Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gift Part Four - Simeon and Anna: Anticipating the Gift

photo by Selaphotography
In case you haven’t noticed, men and women are different. You can spring an impromptu trip on most guys and they can be packed and ready to go in fifteen minutes. Not most women. Half the fun for us is the anticipation.
We want to plan out what clothes, shoes and jewelry we will take. And we like to look forward to what we’re going to do there, and maybe do some research online. We love  anticipating the gift, the gift itself, and reminiscing after we get home.

Yet when it comes to promises, both men and women look forward to their fulfillment with equal expectation. And we can all get discouraged. Moses and the prophets said the Messiah who would come to rescue His people, but hundreds of year went by and He didn’t come.

The nation of Israel went into captivity, and He didn’t come. The Romans gained power and conquered the entire known world, and the Messiah didn’t come. Many Jews gave up hope that He ever would. However, there were still a few who continued to watch and pray.

Two of these faithful ones were in the temple the day Mary and Joseph took Jesus for His dedication:

"There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God...Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too’” (Luke 2:22-35)

Nothing about Jesus’ arrival had been ordinary so far; why should His Dedication Day be any different?  Simeon, came to the temple by invitation of the Holy Spirit, and saw the answer to his prayers. Jesus hadn’t even begun His years of ministry, yet Simeon had faith He would fulfill His mission.

Simeon’s prophecies were right on the mark too. God revealed to him that Jesus would not be a military hero, as many expected, but a Savior from our worst enemy – sin. What an incredible man of God he must have been!

The second person Joseph and Mary met in the temple was an old woman:

There was also a prophetess, Anna…She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

Anna stayed at the temple all the time. It’s true that a widow had fewer options for survival then, but she could have chosen differently . Instead, she devoted her entire life to God, in anticipation. She worshiped and prayed expecting results. Her devotion was rewarded. And she spread the news to everyone else anticipating His arrival.

I wonder if I had lived back then, if I would have been as faithful as Simeon and Anna. On this side of the cross, we have the advantage of knowing how God’s plan all fit together.These two prayer warriors encourage me to keep on praying for God’s promises still to come. I have to admit I spend more time anticipating Christmas and fun times with friends and family than Jesus’ promised return. I do pray earnestly for others to be saved, but find myself caught up in the stuff of this world.

If I had been Simeon, would I have followed the Spirit’s leading to the temple? Or would I have dismissed the voice as too many matzo balls the night before? If I had been Anna, would I have boldly told other believers that I met the Messiah in the temple? Or would I have kept it to myself, afraid they would think I was a foolish old woman?

God has given us the greatest Gift of all time in His Son. And He’s not finished yet! The world holds its breath in anticipation of the final chapter:

“The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18, Message).

Are you eager and ready for Jesus' return?

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