The post title feels like a bit of a weary sigh to me today. This time of year, sewing clearly takes a backseat and even though we’re well into December, the tree is not complete yet.
It’ll be hung up by the 25th. It’s substituting as my actual tree this year. I’m too tired to get the tree up out of the garage this year. Too much effort. But that’s life: you’re tired and things take time; often longer than you expect.
And at Christmas time, there’s a lot of waiting too (especially if you’re a child). It reminds me of the account of Simeon and Anna, recorded in The Bible.
In Jewish law, which Joseph and Mary adhered to, a boy was to be circumcised on the eighth day and his mother was to then observe a period of purification for thirty-three days. This actually makes a lot of sense when you consider the level of medicinal knowledge in ancient times.
After this, every first born male was to be taken to the temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated to God. So off Joseph, Mary and Jesus went…
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 upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Can you imagine how Simeon must have felt? The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries. Simeon is the faithful old man, who turns up to Church every week and is such a blessing to everyone. He’s getting old and he’s surely tired. Perhaps he’s struggling to keep the faith too…
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought 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 now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel.”
But it’s not just Simeon there, in the temple. There’s another person; a woman…
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then she was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.
Anna: she’s old too and surely tired. She’s not had an easy life as a woman living in ancient times. Probably married as an early teenager, her husband died after only seven years of marriage. She might have been twenty-one at the time.
Since then she’s been in the temple; probably the safest place to be for a woman without any social support. But she’s devout too. She’s the elderly woman at Church who remembers your name and what you said you were doing during the week. Although, she didn’t just remember it, she prayed for you too. She’s always at the temple, so she’s there when Jesus arrives with his parents…
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.
For obvious reasons, we think about babies and children at Christmas time and their excitement on the day. Yet, this Biblical account focuses on the elderly and their faithfulness.
I’ve always found it a really beautiful part of the nativity account. It shows us that God’s not ageist or sexist. He’s not racist either. Reread what Simeon said about the Gentiles (non-Jews) if you missed it.
It shows us that God knows who his faithful servants are: he knows their sacrifices, he knows their fatigue and he knows their heartache. He knows that even in the slow and weary times of life, they’ve stayed faithful. And he rewards them with a wonderful Christmas gift.
Not that there’s anything wrong with small children ripping into wrapping paper on the 25th but the fact that Simeon and Anna are so old and have waited so long, makes the gift so much more poignant. Don’t you think?
Yours in keeping on keeping on,