Are we watching and waiting for the Lord to appear?
· Are we like Simeon, watching for when he will appear day after day?
· That involves us striving to live how Christ live, love God and one another with all our hearts.
· Are we allowing the HS to shape and mold us as that day approaches.
· Are we growing in grace and knowledge, are we seeking to put him first in our lives.
· Another detail we have to pay attention to here:
LK 2:24 “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (ESV)
· This was the offering Mary brought for the purification of Mary to restore her to the temple life after giving birth. The offering was to be a lamb, which was expensive.
LEV 12:8 But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”
· Those who were lower class like Mary and Joseph could come with a turtledove
· Interesting to note, It was God’s deliberate choice to have a poor family bear His Son.
· Note that Mary and Joseph offered two pigeons which was the offering of the poor.
· God chose a poor family to rear his only Son in an ordinary home without and luxuries.
· They were probably not trying to draw attention to themselves and their small offering, but Simeon calls them out.
Throughout history its always a temptation for pastors to look for the big tithers in the group.
· It’s been a problem all through church history that pastoral attention seems to come easily when you put a lot of money in the plate.
· Thankfully we as pastors do not see how much you as a member may put into the offering plate, or donate to the church.
· Simeon is above that, and he walks to the one of the poor couples to bless their child personally. Let’s pick up the story:
LK 2:27-32 ... and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (ESV)
This is Simeon’s blessing.
· He uses a strange term for Lord in this context, not the term that is usually used. His word for Lord is much more like MASTER, like SLAVE MASTER—someone who has complete control over his life.
· The wording here actually connotes a special duty that slaves had, which was probably not a desired one.
· The SERVANT had to stay up all night watching for a special star to rise.
· When it finally did, he told his master, and the master then would then discharge him from the task.
· Or as Simeon puts it I can not depart and DIE IN PEACE, MY DUTY IS DONE.
· Simeon is the symbol of the FAITH of Israel preparing the way for the Messiah, he says now I can depart and get out of the way.
· I’d like to quote of Charles Stanley’s “Life Principles Bible.”
The years are catching up to me, Simeon must have thought as he made his way to the temple. How many years had it been since he had received the special word of the Lord? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? It didn’t matter. Each day brought him closer to the fulfillment of God’s promise: “You will not see death until you have seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26).
At that moment, a young couple emerged onto the temple porch with a newborn son. The child! Simeon thought. He approached the young family, took the babe in his arms, and immediately knew this was the One for whom he had waited so long.
God had kept His promise. Posted at the crux of history, the old man foresaw that the greatest battle of all time would be faced, fought, and won by this tiny child. There he stood, breathing the breath of Christ, whole in the arms of God.
· He did not understand when or where or who that child would be
· He just obeyed and waited, even it time dragged on
· Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.
· God acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
· For Simeon, as old as he is, there is the double meaning of death here. “My life is fulfilled, I’ve seen all I ever need to see, now I can die in peace.”
· So often through Jesus’ life, we see people QUESTION THE WAY HE IS DOING THINGS.
· They are asking him, yeah, but WHEN ARE YOU BRING YOUR KINGDOM?
· Yeah, but WHEN ARE YOUR GOING TO PLOW OUR ENEMIES INTO THE DIRT and take your throne?
· We even have Peter telling CHRIST he won’t die—Telling him that’s not how it works, JESUS!
· In contrast we have Simeon, a man who was paying attention, who is overjoyed to see God’s plan falling into place.
· Are we paying close enough attention to see when God’s deliverance comes along?
· To see when and how and where God’s blessing comes along and to stop and be thankful for it?
· Simeon knows that he can be CONTENT with his life, since he has had the honor of witnessing God’s salvation.
· This attitude is important because it puts the other events and traumas of life into perspective.
· If this can be how Simeon feels, knowing that death is approaching,
· HOW SHOULD WE FEEL WHEN MANY OF US HAVE MORE LIFE STILL AHEAD OF US.?
Simeon’s attitude stands in marked contrast to much of what takes place in our culture today.
· McCall’s magazine of January, 1995, ran a short article on New Year’s resolutions entitled “Ten Little Health Resolutions (With Big Payoffs).” Now health and exercise are important and should be appreciated, but what was interesting was a look at the top four resolutions we make, according to a Gallup poll:
· (1) improve personal finances,
· (2) stop smoking,
· (3) lose weight, and
· (4) get more exercise.
