I have learned a lesson this week. In my hurry to visit family for the holidays, I decided to leave the laptop at home. The semester is done, I really wouldn't need it, right? Wrong!! It happens that in talking with a pastor friend, he asked me to preach this Sunday at his church. I brought no commentaries, laptop, or preaching preparation aids of any kind. Thankfully, the public library is open for a little longer and I've been able to access some fine online helps.
I will be preaching on the gospel text in Luke 2 on Jesus' presentation in the temple. Unlike myself, Anna and Simeon were prepared. They waited faithfully for God to fulfill his promise of a Savior and Messiah with hearts open and ready for whatever God planned.
Several things have struck me in reading the text. The first is the evident work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Simeon and Anna. Look at this snippet from the text regarding Simeon's watchful attitude, "...looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple..." Advent is a time of watchful waiting, preparing our hearts for Christ. Even in old age, Simeon still held on to the promises of God.
Anna too was elderly. She too had not given up hope. Regarding her, the scripture says, "...then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." Without that heart preparation, how could she know that who she was seeing was not merely an ordinary baby? What Mary and Joseph were doing, was the very same thing any other pious Jewish couple would do. There was nothing extraordinary in that. But Anna recognized something special that was happening because she was a woman connected by faith, fasting, and prayer to the living God.
The godly examples of Anna and Simeon loom large in my thoughts. They were privileged to participate in God's redemptive history because they were there, because they were in tune with God's program. Though unprepared physically for the task of preaching, perhaps this has helped me to be better prepared spiritually.
I do not know the people of my friend's church, but it is a small, rural congregation--much like my teaching parish at Rural Lutheran. Their pastor tells me he is emphasizing evangelism. Certainly evangelism grows from relationship with the living God...the kind of relationship we see embodied in Anna and Simeon.