Christmas is long over. The parties are finished, the dinners are eaten, and the presents have been opened. The waiting can seem endless, especially for children, but then it’s over so quickly. Now the Valentines cards are in the shops, then it will be Mother’s Day cards for those in the UK, and after that it will be Easter.
We always seem to be waiting for something.
Israel waited a long time for the promised Messiah, and many today are still waiting. This promised Saviour was not like waiting for a party, it was something much more important. Something life-changing.
At Christmas we go over once again the story of Jesus’ birth. We hear about the innkeeper, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men. And we experience again the wonder of the birth of a baby to a poor couple, Mary and Joseph. A baby that would grow up to teach people about God’s Kingdom by his words and deeds, and then sacrifice himself for the sins of the world.
But there are two people we don’t usually get to hear about. Two people who had been waiting all their lives for this to happen, and who recognised the Messiah when he came. Their names were Simeon and Anna, and they were in the Temple when his parents came to present him and make a sacrifice for him, when he was 8 days old.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:25-35)
You could say it was a coincidence that Simeon happened to be there. There were probably other parents bringing their babies too. You could say that Simeon just happened to come across Mary and Joseph among the crowd. But the Holy Spirit brought him to that place at that time to see the fulfilment of what he had been waiting for.
Simeon was able to praise God and testify about Jesus, and prophesy about him too. Simeon’s private words to Mary must have been hard for he to hear, but they came true 33 years later when she wept beneath the cross.
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
Anna was also brought by God to the right place at the right time. She too thanked God that she had been allowed the privilege of seeing that special child. She told everyone what she knew about his future.
I wonder how many people believed the words of Simeon and Anna and went away rejoicing that God’s promise of a Saviour had been fulfilled? How many believed the waiting was over?
How long have you petitioned God for something deep in your heart? How long have you been waiting? As long as Simeon and Anna? Can you keep faith and wait patiently?