Continuing our Advent 2005 series, with Advent IV we’re considering Simeon and Anna. In a serendipitous stroke of coincidence, the Christmas program that my oldest daughter is participating in this year also features Simeon and Anna. The program is a joint one between her school and the church which runs the school — my CLB, in fact. A good friend who I might call “Roger T. Shrubber” is playing Simeon. The program went very well on Friday evening, and runs again later this afternoon. Sometimes I have to work at resisting the urge to say, “that’s not 100% historically accurate” or “really, they would have…” or “the text doesn’t quite say that…” or whatever. When successful in my suspense of critique of the insignificant, I find I enjoy things far more.

The stories of Simeon and Anna can be found in Luke 2. The descriptions of each of these two characters has always been interesting. Simeon is your average guy, “a righteous man” who hears from the Holy Spirit. He knows he won’t die until he sees the Messiah, he’s led by the Holy Spirit to the temple on that particular day, and when he gets there, he recognizes the Messiah apparently by the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and then he prophesies. Average old guy. Then we have Anna, who is perhaps 105 years old, depending how you do the math and how you translate the first part of verse 37. She could be as young as 84, but either way she’s been a widow a whole long time, and seems to have been recognized as a prophetess. She stayed in the temple day and night, praying.

It seems that these two were both waiting. Simeon was waiting for the same promise that all of Israel awaited, but he had a special angle on it — he’d been personally promised that he would live to see the birth of the Messiah. What kind of person do you have to be to get that kind of a promise? When the whole nation has been awaiting the same thing for hundreds and hundreds of years, you get a promise that it’ll come in your lifetime. Who are you, what kind of person do you need to be to get that sort of divine attention? As we’ve already noted, the kind of person you’d need to be is, perhaps, a righteous one. And average. Average and righteous. Anna was waiting as well… as a widow with no means of support, she stayed in the temple and prayed — presumably she was provided for from alms at the temple. Praying. Always praying. You have to imagine one thing about a prophetess who spends a lot of time praying… at least there are times when the communication goes both directions. I wonder if she felt tired. Decades she spent in the temple, praying. Waiting. Talking. Listening. Praying. Did either ever despair of waiting?

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.�?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!�?
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long…how long…how long…

    — Excerpts from Psalm 40, Isaiah 40, and “40” by U2. Like Zechariah, like Joseph, like Elizabeth and Mary, like Simeon and Anna… shurely we too shall sing anew,

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth, peace to those upon whom his favour rests!

Advent draws nigh….

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