- Tell who Anna was waiting for.
- Feel assured that God keeps his promises.
- Thank God for sending baby Jesus.
As Luke continues his telling of the story of Jesus, we meet other unexpected people who welcome him. We've met Mary and Joseph, young and poor; and the shepherds, earthy and disreputable. Now Luke calls us to ponder two old people in the temple who take the infant in their arms.
If you skim Luke 2:22-40, you can see that two things dominate the story: "the Law" and "the Holy Spirit." Luke signals to us that it's terribly important that Jesus' parents follow God's law in this birth. It's not as if the first two-thirds of the Bible get ripped away as a new era of grace dawns. It all comes to fulfillment here.
The law of Moses stipulates four important actions after the birth of a child. The child is to be circumcised on the eighth day, symbolizing his covenant status. The mother must undergo a ritual purification since she is rendered "unclean" after the birth (and therefore is unable to participate in any official religious observance). Then the child is "presented" at the temple in Jerusalem and "consecrated" with a sacrifice there.
The last action recalls the time of the exodus, when the angel of death struck down the firstborn of Egypt, but the houses of the Hebrews were "passed over." From that time, the life of every firstborn child belonged to God. So, in a ritual that reminded them of their salvation from Egypt, every firstborn boy was redeemed by the payment of an offering in the temple (the sacrifice mentioned in v. 24 was for Mary's purification).
Why all this stuff about the law? Luke wants us to know that Jesus did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham, of which circumcision was a sign and seal. He is the firstborn Son who will die and rise again for the redemption of the world. He is the one who will take away our uncleanness and make us pure.
And this is where Simeon and Anna and the Holy Spirit come in. Simeon was in the temple that day because the Holy Spirit moved him to be there at that moment. Anna was always there because she was a prophet---someone through whom the Holy Spirit especially spoke and acted.
Their spirit was one of patient waiting. This waiting was not like waiting in line at the checkout counter. It was waiting in faith for the sure action of God, waiting to see God's promises fulfilled. And on this particular day, their wait was over. Both of them, moved by the Holy Spirit, knew that this was the promised one.
In a profoundly touching action, Simeon takes the child in his arms and offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God---a prayer that has become the last prayer at the close of day for countless Christians across the centuries. Simeon says, in effect, "This is what I've been hoping and waiting for all my life long; God's salvation has finally arrived." And his prophetic words to Mary pierce her soul. Anna, a longtime widow who has dedicated her life to prayer, sees the child and she too believes.
While his birth is unnoticed in the larger world, Jesus is welcomed by the disreputable shepherds and these obscure old people, pious in the best sense of the word, their expectant faith rewarded with sight.
Children's ResourcesDwell's colorful, engaging resources come in a variety of formats designed for use in church and at home. Order them here.
OptionalNeed something for younger children? Many churches use the God Loves Me program for ages 2-3. Learn more.
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