Exploring the Extras, pt. 3

I don’t remember his name, but I do recall what he looked like, sounded like, and how I felt around him. While on a whitewater rafting trip with our Pathfinder Club, a few of my classmates and I were grouped with the bearded, sun-tanned guide who looked like the oldest yet strongest one on the river that day. He wore a Crocodile-Dundee-esque hat that he didn’t allow anyone else to touch or try on. Whenever he gave instructions, my friends and I were quick to listen. He seemed to know a thing or two because he had seen a thing or two on that river. It’s one of my earliest memories of recognizing that years of experience yields depth of perspective.

By the time they’re mentioned around the story of Christ’s birth, Simeon and Anna had lots of life behind them and consequently could see things in front of them like no one else could. What about their experience can deepen our own this Christmas season?

SIGNIFICANCE IN THE SAVIOR

Simeon was an exemplary citizen of Jerusalem. He was both “just and devout” (Lk. 2:25, NKJV), upright in outward living and holding to the highest values in heart . The term translated as “devout” is a compound word in Greek literally meaning "taking hold of what is good." In other words, he set his heart and hung his hopes on the best things. And the next few phrases describes just what those hopes centered on:

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Luke 2:25-26, NKJV

Simeon’s life destiny and sense of personal significance revolved solely around seeing the Savior of Israel and of his own heart. Seeing the Christ brought meaning and motivation to his life, and that hope was fulfilled when Mary & Joseph presented their miracle baby before God in the temple that day.

Anna the prophetess held a similar hope. Luke’s description of Anna seems to emphasize the enduring nature of her hope. Anna was a woman “of a great age” who apparently had lived as a widow for decades. Reading between the lines, we can imagine the sorrow she may have felt over relationships and dreams unfulfilled.

Yet in spite of these long-standing circumstances and the burden of her unplanned life of singleness, she wasn’t holed up and confined to depressing solitude by grief and loss.

…and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

Luke 2:37, NKJV

Did you notice how, where, and in whom Anna found personal meaning and significance? Though bereaved of her relationship with the husband of her youth, she found completeness in a daily, devoted relationship with God. In His temple, serving Him, giving things up for Him, praying earnestly to Him, all day, everyday.

Both Simeon and Anna and fixed their hearts on the One person in life who can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Their stories should cause us stop a moment and assess upon what or whom our hearts’ hopes hang. In what is my life bound up?  In what or whom do I find greatest significance and satisfaction? I pray that the testimony of the psalmist and the devout inner life of Simeon and Anna would be our very own:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
    I desire You more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    He is mine forever.

Psalm 73:25-26, NLT

EYES TO SEE

The heart priorities and hopes of both Simeon and Anna allowed them to see life differently than most worshipers in Jerusalem the day baby Jesus was brought before the Lord. Because they had a heart to believe, they had eyes to see.

They both recognized God’s presence when most others casually passed by.

They saw more than a baby and his humble parents. Simeon confessed that he saw God’s salvation (Lk. 2:30), and Anna “in that instant” saw reason to not only give thanks to the Lord but also inform everyone else around her that redemption was near (Lk. 2:38). They were fully aware of God’s activity and fully appreciative of God’s nearness. What their eyes saw moved them to lift their hearts in worship and their voices in witness.

Do we ever pass by unaware of God’s personal presence in our lives, or do we have eyes to see God when He is near in subtle yet saving ways?  I urge you to join me in praying for eyes that are fixed on Jesus, looking for Him and His work all around me, especially this Christmas when it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hustle & bustle of the season. Let’s not miss the miracle of God with us.