If there were Oscars for Bible characters I would like to nominate Anna for Best Supporting Actress and Simeon for Best Supporting Actor. These two old people only feature in Luke 2:22-38 but they are favorites of mine. All we know about Simeon is that he was probably old, that he was “righteous and devout” (a real believer in the promises of God), that he “was waiting for the consolation of Israel” (that is, for God to keep his gospel promises) and that “the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25). We know that Anna was “very old,” a long-time widow, that she “never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying,” and that she was part of a group who used to meet in the temple and who “were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (that is, for God to keep his gospel promises) (Luke 2:36-38).
So there they are, day after day, meeting in the temple for prayer. They really believed that God would keep all the gospel promises he had made in the scriptures. There was not much evidence that he would. All around them was ungodliness, false religion, hypocrisy – the very opposite of gospel. But they believed; they met; they prayed; they waited; they hoped. How wonderful to keep on believing, to keep on hoping, to keep on praying, day after day after weary day! It is not easy to wait with hope, to live by faith rather than by sight; and yet God gave them grace to do so.
And so they waited. And then, on what perhaps began as just another morning of waiting, the Holy Spirit moved Simeon to go again into the temple courts and guided him to a couple – perhaps an older man, Joseph, the husband, and his young wife, Mary. They had come to the temple courts to offer the poor man’s sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for the birth of their little boy. Maybe they were surprised when this aged man asked to take their little boy in his arms (Luke 2:27,28). But when Simeon takes baby Jesus in his arms, it is a moment that should make your spine tingle; it is as though God says to Simeon, “You have waited and hoped and prayed, day after day. Your wait is not in vain.” And Simeon knows that this little boy is the Savior, the Messiah, the One sent by God to save his people. And so does Anna. What rejoicing in that little group of praying believers that day!
It is not easy to wait in hope. And yet this is what faith is all about. Faith means to believe that God means what he has promised and will do what he has said. Even as Simeon takes the baby in his arms, there is not much to show for his comfort – just another baby! But Simeon knows and will die in peace, confident that God will do through Jesus all that he has promised.
Simeon and Anna show us how to wait. For we too wait in hope; we too pray, long and cry for this same Jesus to return in glory. We too live by faith and not by sight. The Advent period is double-edged. We meditate on what happened when the Son of God became incarnate as a baby; we rejoice in the wonder of that astonishing gift. And yet, as we look back, we are encouraged and cheered to look forward with hope to the return of that same Jesus in power and glory.
How wonderful if our church prayer meetings and the times we meet with our fellow-believers for prayer share some of the character of those meetings in the temple precincts of which Simeon and Anna were a part! If we, like them, feel the sorrow of the people of God and long for the promised consolation of all who trust in Jesus. If we, following their example, go on trusting day after day! Don’t worry about the Oscars, but follow their example of faith.