For several reasons, I am happy to be done with Luke’s birth narratives! Christmas preaching continues to be one of my toughest assignments. When I began our current series through Luke’s Gospel (February 2013), the plan was to skip the early narratives and save them for Advent. This morning I struggled through Luke 2:22-38, my final Christmas Text.
These verses contain five, law-abiding citizens: Joseph, Mary, Jesus (although Jesus has no choice in the matter; His parents make sure He gets off to the right start), Simeon, and Anna. There is little doubt in my mind these characters present the best Israel has to offer. They are examples for us to follow. The verses contain a mixture of righteous actions and descriptions. Simeon, for instance, is “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (cf. Luke 2:25). Anna never leaves the church, “worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (cf. Luke 2:37).
So, we certainly must follow their example. Otherwise we’re lumped in with those who oppose Jesus, the Sign (cf. Luke 2:34). But we also must link their character with their faith. They are those who will rise because of their faith in God’s promised Messiah. Simeon says, “…this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel…so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (cf. Luke 2:34, 35). The four characters in this section, minus Jesus, have responded to God’s revelation. Their hearts revealed love for God and a desire to serve Him. And now, with Jesus in sight and on hand, they enter a new chapter of their lives.
Apparently, Simeon, Anna, and Joseph will not have the privilege of following Jesus in life (scholars believe Joseph died early). We have the privilege of following Him and, in so doing, we’re elevated by Jesus (I.e., “rising of many…”). Jesus’ message reveals humble hearts that acknowledge His rule and accept His grace. Our lives are transformed accordingly. We grow to emulate these fine, righteous characters. This is Luke’s way of helping us be sure our faith is not only well-placed, but also well-executed.
Enjoy a blessed Christmas.