The Presentation: Waiting for redemption
Shepherds, sheep, wise men, and angels. We celebrate the large cast of players in the Christmas story with visual representations ranging from finely crafted Nativity sets to church pageants filled with children decked in bathrobes and homemade wings. So many different people who came to see the baby in a manger and give him glory. So many witnesses and testimonies. And Mary kept all this things and pondered them in her heart.
The story of Jesus’ presentation at the temple (Luke 2:22-40) is very different. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice as required in the law of the Lord. There is no crowd here, no heavenly chorus of angels singing. Just Simeon and Anna.
Simeon is described as righteous and devout, “looking forward to the consolation of Israel.” He knows that he will not see death until he has seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he comes to the temple in time to see Jesus and his parents. He praises God for been allowed to see his salvation, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory to the people Israel.”
I find it a little surprising that, in spite of all they have already experienced, Mary and Joseph are, once more, “amazed” at what they are hearing.
Not only does Simeon predict that Jesus will be “a sign that will be opposed” but he goes on to prophesy that a sword will pierce Mary’s own soul as well.
Anna, a prophet “of a great age,” lives at the temple, fasting and praying. She also approaches the family and begins to praise God and speak about him to everyone who is looking for the redemption of Israel.
Simeon and Anna. Two ancient witnesses to God’s salvation and redemption.
I myself have aged into senior citizen territory. It worries me some time that when I look around at church on Sunday morning, I see mainly other folks in my age bracket. Coffee hour conversations center around shared physical ailments, retirement issues, and news of our children and grandchildren. Like many others, I would love to see young families in our pews and occasionally have the quiet service disrupted by crying babies and squirmy small children. It’s an easy jump to think that young adults and young families are what the church must have to be vibrant.
Perhaps it is good to remember the example of Simeon and Anna. Elderly, yes, but also faithful and devout. Waiting on the promises they had received and ultimately able to do their part to confer a blessing on these parents and their young child. Where can I see Simeon and Anna in the faces of the elderly in our congregation? How can I strive to follow their example in faithfulness and devotion?