As we age, we can become obsessed with the past, how things used to be. But Simeon looks forward to the deliverance of Israel. His mindfulness of God’s promises and hopefulness of present fulfillment allow him to recognize God’s messiah in the baby Jesus.
Simeon takes the child in his arms and blesses him, praising God for Jesus’ true identity as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Simeon knows the future will not be easy for this child. He does not romanticize the future any more than he romanticizes the past. Still, the fulfillment of God’s long-standing promises gives rise to thanks and praise. The eighty-four-year-old prophet Anna has never left the Temple because she too looks for a sign that God is prepared to act anew in the lives of her people. Once she sees Jesus, young as he is, she cannot stop speaking about him.
The story about Jesus’ parents presenting him at the Temple (Luke 2:22-24) sets the stage for all that follows. As was the custom, Jesus’ first Temple visit requires a sacrifice. How fitting that a sacrifice accompanies the one who will one day become Israel’s sacrifice! Indeed, the sacrifice of the two turtledoves prompts Simeon to see Jesus for who he is. Today we tend to think of a sacrifice as losing something. For the Bible and for God, sacrifice instead means giving.
Jesus’ parents give turtledoves to God as a sign of their joy. Simeon and Anna give thanks that their lives have finally brought them consolation. God gave an only begotten Son to all of us, Jew and Gentile, because God so loved the world.
We thank you, O God, for the precious gift of your Son Jesus Christ, our living sacrifice. Amen.
The beginning of the New Year reminds us of God’s love for all peoples through the celebration of Epiphany. Isaiah uses imagery of a wedding and a garden to declare that the beauty arising from Israel will go to all nations. The psalmist praises the Lord on behalf of everything and everyone on the earth, including men and women from all peoples. Paul proclaims that Christ fulfills the expectations of Israel; he is the open door for all to become children of God. In Luke, Simeon and Anna speak prophetically over the infant Jesus in the Temple, declaring him the light to the Gentiles. God’s promises made in love are fulfilled in love.
• Read Isaiah 61:10–62:3. How are you daily becoming Zion, a person of justice?
• Read Psalm 148. How does your connection to God connect you to creation?
• Read Galatians 4:4-7. How confident are you that God listens to your prayer?
• Read Luke 2:22-40. When have you experienced sacrifice as gain rather than loss?
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