Two figures are missing from your Nativity set.
How do I know? They are missing from mine as well. In fact, I have never seen them in any Nativity set.
Who are they?
Simeon and Anna.
We don’t know much about either of them. We know that Simeon was righteous and devout. We know that Anna was very old — that she worshipped, prayed, and fasted.
But more important than who they were, was what they said. And what they said to Mary and Joseph just after Jesus’s birth was so memorable, it was recorded word for word in the Bible. Simeon said to Mary, (Luke 2:34 – 35) “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Later, Anna, the prophetess, came up to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:38) and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Their words are powerful prophecies. Let’s take a look at them:
Jesus came to cause “the falling and rising of many in Israel”. What did Simeon mean? Could he have meant that those who were weak would shame the strong? That those poor disciples of Jesus would have a conviction that no man could break? That they would rise to become great preachers of the gospel? That those Pharisees and religious leaders would in their self-righteousness, fall from God’s grace? Or was he speaking to us, to me: by falling to our knees and confessing our sin, that we can rise by his Grace. 1 Corinthians 1: 27 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
Jesus came “to be a sign that will be spoken against.” His death on the cross is a sign of God’s love, and yet as He hung there, many spoke against him, ridiculed him, and urged him to come down from the cross. When he spoke the truth to the people; others spoke against him. They said He deceived the people, that He was crazy, that He shouldn’t be followed. Can you think of ways today that Jesus and his teachings are spoken against? John 7:1 2 “Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.”‘
Jesus came “to reveal the thoughts of many hearts”. It says often in scripture that Jesus knew what his disciples were thinking, what the Pharisees were thinking. God in His grace always knows what we are thinking, what I am thinking, and what my real motives are behind what I do. Proverbs 21:2 “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
And “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Was the sword Simeon spoke of the word of God? Would Jesus’s words to Mary touch her soul in a way no other could? Is this verse foretelling the overwhelming sadness Mary would feel seeing her son upon the cross? Or is it referring to the fact that the Lord sees the depths of our souls, our utter sinfulness, and desperate need for a savior? That he came to pierce my own soul with words of salvation? Psalm 62:1 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”
Jesus came to redeem Jerusalem. Most of the Israelites then just wanted freedom from the Romans. They wanted to be their own nation again, with their own land, customs, and laws. Jesus had a different redemption in mind, however. When he came to buy back Jerusalem, he came to save its people from the darkness of sin. He came to redeem us, to redeem me as well, to save me from the whirlpool of my own sin, as expressed so eloquently in this song:
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit came to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world ……
….. Another story must begin!*
LES MISERABLES – WHAT HAVE I DONE (ValJean’s Soliloquy)
I have a soul! There is another way to go in life — the way through Christ.
Despite all that is said on TV and the radio, Christmas is not about family, about Santa, and gifts, about peace, and food, and good times. It is also not merely about 3 kings, and shepherds, angels, a star, and a baby in a manger. The Christmas story is about the redemptive power of a Savior, Jesus, who wants to begin a new story, a new life in each of us. May His powerful words pierce your soul and the souls of your children, revealing the thoughts of your hearts this Christmas season, and each day in this New Year!
* These words are from the musical Les Miserables. It is a gripping story of Christ’s redemption and will be shown in movie theatres Christmas day. I had the amazing opportunity to pre-screen this musical, and it is one of the most powerful performances I have ever seen. I highly recommend it! More information about the musical, including a trailer, can be found on this site: http://www.lesmiserablesfilm.com/index.html
All Scripture taken from NIV (New International Version)