Across the Palm Beaches are stores with the name “Treasure” in them. They often have higher end repurposed furniture or genuine antiques. In our guest bedroom we have a 130-year-old oak child’s desk with the fold down front. In its single drawer we found a book from 1892 full of stories and product advertising that reflected the values of that day. The book is a treasure to us for offering a bit of nostalgia, but it holds no real value.
I wonder if many of us look at the birth of Christ like that. No question a historical event 2,000 years ago, but now filled with cultural traditions no longer reflective of the central story or relevant to the reality of our lives. That’s the way of religion: starts strong then diminishes over time. Recently, I talked to teen about his disappointment with prayer. He prays, nothing happens, so he quits with a sense of betrayal that God had forgotten him.
Simeon and Anna are two very elderly people that are part of Jesus’ birth saga. We know little (Luke 2:25-38) about them except that they lived in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus birth and they spent a lot of time on the Temple grounds. But what is remarkable is that for a lifetime they had been praying for, waiting on the arrival of the Messiah. The decades came and went and day after day they wondered afresh was today the day. What is the secret of their enthusiasm, perseverance, and vibrant faith? Why didn’t they get discouraged, cynical, burned out? What made the difference for them? A careful reading of the Scripture holds the answer.
They had a Spirit of Expectation that was deeply imbedded in their hearts. The Holy Spirit had revealed he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (v26) It was a promise he was sure God would keep so he was eagerly waiting. Anna was part of a group of people who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem (v38). She was with people who nurtured her spirit.
They had a Spirit of Worship. Anna was in her 80s or even 90s but she never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. (v38). Her delight in God was contagious it energized and animated her. The Holy Spirit was upon him, he lived in the presence of God, which kept his heart focused on the promise.
They had a Spirit of Obedience. Simeon was righteous and devout. (v25) His behavior had been fashioned by the fervor of his love for God. His uncluttered spirit allowed him to hear the Spirit of God and he had conditioned himself to instant obedience. “That day the Spirit lead him to the Temple” so he went and there he found Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Anna gave herself fully to God and lived in his presence.
So that day Simeon was positioned to intersect with Mary and Joseph and Anna came along just as Simeon was holding the Messiah and talking with Mary and Joseph. The promise of God was fulfilled; joy cascaded through their lives. Their obedience positioned them to receive the promise.
They chose to live in presence of God with a deeply personal relationship that was vibrant, fulfilling and life giving. And they lived that way until the promise came.
From the prophecy of Malachi to the birth of Christ is 400 years with no word from God. No prophetic utterance yet Simeon and Anna were nearing 100 years of age when Jesus was born. So somewhat after 300 years of silence God revealed himself to them, they responded and in the prophetic vacuum they came alive.