· If our resolutions reflect our concerns and where we want to improve ourselves to have a sense of contentment, these preferences do not reflect high goals.
· Except perhaps for personal finances, neither family nor God makes any appearance.
· We tend to define contentment in a privatized way about how our personal lives are going.
· Since we set goals that have nothing to do with RELATIONSHIPOS, many of us find ourselves LONELY and DISCONTENT, for God has created us to relate to him and to others.
· One of the effects of a culture that elevates individual rights and personal focus as ours does is that WE LOSE SIGHT OF HOW WE CAN GAIN CONTENTMENT BY INTERACTING WITH GOD AND OTHERS.
GOD DOESN’T ALWAYS GIVE US WHAT WE WANT, BUT HE GIVES US WHAT WE NEED.
· Where are OUR GOALS that relate to pursuing God or knowing him better?
· Why do resolutions for the most part deal with external matters?
· Is the soul so unimportant?
· If exercise is valuable for physical well-being, should we starve our inner being?
· If contentment is based on externals that slowly wither away, will we not set ourselves up for disappointment if we focus on such goals?
· Simeon suggests a better way. To know God is best. That means that we can transcend circumstances, because to know him means to “have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
· Simeon was content.
· Simeon can be content even as he faces death, knowing that he has been carrying out the Lord’s call.
· His goal is knowing God, with whom he will have a relationship forever.
· Contentment means knowing the source of life who can help us see even beyond our death.
· So often God’s deliverance and blessing comes to us in the strangest packaging—in something more original and engaging than we could have ever imagined.
· IN Luke chapters 1 &2 we see that God uses a wide range of people
· From various social backgrounds, that testify about him.
· From rural and city backgrounds,
· From educated to uneducated
· From rich and poor
· Male and female,
· Young and oled
· A young betrothed couple to senior citizens.
Finally, the age of Simeon and Anna reminds us that “retirement” years may be a misnomer for believers.
· Many elderly people are freed up by retirement to pursue ministry in a way they could not give full energy to when they were employed.
· The author of the NIV commentary wrote
· I am reminded of a group of senior citizens in our church, a group whom we affectionately call “the gray beards.”
· One of them has taken on the responsibility of editing the church paper after years of helping edit the high school paper where he taught.
· For years God had prepared him to have a ministry of communication to our body.
· Another couple have dedicated themselves to various projects at a sister church of ours in the inner city, whether it means tutoring kids of different ethnic origin who lack parental involvement or just helping with various building projects at the church.
· A woman with severe arthritis cannot do much but pray regularly for the body.
· She may be one of our strongest members who is doing more than many.
· Finding contentment doing God’s will IS A GOAL THAT CAN BE REACHED as we creatively reflect on how we can best minister for him.
· Let’s look at the rest of this exchange back in Luke…
LK 2:33-35 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (ESV)
This is intense, and it’s not the words Mary might have expected.
· It’s not the kind of gauzy, sentimental comfort we associate with Christmas.
· He doesn’t stay, “He’s gonna have a real nice life and make you proud to be a momma.”
· He says, “This is the real thing and it’s not going to be easy for anyone.”
· This sets the tone for all of Jesus’ life—the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
· It was no going to be NO picnic.
· Within every society Christ and his genuine followers are spoken against with various degrees of reaction and persecution.
· The speaking against ranges all the way from simply ignoring believers to killing them (martyrdom) There is:
This prophecy Simeon gave over Jesus was intense.
· Simeon is saying:
· people will rise and fall,
· kingdoms will rise and fall,
· history itself will be sliced in half because of this baby you hold in your arms.
· He has come to bring peace, for sure, but war will result as well.
· There will be struggle, and a sword will pierce your soul as well, momma.
· We know that Jesus allowed these things to happen to him so he could be our perfect, COMPASSIONATE, CARING High Priest.
Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ shows the relationship between Jesus and his mother in detail.
· I don’t often think of that relationship; but imagine the pain of being a mother to watch all that Jesus had to go through.
· John tells us that she watched him be crucified right in front of her.
· As Lk 2:35 said a sword would pierce Mary’s heart, the sorrow of watching your son being murdered in front of you.
· So Simeon’s words in this intense moment were no flowery, sugary promises.
