When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your 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.’
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
Luke likes to pair female and male characters in his narratives. Both Simeon and Anna are holy people of great hope. They both appear at the right moment, which is God’s moment. It seems very difficult for us to wait as patiently as them for God’s moment because we are steeped in the culture of instant gratification or instant reaction. Patience is seen as a vice instead of a virtue in our society. Apart from being impatient, we are also told to be multitasking instead of focusing on the more important thing. How different we are when compared with Simeon and Anna, who were looking to the coming of God as their sole purpose of their life so that they could be liberated.
In fact, the message of Christmas is simple: God is with us. This is also what the angel says to a bewildered Joseph: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel”, which means, ‘God is with us (Matthew 1.23).” Can we realize that God is with us. If your answer is so sure, I would suggest you look at Joseph. Though the scriptures do not say much about him, it won’t be hard for us to imagine that Joseph must have spent the rest of his life pondering the implications of that statement.
God is with us in this radical way that is becoming a human among us, which is a baby, what is our response? Are we with God? What does it mean for us, to be with God? Do I want to be face-to-face with God like Simeon and Anna? Can we feel how awesome it is when God is with us? Can we be enlightened by the presence of God just as Simeon and Anna being enlightened?
If you haven’t found God is with you, I would like to invite you to find a quiet place to sit in there and listen to the beating of your heart and to feel the ebb and flow of your breathing and to notice the movements of your mind so as to realize that they are all signs of God’s ongoing creation of you. Then you would become aware of this presence of God within you. With this exercise you can see how simple it is to be with God, and the changing power of being with God.
Both of Simeon and Anna find the purpose of their life after being face-to-face with God in baby Jesus. What is the purpose of our life? According to St Ignatius of Loyola, “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. “
May it be suggested that our New Year resolution to be that we would step out confidently into our chaotic world with the firm belief that simply by being with God we are helping to transform it. God, who sees our hearts, will bless us as we go! Amen.