“My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation”
Last Sunday, we gathered here for Christmas Eve. We lit candles. We sang songs. We told stories. And we heard the good news of Jesus’ birth. God loves us so much that God took on flesh and became one of us.
This Sunday we get to hear who this message is for. And we find out that this message is for the Simeons and Annas of the world. It is for those who have waited and hoped for something better, something greater than what they know today. It is for those who have been forgotten, overlooked, and ignored. It is for those who have struggled, and hope that their struggle is not in vain. It is for those who still believe that God sees them and knows them and loves them.
Neither Simeon nor Anna are famous or powerful or wealthy. Neither seem to have much family or connections. As Mary and Joseph bring Jesus into the Temple, we expect that the first people to greet them would be the priests of the Temple, Sadducees who run the place. Or the scribes who teach the law. Or the guards who have special power. But instead, the first people who notice Jesus, the first who approach him and give thanks are two people who do not work for the Temple at all. Two people everyone else doesn’t notice or care about.
One is an old man, close to death. We don’t even know his profession or role. All we know about Simeon is that God has made him a promise. You will see the Messiah, the Christ, before you die. The Holy Spirit will guide you.
The other is a woman who has known loss and loneliness and struggle. Anna was married for seven years, and then her husband died. And for the rest of her 84 years she lived as a widow in a world that did not treated widows harshly, without rights or respect, property or money. But God gave her a gift of prophecy. And every minute of every day she worshiped God, trusting that God still had something in store for her life.
In that Temple, when Jesus was just eight years old, we discover who he came here for. He came not for those of us who believe we have it all together. He came not for the wealthy and the proud and the well-connected. He came not for those who thought they could buy their own salvation or build it or earn it. He came not for the healthy.
He came for the broken. He came for the hurting. He came for the forgotten. He came for those who still believe there is something greater than what we know right now. He came for those whose gifts and talents we fail to see. He came for those who have been waiting for good news for a very long time. Christmas is for them.
That star in the sky, it shined for foreigners from the east reviled by the religious and political community of Jesus’ day, because they practiced other religious and cultural traditions. That star told them: God’s love, God’s great work, God’s Son is coming for you. You are invited to see, to celebrate, and to know good news.”
Those angels on the night of Jesus’ birth, they sang out for shepherds in the fields. And these shepherds were so smelly and their work looked at as so dirty, that they weren’t even allowed into the Temple just a few miles away. But they were invited to go into that manger to see a new child who would forever change the world.
And Anna and Simeon are two people, without an official role in the Temple, without privilege or power, without family or connections. But the Holy Spirit brings them to the Temple, and here in this place, they too get to see the salvation of the Lord, the light to all the nations, the glory of Israel.
These are the people Christ came for. These are the people who have waited and hoped and longed to know they are not forgotten, they are loved, they do have a part to play in God’s story.
Hearing this story of Simeon and Anna, I want us to divide into groups of 3 or 4 people. Move your chairs around and face them. And once you get into your groups, I invite you to answer these three questions together:
1. Who in our world have been forgotten and overlooked, just like Simeon and Anna?
2. What are their hopes and dreams? What are their eyes looking to one day see?
3. What does Jesus’ life, teachings, and resurrection offer to these people today?