Prophecy of Simeon and Anna
Luke 2: 22-40
Well, here we are, three days past Christmas. And for everyone other than the folks who celebrate Ukrainian Christmas, the presents have been opened, we have visited with family and friends and if we haven’t yet taken down the decorations, we are thinking about doing so. The excitement of Christmas day, the day that we have been looking forward to for so long, has decreased and we linger in these post-Christmas days using or wearing our presents, and wondering how our waist lines have increased. And so, you might find it a bit strange hearing the gospel reading chosen for today. Luke is the only gospel writer who includes the words of Simeon. Simeon’s words which are often referred to as Simeon’s song “Now Lord, you let your servant go in peace.”
Some of you might find these words a bit strange this soon after Christmas Day…..a day in which we focus on birth and life. Why are we now hearing about an old man who is talking about going in peace…..who is talking about death. What just happened here? According to Luke, it is now forty days after the birth of Jesus. In keeping with Jewish tradition, after reaching his eighth day Jesus has been circumcised and named, and now, he is returning to the Temple in order to be consecrated to the Lord. And before the consecration could take place, here comes Simeon, guided by the Holy Spirit he takes the infant Jesus in his arms and praises God using the words that we now know as Simeon’s song. Mary and Joseph must have been a little alarmed at this knowing full well that this was not part of the consecration ceremony. But they did not interfere or demand to have their baby back perhaps because they sensed the Holy Spirit upon Simeon.
And while Simeon holds, with awe, the infant Jesus he speaks these strange words: “master now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Put in a nutshell, Simeon is asking to die. So why does Luke find it important to put this story right after the birth of Jesus. Why can’t we send death on a little vacation, at least in these days so close to Christmas? Why must Luke throw death right back in our faces so close to the birth of our Savior into the world? But death doesn’t really care what day it is. Death isn’t concerned with the secular calendar or the church calendar…..death doesn’t go on vacation does it? In fact, Christmas can be a very sad and hurtful time of year for many people who are missing someone they used to share the Christmas joy with. Perhaps a Christmas carol, a favorite food, a particular decoration or some other Christmas memory brings the hurt right back to the surface and you feel the raw emotion as the tears burn in your eyes.
And we can easily imagine that Simeon, being an old man, has also experienced the pain of losing loved ones…..he knows full well that death doesn’t take vacations. And Simeon is able to stand in the temple holding this precious baby in his arms while speaking words of praise to God even as he knocks at deaths door, because this precious baby has come into the world in order to defeat death once and for all. Simeon, guided by the Holy Spirit, knows full well who he is holding in his hands. So there he stands, able to praise God while he accepts the death that awaits him. He knows that he is holding God’s promise in his very hands…..a small bundle to be sure, but a small bundle that carries with him a promise of immense value. A promise that allows us to be able to look at death through the lens of the cross, knowing that death does not have the last say…..knowing that we now have hope…..hope that helps when a memory comes to us of someone whom we badly miss.
Death without hope means that we live in despair. Death, being defeated once and for all by the birth of hope into the world, while it still stings, does not consume us completely. Death with hope lets us look at it as a temporary impediment…..a temporary pain that will be turned around into joyful reunions at some point in the future. Yes, great things can come from small packages. Like a small seed that is planted in the ground, growing into a beautiful flower or a mighty tree. As the plant or small tree breaks through the soil it speaks of what the gardener may hope for in the next weeks and months and years. Just like a seed sprouting up through the soil…..and just like the power that comes from a small gift, our readings for today talk about big dreams that have grown from events that seem barely significant in everyday life.
Simeon and Anna are old when the baby Jesus is tiny and new. As these two prophets share a moment’s time with this precious baby, they see in him not just the hope of the next generation, but the hope that Israel and the nations might together reflect the light and glory of God. All through the gospels Jesus busies himself with many small, seemingly insignificant actions…..such as spending time with the sick, eating with tax collectors and the rest of the despised people, and taking children into his arms. Like Simeon and Anna who spent just a moments time with the baby, we glimpse these moments in Jesus’ life, and we see in them the beginning of a whole new world…..we see in them, hope. And we rejoice, that centuries later, this small bundle, this tiny present to the world, cares for us just as he did for Simeon and Anna, making us all children of God. In a few moments at the Lord’s table, we will receive a small amount of bread and wine. We speak of this small meal as enacting our union with Christ and one another, one body with many members. Here, just like in Simeon’s arms, God’s salvation appears in a tiny package and makes all things new. There in your outstretched hands is placed hope…..there in your very hands is God’s promise to you…..there against your lips you taste the reason to sing praises to God just as an old man did centuries ago. Thanks be to God for amazing power found in small packages. Amen
This message from Pastor Terry Gudmundson is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at: [email protected]