6: Simeon and Anna
After Jesus was born, the days slipped by one by one. The angels who sang on the night of His birth did not repeat their performance. People went about their work as they always had. The sun rose in the morning and set in the evening. The shepherds continued to pasture their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Life continued its usual course, just as if nothing had happened.
But Mary had a special child in her arms —the Redeemer of the world. Every day He drank from her breast.
Like any other child, the baby was given a name on the eighth day—Jesus, which means savior. Because He was the firstborn, Mary and Joseph brought Him to Jerusalem, which was two hours away from Bethlehem. This happened on the fortieth day.
Centuries before, when all the first-born in Egypt were put to death, God had spared the first-born of the Israelites in the land of Goshen. That was why the firstborn son was always brought to the temple. The first-born son was "presented" to the Lord. In other words, he was consecrated to the Lord.
The mother would show her baby to the priest so that the priest could bless him. She knew that God's eyes also looked down on the baby in love. Then the parents would offer a sacrifice. Rich people would offer a lamb; poor people would offer a pair of pigeons or turtle doves.
This was the first time that Jesus was in Jerusalem, the city of the Great King. No one recognized Joseph and Mary as they walked through the streets, and no one recognized the royal child Mary carried in her arms.
They entered the temple and offered the usual sacrifice for poor people. The priest approached them and unthinkingly laid his hands on the child. He had blessed the Messiah without realizing it.
Suddenly an old, gray man entered the temple with great haste. He hurried straight to Mary. He knew who the child was! Simeon knew because God had told him.
Simeon's only great desire in life was for the Messiah, the one who would redeem his people. Long ago, to comfort him, God had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Savior.
It was late evening in Simeon's life. The dark shadow of death had crept forward toward him. Simeon was living in dark times for the people of Israel. The people were oppressed by a powerful foe. But now the great day had finally come—the most beautiful day in Simeon's entire life.
Mary offered the baby to Simeon. Reverently the old man took the child in his arms. Full of joy, he praised God. "Now I can die in peace," he cried out, "for my eyes have seen Your salvation, 0 Lord."
Indeed, Simeon need not fear death, for this child he held in his arms would conquer sin and death.
Because the Redeemer had come, it didn't matter that Simeon lived in dark times. The Light of the world was finally beginning to shine.
Simeon sang of that light, the great and beautiful light that descended from heaven to beam down not only upon Israel but upon all the nations.
Simeon said that many would come to love this child and would receive happiness through Him. But there would be many others who would hate him. The child would cause some to fall and others to rise.
Simeon had more things to say. His aged eyes saw far into the future. He knew that Mary's joy was greater than anyone else's joy. But her sorrow would also be greater than anyone else's sorrow. She would suffer intense pain, as if someone had run a sword through her.
When Simeon fell silent, another voice was raised. The new speaker was an old, gray woman—the prophetess Anna. She was an 84-year-old widow who spent her time in the temple.
Anna came to stand by the baby Jesus. Like Simeon, she saw much more than a child six weeks old. They both saw Jesus as the Son of God. God had come so close to man that He now lay as a child in the arms of His mother.
Anna sang about this great wonder. From then on she told everyone she met that the Redeemer had come. All who looked forward to the coming of the Redeemer found rich comfort in this joyful message.
The finely clothed priests and the strict Pharisees were not among them. They had a different kind of Messiah in mind. They were not interested in a humble Messiah who came to earth as a child.