Malachi 3. 1 – 4. Hebrews 2: 10 – 11, 13 – 18; Luke 2: 22 – 40
Today’s Gospel describes a meeting between a young couple and their infant child with Simeon
and Anna, both of them well on in years. Simeon’s response when he met the infant Jesus was to
pray; he blessed God. His prayer has become part of the official night prayer of the church.
Anna’s response on meeting the child Jesus was to speak about Jesus to others, especially to
those who were waiting for God to visit them in a special way. Whereas Simeon lifted up his
heart in prayer, Anna bore witness to Jesus before others. Simeon’s meeting with Jesus and his
parents led him to look towards God in prayer; Anna’s meeting with Jesus and his parents led
her to look towards others in witness. Simeon and Anna have each something to say to us about
how to receive the Lord. We too are called to receive the Lord in prayer and in witness. We
bless God, we thank God, in prayer for the gift of his Son, the light to enlighten all people, and
we proclaim God’s gift to others, by witnessing to the Lord in our lives, by what we say and do.
The Lord who entered the temple in Jerusalem as the light of the world has entered all our lives;
today we look to Simeon and Anna to show us how to respond to his gracious coming.
Today, we commemorate the Presentation of Christ by his parents, Mary and Joseph, in the
temple at Jerusalem, exactly forty days after his birth. They held the customary sacrifice of two
turtle doves. In the Temple Christ was carried in the arms of the Righteous Simeon and watched
over by the Prophetess Anna. This feast is yet more proof that the Son of God truly became
man. Today an infant, not a spirit or an angel, is brought to the temple.
The temple was a busy place; crowds of people at any given time of the day and this day, when
Jesus was presented in the Temple, was no different . Crowds of people would have been
milling around the temple worshipping, praying, buying animals for the sacrifices, chatting with
each other, catching up with friends and family.
But in the midst of the busy crowd was Simeon – an oasis of calm amidst the frenetic activity.
We read in verse 25: “Simeon was righteous and devout. He was waiting….”
We can’t imagine what it was that Simeon saw in the holy family so that he knew this was the
child he had been waiting for. We can assume that Mary and Joseph and the child looked much
the same as any other family in the Temple on that day. But, we are simple told that, “Simeon
was moved by the spirit.”
He went into the temple courts, he saw the holy family, and his eyes fixed on the baby Jesus and
Simeon knew that this was the one he had been waiting for, the one that Israel had been waiting
Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and he praised God: “Master, now you are dismissing
servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have
prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to
your people Israel” (Luke 2: 29 – 32).
We can only marvel at the depth of Simeon’s faith and the depth of his wisdom. Who would
have thought that the salvation of Israel would come in the form of a 40 day old baby? Who
would have been looking to a young child as the long promised consolation of Israel? Perhaps
we would have been on the lookout for a wise Pharisee, or a learned Sadducee, or may be a
freedom fighter willing to take on the strength of the Roman occupying armies. But Simeon is
so wise and so faithful – and so tuned into God – that he looks beyond the obvious and finds
God in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the shape of a frail and vulnerable baby.
God comes to us in the mundane and true spirituality is being able to find him there: that God
doesn’t want to take us out of our lives into a spiritual realm but wants us to find the spiritual
realm in our everyday lives. Sometimes, we are so busy looking for God over there that we
forget how to find him over here. Sometimes, we are so busy looking for the miraculous and the
supernatural, that we miss the miraculous and the supernatural in our midst: the miraculous gift
of salvation in the ordinary things of life. We need to develop spiritual insight like Simeon that
recognizes God in the simple things in life and to find our salvation there.
And, in the same scene, we come across Anna, another wise old age pensioner; 84 years old,
dedicated to worship and the spiritual disciplines. We are told that, “She never left the temple
but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” What incredible faith this woman
had and, like Simeon, she too was enlightened by the Holy Spirit and recognized in Jesus the
consolation of Israel.
Anna doesn’t want to keep the good news to herself. “She spoke about the child to all who were
looking forward to the redemption of Israel.” She was an early evangelist for the Lord.
And so, in Simeon and Anna, we have two sides of the same coin represented. In Simeon, we
have a metaphor for us finding contentment in our own salvation and the knowledge that we can
die in peace because we have met our Saviour. In Anna, we have a metaphor for the need for us
to share that good news of salvation with others so that they too may be drawn to the Christ
child. Simeon represents to us confidence in our personal salvation. Anna represents to us the
evangelical spirit to which we are all called. So, at this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we
can rejoice in our own salvation and we can commit ourselves to the task of evangelism.