OK, Christmas has come and gone. How are you feeling? If you are like many, this may be a very “blue” time. The adrenaline push of the holidays has passed and many wish that it could have lasted much longer. We have spent weeks in anticipation of this holiday. Sometimes, even months. And now, after one weekend, and all the pageantry, the Christmas movies, the Christmas feasts, the worship services, the cantatas, and innumerable renditions of Handel’s “Messiah”, it’s over.
Have you ever considered how long that first Christmas story, the story of the birth of Jesus, lasted? Reading carefully the gospel-long event. No, that first Christmas and all of the events that go in hand in hand with it took place over the span of almost two years. It began with the angelic announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to his parents, Elizabeth and Zacharias, and continues through two other angelic announcements to the Virgin Mary and her espoused husband Joseph. From there it leads through the actual trip to Bethlehem and the birth of the Savior to the coming of the shepherds to adore and worship Him. This whole account culminates with the appearance of a strange star in the east and the arrival of the magi, almost two years later, coming not to a stable to see a baby in a manger, but to a house in Bethlehem to find a toddler, perhaps spilling his milk.
There are two other individuals in that first Christmas story are often overlooked. These two individuals could be called “Senior Saints” or “Golden Agers” or, as we like to be referred to here in this 55-and-over community in Florida, members of the “Encore Generation.” Their names are Simeon and Anna and we find their stories in Luke 2:21-38.
Just eight days after Jesus was born, as was the custom, Joseph and Mary had him circumcised. It was at that time that he was officially named Jesus. Then, 40 days after his birth, 33 days after Jesus was named, Joseph and Mary made the short trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, went to the temple to present a sacrifice for purification as well as to present Jesus to the Lord. Apparently, in the time they had been in Bethlehem, Joseph had not been able to secure a job as they had attempted to establish a residence in Bethlehem for that time. How do we know that? If they had had significant financial resources, they would have presented a lamb as the sacrificial animal. However, because they presented a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons as the sacrifice, they must not have had the resources to sacrifice the lamb.
As they approached the temple for the purpose of this sacrifice, Simeon saw them and immediately realized this baby was the Messiah, the promised one for Israel. Simeon was an old man, who had been serving in the temple for a long time. We are not told, but he may have been a member of the Sanhedrin, one of the religious leaders in the nation. The two words that here describe Simeon’s character are “righteous and devout.” Simeon was a righteous man. That means that he was moral. He paid his bills on time. He did things right. His word was his bond. If Simeon gave you a promise, he would fulfill it. You could trust him.
In addition, he was devout. He trusted God. He took God at His word. Every day, he took up a position in the temple… and waited. He was looking for “the consolation of Israel”. That is, he was watching for the appearance of the One who would be called “Messiah.” Once Simeon saw the Christ child, he took him in his arms and declared that God was now releasing him to depart in peace. He was declaring that now that he had seen and held the Messiah in his arms, he could now say he had fulfilled his life purpose and was ready to die.
There was also an elderly woman there that day named Anna. She had committed her life to serving the Lord and was constantly serving in the temple. She, too, was excited and overjoyed when she saw the baby named Jesus that day. But her response was completely different from Simeon’s. Rather than see her life as fulfilled and finished, when she saw Jesus, she was energized to go forward. She expressed her thanks to God and then saw this baby as a motivator to speak to others about the “redemption of Jerusalem.”
From these two individuals who are intimately involved in the Christmas story, I believe we have two principles for living our lives here and now. From Simeon, we see that each of us should be sure to see Jesus, to meet him, to trust him fully, before we die and cross the threshold of eternity. From Anna, we discover that it is never too late to tell others about Jesus!
So, have you met Jesus yet? Are you still telling others about Him?
Merry Christmas (still!), and God bless…
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]