The Holy Spirit arranges people meeting each another for the advance of the reign of God and the benefit of those who meet.
Preachers in sermons on this passage often focus on the age of Simeon and Anna and the words they speak to Mary in particular and also to Joseph. However, no less than 3 times in this passage the Holy Spirit is referenced. The Holy Spirit rested on Simeon and had revealed to Simeon that he would see “the Lord’s Messiah” before his death. And then on this particular day the Holy Spirit guided Simeon to the temple, and by implication helped Simeon recognize the correct family as they entered the temple.
While the Spirit is not specifically mentioned as guiding Anna to Mary, Joseph and the baby, Luke tells us that Anna fasted and prayed, practices that in Luke’s writing lead to people being led by the Spirit. The Spirit led Anna to come up at that exact moment to bring her message of hope.
The interactions confirmed to Mary and Joseph that God was at work in this child and that they would be sustained by God even through the difficult days that would come. Simeon and Anna were confirmed in their hope that the Messiah, “the consolation of Israel”, would come to bring salvation to Israel and revelation to the Gentiles.
As Simeon and Anna listen to the Spirit and follow the Spirit’s nudging, they find themselves to be agents of the Spirit bringing insight and hope to Mary and Joseph, proclaiming the good news of God’s redemption to all who will listen, and find themselves enriched.
Preachers would do well to ask their congregations to reflect on the following questions:
- When have I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to make a connection with someone? How did I respond to the nudging?
- Anna and Simeon spoke insight and hope to those they connected with. Who around you needs to hear words of insight and hope? Are you being nudged by the Spirit to speak?
Preachers do well when they invite their congregations to praise God for the divinely arranged appointments the Spirit initiates.
I am not in the practice of having conversations with people on airplanes; I am one of those polite but non-conversant passengers. On a recent flight the person sitting beside me noticed what I was doing and figured out I was a minister. She asked if I was writing a sermon. I said that yes, I was preparing one. She asked me what it was about, and at that point I realized I was going to be pushed into a conversation whether I wanted one or not.
It became evident as the conversation evolved that my seat neighbor fit into that category of spiritual, but not religious. She told me thins about her personal life, and shortly after it was announced that we were starting a descent into our destination she asked if I would pray for her. Which I did.
The Spirit made this connection happen. I know I benefited from the interaction, even though I entered it grudgingly. I hope the woman felt her life deepened by our conversation and that God’s reign was advanced.
“Mary and Joseph needed Simeon and Anna at that moment; the old man and old woman needed them, had been waiting for them, and now thanked God for them.” — N. T. Wright
“Both Simeon and Anna had a vigorous and active faith in what they believed to be the divinely inspired prophetic program for the restoration of Israel….The delightful term ‘consolation of Israel’ suggests that [Simeon’s] expectation was based on the program enunciated in such passages as Isaiah 40ff.” – David Gooding
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus”
“May the mind of Christ my Savior”
“Shine, Jesus shine” (Kendrick)
Now, Master, you are letting your servants go in peace
As you promised;
Four our eyes have seen the salvation
That you have made ready in the sight of the nations;
A light of revelation for the Gentiles
And glory for your people Israel.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
- From Worship Sourcebook (CRC Publications)