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Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Luke 2:36-40 NKJV
Anna was a devoted servant of God. Widowed early in life, Anna dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. When Jesus was bought into the temple, her life of piety was interrupted. No longer were her religious actions on hope of the long-awaited Messiah. The Messiah was there, in the flesh, in the temple with her! Her hope was rewarded. God was praised. The presence of the Messiah was met with her gratitude to God. Like other true believers, she could not be silent about her Savior. The Good news had to be shared!
Throughout the Bible, women had a role in proclaiming the truth of God. God chose in the biblical narrative, to mention women as well as men who went in boldness to tell others about God and speak his word to others. These women are sometimes called “prophetesses”, a female version of a prophet.
Why is Luke including Anna here in his Gospel? Because his major theme is that God sent Jesus to earth that ALL might be saved.(Luke 2:10) In a culture that generally did not hold women in high regard, Luke wanted to show that God is different. He wants to be sure that the reader understands that women as well as men will be part of the Kingdom of God. In fact, Luke’s Gospel tells us more about women than any others. Later in the book of Acts, also written by Luke, we learn of other women who prophesy. (Acts 2:19)
Anna was a mighty woman of God. She was a watchful woman and used the spiritual disciplines of fasting and praying to keep her mind and heart focused on God. As a long-term widow, Anna could have wallowed in self-pity. But she did not. Instead, she devoted herself to pleasing God and waiting for him to fulfill his promises. Anna was a woman of faith and God rewarded her with the greatest gift of all.
Luke wants us to know that in the birth of Jesus, God is fulfilling his covenant promises of the Old Testament. This fills Anna with gratitude and joy so much that she must share the Good News with others.
In the midst of all your activities this Christmas season, find time to tell others about Jesus.
And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:38
Lord, Help me to spread the Good News about Jesus this Christmas season. Amen.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Luke 2:30-35 NKJV
The Song of a Prophet
This song of Simeon is the fourth of four songs or canticles found in the beginning of Luke. We have read songs by Zechariah, Mary and the angels. Now we read Simeon’s song of praise. These canticles have since antiquity been named after the first word or words, also known as the incipit of the song, in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. This ancient translation was completed in 400 A.D. by biblical scholar Jerome. The first words of Simeon’s song in Latin (verse 29) are “Nunc dimittis” meaning “Now you dismiss.” Simeon is saying that God is now releasing him from earthly life because he met the Lord’s anointed, the Christ, baby Jesus.
Who Is This Jesus?
In today’s reading, we see Simeon continuing his song. Simeon prophetically tells us the identity of Jesus.
The blessed baby is:
- Salvation for all people
- Light to the Gentiles
- The glory of Israel
Mary and Joseph are amazed at this continuing revelation of the identity of their new baby. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the angels and now Simeon revealed the truth of who this baby is and what he came to accomplish.
Blessing and Hard Truths
Then Simeon blessed the Holy Child and his family. Instead of leaving after the blessing, Simeon turns his attention to Mary. She is likely feeling the joy and warmth of the old prophets’ blessing when he turns to speak to her directly. I imagine he addressed her with a slight heaviness in his heart as God, through the Holy Spirit, showed him that difficult times are ahead for Mary and Jesus. Simeon faithfully gives the hard message that:
- Jesus will cause both the fall and rise of many in Israel. Some will accept Jesus and rise to everlasting life while others who reject him will stumble and break. (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:32)
- Jesus will be spoken against. In just a couple of years, Herod will be the first to oppose Jesus when he makes the command to kill all the babies in an attempt to get rid of Jesus whom he feels threatened by. At the end of his life, Jesus will be spoken against by the Jewish religious leaders. From beginning to end, Jesus faced opposition at Simeon prophesied.
- Mary will be hurt by what happens to her son. The word for sword used here refers to a very large, broad sword. The verb construction reflect an action that occurs continuously or repeatedly. We see in Mary’s life that she is a mother who watched her son endure much opposition throughout his ministry.
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:32
Lord, Thank you for Jesus, our salvation, the light of the world, through whom we see the glory of God. Thank you for the example of these godly parents who sought to do your will in the resining of their child from his infancy. Thank you for the prophecies about Jesus so that we might believe and know with certainty why we believe and who we believe in. Amen.
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;
Luke 2:25-29 NKJV
Portrait of a Prophet
This is not a good time for Israel. Like in their time of bondage in Egypt, God seems to have forgotten them. He doesn’t seem to see their suffering at the hand of the oppressive Romans. Or if he sees, God seems not to care. Where is the promised salvation? Will Messiah ever come?
No Angels Needed
Simeon remembers. He has been waiting in joyful hope. A devoted Jew, he was blessed by a revelation from the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel”, would come to God’s people in his lifetime. Yes, he was old, old enough to die a natural death. Yet he knew he would not die before Messiah came to rescue his people. So he waited. Probably, he looked for a royal procession or armies led by a successful general to fulfill the prophecy. No angel had to come and proclaim hope to him. The Holy Spirit already spoke to him.
The Spirit Stays
The same Spirit who gave Simeon the revelation about the coming of Christ now directs Simeon to the temple. Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with baby Jesus to find Simeon waiting for them. Simeon, still filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of the revelation he was given.
Blessing and Honor Given
Simeon reacted to the presence of Jesus, promise fulfilled, in the only way he could, by thanking and praising God. God was true to his word! How sweet it is to wait patiently for the Lord, confident that he will come through, and have his promises fulfilled! Simeon recognized how privileged he was to hold the Savior in his arms. He must have felt such peace and joy!
he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
Luke 2:28 NKJV
Have you accepted Jesus and blessed God for his wonderful gift?
Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. You sent your only Son to earth to be our Consolation, our Savior. Help us to live in gratitude and remember this great truth everyday but especially this Christmas. Amen.
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ” ), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”Luke 2:21-24 NKJV
Bridging the Gap
Jesus’ life represents movement from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. He lived, died and was resurrected to usher in a new way for us to have forgiveness of our sins. The temple curtain will be torn, the veil between God and man destroyed. The law of Moses is fulfilled through Jesus. His participation in Mosaic legal requirements is the beginning of this role. Now, reigning at the right hand of the Father, the risen Jesus completely fulfills the role of high priest, see Hebrews 8.
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.Luke 2:16-20 NKJV
Mary and Joseph, after their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, were unable to find a proper place to stay. Instead, they are in a stable area with the animals of the household. In this uncomfortable arrangement, Mary’s time comes and she gives birth to Jesus.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”Luke 2:11-15 NKJV
In keeping with the perspective of common people God inspired Luke to write about, we learn about common, lowly shepherds being given privileged information. To them is proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy- The Anointed One, The Christ, is here! The Savior, promised by God and his prophets many years ago, is here! This announcement must have confused them. They knew the Christ would be from the line of David, so the city of David made sense. But why is a baby the sign? Could the Anointed One be a baby, lying in a feeding trough, a manger?
Jesus is Born in Bethlehem
“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”Luke 2:6–10, NKJV
An Arrival with Startling Humility
A back room with the animals. A rough feeding trough fit for animals. Simple cloths to protect a new life. This is how the Savior of all, the King of Kings, made his grand entrance into the world.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1–5, NKJV)
Another Prophecy Fulfilled
In the earlier part of Luke’s narrative, we learn that Mary, mother-to-be of Jesus, lives in Nazareth, about 100 miles north of Bethlehem, prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah. How will this happen? God’s got this. He uses the secular rulers to bring his prophesy to pass. The Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, declared that all the world under his jurisdiction should be registered.