It’s hard to imagine a life before the arrival of Jesus. A life where all 613 Levitical laws were expected to be obeyed. A life where animal sacrifices, blood sacrifices, were required to atone for sin because there was no way anyone could actually adhere to that many laws. A life where the Old Testament pointed to a Messiah that the world itself had not yet been introduced to. A life without direct access to God.
This is not a life I desire but yet this was the reality for Simeon and Anna. They were both devout Jewish worshipers who, contrary to many of their peers, did not put their hope in the covenant of the law. Instead, their hope was in the Savior that Isaiah 7 had eagerly anticipated. Their hope was in a Rescuer still to come. Their hope was in the covenant of grace.
While they don’t often make appearances in the children book versions of “The Christmas Story” both Simeon and Anna did meet Jesus while He was an infant. They were righteous people committed to upholding Old Testament traditions, but they also didn’t ignore the prophecies about a coming Savior.
As was required by Levitical Law, Mary and Joseph went to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate their first born Son and to offer a sacrifice. Luke 2 explains how Simeon, an old man, appears before them and takes Jesus into his own arms – praising God that the Messiah had arrived.
Mary and Joseph did not personally know Simeon. They did not walk into the temple announcing their arrival with the Savior. The Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. And so he had been waiting… and watching. When Jesus arrived – Simeon was ready. He spent his whole life preparing to meet his Savior and the moment finally arrived.
After Simeon blesses the family, Anna comes in. Anna was an 84 year old prophetess, a person chosen to speak for God, who never left the temple. She spent her days and nights worshiping, fasting, and praying. As Anna listens to Simeon she also begins thanking God that Israel’s redemption had arrived. Imagine how she felt when she looked on Jesus’ face. Countless others before her lived their whole lives looking forward to the coming of the Messiah yet she was the one privileged to experience it. She, faithful Anna, got to see her hope in the flesh.
It’s remarkable to me that these two God-honoring, God-fearing, God-serving individuals immediately recognized who Jesus was and stopped what they were doing in order to publicly worship Him. That is faith in action. Faith that defies culture. Faith that is brave. Faith that hopes even when things seem impossible.
As we begin to wrap up our Advent with a Twist series let us not forget how the Old Testament prepared the way for the New Testament. Let’s appreciate all that happened in Genesis through Malachi to make way for the arrival of our Savior. Just as Simeon and Anna anticipated the coming of Jesus let us celebrate both His birth and His resurrection. You see…
Hope is not found purely in a Bethlehem stable. Hope was born when The Baby from that stable conquered the grave. Look to the manger and, even more importantly, don’t stop searching until you find the cross.