If there are two forgotten characters of the Christmas story it is Simeon and Anna. I decided to dedicate my fourth sermon in this series and also nominate them for the untold heroes of the story. In a very real way, Simeon and Anna bring back the prophetic into the story and call us to be reminded that God is weaving together a lot of prophecies into fulfillment in Jesus. I used Isaiah 52:7-15 as a supporting Scripture for various reasons I will state later.
Simeon is an old man. He is a righteous and devout man who is looking forward to the consolation of Israel. At his age he has seen a lot of things in the way of supposed kings of Israel. He has also seen all of the reign of the current king of Israel Herod the Great (also known as Herod the Builder or Butcher depending on how you see him). Simeon knows that Herod is not the Messiah nor have many others who have come along and tried to usurp Herod. Simeon has been told he would not see death until he has seen God’s Christ.
We need to understand that when we look a Jesus as an infant. As Isaiah 52 says, there was nothing physically marking about Jesus to set him apart. He looked like any other Jewish baby of Palestine. He did not have a halo about his head. He was in the temple because his earthly parents have brought him to be dedicated to God an circumcised. This was a perfectly normal thing for Jewish parents to do if they were in range of Jerusalem to do it. There was nothing unusual to mark Jesus out. You might even begin to think that even Jesus parents were beginning to see Jesus as normal in some ways. They had both received visits from angels, the shepherds had come a mere eight days before when Jesus was born but other than that no one was saying or marking out their son as special. The one thing that is missing is the prophetic voice of a prophet proclaiming to people who this child is.
That is where Simeon comes in as well as Anna. Simeon only sees a poor Jewish couple coming to the temple and it is at this moment that he steps forward and asks to take the child in his arms and then he prophecies over Jesus and his mother. In so doing he quotes several scriptures but the most direct reference is to Isaiah 52 which he echoes. In so doing he announces to the world that this child who seems ordinary is actually extraordinary and is God’s chosen one. Simeon tells anyone who will listen this is the case.
Anna steps forward as a second star of this story in that she echoes what Simeon had to say. It is her character that speaks larger than her words however. Anna had been married. If we take the typical age women were married back then at fifteen, she lives with her husband seven years and then her husband dies. Instead of finding another husband she dedicates herself to prayer and fasting in the temple. She is eighty-four so she would have been doing that for sixty plus years. She also tells anyone who will listen that what Simeon said is true.
Both of these stars of Christmas demonstrate the power of hope and joy and how it should compel us to spread the message that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for us to find salvation. Simeon’s use of Isaiah 52 also points to Jesus not only being the salvation of Israel but of all those who will have faith in Him. They also demonstrate for us that the prophetic power of hope leads us and compels us to tell others. Simeon and Anna both fervently tell people about Jesus and people would have had to respect them because of the people that they were. We too should not be afraid to tell others that Jesus is more than a child in a manager but the prophetic fulfillment of God’s plan to give hope to the world and redeem all of mankind. They stand as stars of Christmas because of their character, devotion and prophetic fervor.