· They are a prophecy of a very real and painful future, but also of a final victory.
Now we come to the woman Anna:
LK 2:36-38 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (ESV)
Typical of Luke’s writing, we see the male character matched with a female character.
· She represents the female side of the waiting and watching that Simeon represents here.
· Like Simeon, she is someone who walks in faith that God will do what he says he will do.
· The fastings and prayer illustrate she was extremely disciplined possessing key disciplines believers often lack.
· It said she fasted and prayed night and day despite being elder, widowed and over 84 years old.
· She devoted herself to serving, and hoping and praying and bearing witness.
· Notice the end of the verse Anna after seeing the Messiah she shared that with whomever she came in contact with.
Anna is also someone who is waiting, and
· Anna was a prophetess, like Miriam, Deborah
· After seven years of married life her husband died and during her long 84 years of widowhood she daily attended the temples services.
· Many scholars feels she was well over 100 years old, she entered the temple at the moment when the aged Simeon uttered his memorable words of praise and thanks to God that he had fulfilled his ancient promise in sending his Son into the world.
· she spends much of her life alone serving others in the temple.
· She is the lost one,
· She was like the outcast but here, HER STORY IS BROUGHT CENTER STAGE.
· APPEARING IN THE STORY IN THE FINAL HOUR.
· Everything had been taken from her in so many ways—her marriage, the ability to have children, and here we see her “coming up at that very hour.”
· Here we see her caught up by God into his purposes, to be one of the first evangelists of the gospel.
That is the story here. Of those who were watching and waiting, they finally saw what they were waiting for COME TO FRUITION.
· There were some in the story who weren’t watching and waiting at all.
· Yet there were others who were brought into the story MARY, JOSEPH, THE SHEPHERDS.
· Through the WONDER on their faces and the JOY in their hearts, and sometimes the SHEER CONFUSION they express, we can know that—as usual—God’s solution is more CREATIVE and SURPRISING and BEAUTIFUL than anything we can come up with.
So we have our manger scene, and around it we have another cast of characters.
· The prophets,
· Herod the Great, and
· Simeon and
These all tell us that the gospel is for everyone—
· from the most wealthy and sophisticated to the most forgotten and unimportant.
· And we all have each of them within us.
· If the manger scene were to be fully completed, it wouldn’t fit on the mantle, or in the room, or in the house, or in the city.
· The WHOLE WORLD is the manger scene, the WHOLE WORLD changed with the birth of a child born to NOBODIES from NOWHERE in a backroom.
What do we learn from our friends, Simeon and Anna?
· WATCHING AND WAITING
· Both of these folks lived in EXPECTANCY of God’s action and goodness.
· Theirs was a lifestyle of WAITING for the Messiah to come, CONTINUALLY REMINGING the community that God is good, and God delivers.
· *** DO WE LIFE LIKE THAT?
§ Waiting on God’s action in the world?
§ Have you ever had to wait a really long time for something?
§ Does that help you empathize with Simeon and Anna?
§ Simeon and Anna played one small part in the great story of redemption.
§ HAVE YOU PLAYED YOUR PART.
§ Or do we just live in our own strength and the world’s rules—just happening to do something different with our Sunday mornings?
· DEPART IN PEACE
· Simeon saw for only a moment.
· Simeon probably died soon after.
· He didn’t have to see the whole thing, just a glimmer of God’s life, and that was enough.
· *** ARE WE CONTENT TO BE PART OF THAT?
· To join in God’s work if only for a moment?
· We live in such a gimme gimme world,
· a culture that wants everything and wants it now.
· Could we ever live with Simeon’s peace: to get to see maybe just a moment of joy, a moment of love, a moment of beauty and let that feed our soul?
· ANNA WAS ALWAYS IN THE TEMPLE
· Is there someone in your life who is like an Anna?
· Someone who might be out of touch with culture and trends, but lives instead with a quiet, simple faith?
· *** THIS IS THE PERSON TO LISTEN TO.
· Even though our fast-paced world may not have time for them, God has time for them.
· Even though we may think of them as unimportant, God thinks of them as central to the picture.
The title of this message is “Advent also starring (Simeon & Anna)”
· These are some supporting roles to the greatest story ever told.
Advent also stars you —what will your role be?
When Your Story is Written, What Will it Say?