As we find ourselves in the middle of the Christmas season, I thought it would be a good idea to look at a couple of people associated with the birth of Christ who are sometimes overlooked. When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple, forty days after His birth, Luke introduces us to Simeon and Anna.
Some manuscripts suggest Anna was 105 years old. It is better to see her as being 84 years old. Either way, she was no spring chicken. We are not told how old Simeon was, but most think he was also getting up in years. However, church tradition tells us he was 113 years old. I doubt that was the case. It would have been hard for a man that old to walk around in the temple complex and take up an infant in his arms.
Regardless of their ages, these two are pictured by Luke as examples for believers in any age to follow. They were people who looked forward to the coming of the Christ. In Simeon’s case, this longing becomes clear when we learn that the Lord told him he would not die before he saw the Lord (v 26). When he takes the baby Jesus into his arms, he proclaims that this Child will bring glory to the Nation of Israel (v 32).
Anna lived with the same expectation. When she speaks about Christ, she refers to Him as the One who would bring redemption to the nation (v 38). Simply put, both Simeon and Anna were elderly believers who looked forward to the coming of the King and His kingdom.
They also lived their lives in anticipation of that day. Luke says that Simeon was a “just and devout” man. The words have the basic meaning of living a life in accordance with God’s Word, desiring His approval. A contemporary writer in the first century used the adjective good to describe such a person.
The same could be said for Anna. She was an elderly widow who waited for the coming of the Messiah by serving the Lord in the temple. She spent her days in prayer and fasting, evidently asking that the Christ would come soon (v 37). This had been her life for around sixty years.
The Lord rewarded them for their faithfulness. The Holy Spirit worked in the life of Simeon, revealing to him certain things about the Christ. Simeon had the privilege of preaching these things to Jewish worshippers in the temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus there.
Anna also had the privilege of being used by the Spirit. Luke specifically calls her a prophetess. She, too, had the opportunity to tell the faithful in the temple that Mary’s baby was the One for whom they waited.
In what ways are Simeon and Anna examples for us? They believed in the coming Christ, understanding that He would bring in the eternal kingdom. They looked forward to the day He would come. They lived their lives in anticipation of that coming kingdom. God rewarded them in this life, using them to serve Him through the power of the Spirit. Is there any doubt they will be rewarded in the world to come as well?
It is clear to me why Luke includes these two people in his Gospel. Believers today are not prophets or prophetesses. But we too are looking for the coming of Christ. It may seem as if we have been waiting for a long time, but look at Simeon and Anna. They waited patiently, and they saw the promised King. We will too.
While we wait, let’s be like these two. Let’s live our lives in a way that reflects what we believe. The Lord will certainly use us, as He used them. The Spirit will transform and live through us. We will experience His rewards both in this life and in the world to come.