(A reflection on Luke 2:22-40; excerpted from this sermon.)
So Christmas has come, and there sit Simeon and Anna in the temple—looking to, longing for, waiting for the messiah. It is a long hard waiting, with no Advent calendar to mark the days, no due date given.
What, really, is the point of their waiting? The Messiah will come, or not. The people will be saved—or not. Surely God’s plan of redemption is not dependent upon these two old people and their long, long, waiting.
I am sure that God’s redeeming work in the world did not depend on Simeon and Anna. Jesus would have come, would have eventually been recognized, would have carried out his ministry, without this brief scene in the temple. A scene that went, I imagine, mostly unobserved; a scene likely disregarded by those who did observe it.
I am fairly sure that God’s work of redeeming the world is never dependent upon a single individual. Not to say that individuals are not important, that one person, one small group, cannot make a big difference in carrying out God’s work of justice and mercy.
But to say that the redemption of the world is God’s work. Not mine. Not yours. Not Simeon’s and Anna’s.
So why the waiting? Why would the Holy Spirit ask of these two that they sacrifice their lives to this nebulous time of waiting?
Not for the redemption of the world. But maybe, just maybe, the waiting is an important part of the redemption of Simeon; of Anna; of those who receive their eager gazes in the temple courts.
At first, probably, it is the priests who catch their eye. Holy men. Surely the Messiah was one of them. And each priest is considered, whatever is of God in him is appreciated, and yet . . .
Simeon and Anna eventually turn their gaze toward the strong, young men. If not a priest, then the Messiah will come with an entourage, walking proudly, bringing a rich sacrifice. And each handsome face is looked upon with expectation; rich brown eyes are explored as some spark of the Holy One is found, and yet . . .
Maybe a man not quite so strong, or so young. Someone unassuming, yet respectable. The Savior of the people need not stand out in a crowd.
Or could it possibly be one of the poor, wearing rags, begging for money rather than offering it? Or, oh my, surely not . . . a woman?
The long, long waiting leads Anna and Simeon to consider them all. To look into the faces of the poor, the powerless. To look with expectation at those who were never looked upon with anything but disdain.
In their long waiting, Simeon learned, Anna learned: he could be the one; she might be our Savior. And in so many, so many faces they did not find the Messiah, but they surely found God.