When people tell the story of Jesus’ birth, they almost always tell about the manger and the shepherds and usually about the visit of the magi. I love all these beautiful stories, but I also love the stories of Simeon and Anna, which happened when Jesus was still a tiny infant.
Several years ago, Ray and I saw this nativity scene on the courthouse lawn in McLeansboro, Illinois.
The main characters in the story of Jesus’ birth are all represented here: Jesus, Joseph, Mary, a shepherd, sheep, an angel, and magi. However, there is no Simeon and no Anna.
Today I’d like to talk about Simeon.
Mary and Joseph knew what God required of new parents in the law of Moses. They had listened carefully to the specific instructions God gave to them for their special baby boy. Joseph and Mary were careful to obey all of what God wanted them to do.
On the eighth day after the baby’s birth, Mary and Joseph named Him Jesus, just as the angel had told them to do. They also had Him circumcised.
When the correct number of days had passed for the purification of Mary and her baby, she and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. The law of Moses required that every male born as a woman’s first baby would be called “holy to the Lord.” The law required parents to offer a sacrifice, according to their financial ability. Because Mary and Joseph were poor, they offered two birds, either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
A righteous and devout man named Simeon was in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph came. Israel had been oppressed by the Romans for many years. Simeon was looking for the time when God would send help to His chosen people and bring them consolation after all their oppression. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen God’s Messiah.
Simeon came in the Spirit into the temple. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to do what the Law required them to do, Simeon took the baby into his arms and blessed God. Simeon said:
“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart 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 of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Joseph and Mary were amazed at what people said about their newborn Son: first the angel who had told them Jesus would be born, then the shepherds who came the night He was born, and now Simeon, too.
Simeon blessed the child and His parents. He also prophesied to Mary about things that would happen in the future.
Joseph and Mary are wonderful examples to us as parents. They didn’t let being away from home in Bethlehem keep them from doing the right thing for their child spiritually. They didn’t use the excuse of caring for a newborn. They didn’t let being newlyweds prevent them from obeying what God required. They stayed faithful and obedient.
Before God told Joseph and Mary about the unique jobs He had chosen for them, He knew their hearts. He knew He could trust them with the care of His Son–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He knew that when it came to the most important things, Joseph and Mary would put first things first.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!