As a little girl, one of the main things I would wonder as I sat in children’s ministry or listened to Bible lessons was, “What would it have been like to watch this happen?”
I’d imagine going back in time and observing Queen Esther take a deep breath before she stepped into Xerxes’ throne room. I’d wonder about what Jonah smelled like after he got spit up on the beach (ew), and I’d close my eyes and imagine the sound of the angels singing to the shepherds.
If I could people-watch through the Bible, there are so many scenes I’d love to witness… but as I’ve been marinating in the birth of Jesus, I’d love to be taken back to the moments Simeon and then Anna lock eyes with the Messiah – the infant in young Mary’s arms.
Why were Mary and Joseph at the Temple with Jesus?
As righteous and devout Jews, they were following the Law of the Lord outlined back in Exodus 13. In the journey of the Exodus of God’s people from captivity in Egypt, Pharaoh’s stubbornness yielded only to the Lord’s judgment of the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. What we see occurring in Exodus 13 is that, because the life of every firstborn in Egypt was taken, technically Israel’s firstborn should belong to God.
The Israelites were instructed to give their firstborn animals to God, and He gave them an opportunity to redeem their children. Mary and Joseph would have paid a small fee at the Temple to do this. (Another example of this in Scripture is Hannah with Samuel; rather than redeem him, she offered him to service in the Tabernacle.)
Isn’t it remarkable to see the heart of God and the story of redemption being told over and over again through this law?
Who were Simeon and Anna?
Simeon was a priest, and Anna was a prophetess – two remarkable individuals who we are told were “looking for the consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.” These elders not only summarize the role of the Messiah in their proclamations, but they also present Israel’s entire messianic hope as they encounter Jesus.
As lovers of God’s Torah, they would have had the words of the prophet Isaiah ringing in their hearts as they encountered the infant King.
“Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Simeon and Anna are an example to all of us of what it means to receive the Word, believe it, and live in anticipation of the fulfillment of all that is promised.
We cannot miss, as well, that their roles represent two of the three holy offices of ancient Israel: the priests, the prophets, and the kings. Simeon, the priest, and Anna, the prophetess, were awaiting the restoration of the third- the King who would establish His Kingdom.
Their faith was defined by their perseverance, and oh! How I WISH I could go back in time to get a glimpse at their eyes when the realization of all of their hopes and waiting was there in their arms looking back at them!
What does this mean for us today?
Today, my friends, we continue in the same, long anticipation and faithful watching for the day He comes like our brother Simeon and sister Anna. The Hope that kept them alive is alive in us. The Comfort and Consolation they held in their arms holds us each and every day. Our eyes, too, will one day lock with the King’s and we will exclaim:
“… my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)
May we treasure with complete faith that our Hope is with us, and is to come. This is the comfort of Christmas.
From my family to yours, I pray you experience a meaningful and blessed day this Christmas reflecting on the Prince of Peace born in Bethlehem. He reigns!