A Christmas Story for 2012

It’s so incredible to consider that before the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry there had not been an inspired word from the Lord for more than 400 years.  It was as if the heavens were shut down.  This is a Christian credo that some may dispute but it is marked by the end of Malachi’s prophetic ministry at the end of the Old Testament and John’s pronouncement to prepare for the Kingdom. If this was indeed the case [as it was] then those devout people held close their interest and desire for the fulfillment of the psalmist’s bold promise that his sceptre [kingdom] would last forever.

This is the backdrop where we find the two stirring characters that comprise one of my favorite Christmas stories.  Simeon was in the temple at the time Mary and Joseph had come to offer their firstborn’s purification offering.  Luke describes him as righteous and devout, and the holy spirit was upon him which is formidable considering that before the Acts 2 Day of Pentecost, there were only a few people upon whom the Holy Spirit rested.  

It is very important to recognize that Israel was under siege at this time by the conquering Roman Empire.   The event resembled when the then ‘Soviet Union’ invaded Czechoslovakia (8/20/1968).  A nation that cannot possibly be beaten has forcefully entered your country and you remain hostage in your own land.   The notion of being under siege is completely foreign to twenty-first century Americans.  The notion of a prophesy foretelling a heroic king who would come and throw out the invaders was more than they could even hope for; something only Jehovah could deliver.  

Simeon was eagerly anticipating this Messiah who would bring Israel out of the state of siege.  Isn’t it just like God to give you an answer to prayer even if that answer is beyond your wildest dreams and imagination?!!  He was led to the temple at the time Joseph brought his offering and was able to see the child as the Spirit revealed that this was indeed the anointed one.   He prophesized over the child providing a glimpse to the unknowing parents who Jesus would become.  

As Simeon was talking, our second character came and overheard the prophesy.  Anna a widow of some sixty years, who Luke says “never left the temple” but stayed there (in the outer courts)  worshipping day and night was a true worshipper who was devoted to fasting and prayer. Both Anna and Simeon were given the unmerited favor to see their hopes realized. 

This is a truth of Christmas illustrated.  Hope when there is (or was) no hope, is the reality that God wants us to recognize. And even when all seems lost, if it takes 400 years, he is still working and will fulfill his promises.

[painting by Simon Vouet 1640-41]

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