Luke 2: 25-38
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
It’s Anna again. For sixty years she persisted. I’m not sure I could persist in praying for anything for sixty years! Anna wasn’t the only one, however, as Simeon too ‘was righteous and devout’ and getting on a bit. Like Anna, he was well known for things too frequently crowded out of our lives to the extent they’re obscured from view in the eyes of those around us. I wonder why that might the case? Advent is a good time to look back to where we were last year and reflect on a couple of deeply personal questions.
Where could I have been more intentional this year?
Where could I have been more persistent this year?
These days I don’t often need to rely upon my compass when out walking … because I can afford a decent map, GPS tends towards relying on technology for locating both where I am and which direction I need to go, plus I’m more usually not walking out of sight of observable landmarks. However, it remains the case whether physically, or spiritually, walking in unknown territory, we accept our responsibility for both accepting the need to walk in a particular direction and taking definite steps, if we’re ever to arrive.
What would someone else observe of the intention and direction of our walk this year if measured against us being ‘righteous and devout’? That’s where, at least, an honest, open, annual self-appraisal is hugely beneficial.
I always remember Jim Graham saying ‘too many leaders give up too soon, too easily’. I’m struck by the seemingly consistent trait among explorers, inventors, adventurers and the kind of Christian leaders we all want to emulate … the one shared with Anna and Simeon – patient persistence. Check out the lives of people like Abraham Lincoln, William Carey, Ernest Shackleton, or George Muller.
We might not look upon ourselves as comparable with Anna, or Simeon, but dare we take a step in their direction?
How many days, I wonder, did Anna and Simeon leave the Temple, feeling their prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling? We’ll never know, because whatever their setbacks, feelings, distractions, temptations, they didn’t give up. It’s this need to develop patient persistence, as Eugene Peterson puts it ‘a long obedience in the same direction’, which turns a good idea, or righteous desire, into reality
Dear Lord, show me where I have lost sight of the destination to be more like Jesus in my life. Help me, as we celebrate your coming as the light of the world, to fix my eyes more clearly upon you. Reveal to me enough light for my journey, so I might see my next steps more clearly. Give me all I need, by your Holy Spirit, so Jesus might be more clearly seen in my life this day.