The reading for this sermon is Luke 2:27-38:
Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 33 And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too." 36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 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. 38 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.
Today's voice comes from Anna, the prophet mentioned in the last few verses of our text today. Anna, who, if she were here, might say...
This is ridiculous. I really shouldn’t be here--I'm nobody. Honestly. I'll prove it to you. Nobody famous ever came from Asher—Oh sure, there was Pagiel who organized the military to help Moses, but we didn’t even defeat the Canaanites in the land, so we had to live with them. How embarrassing is that?
There were a few names in the record books, but mostly it was the other tribes that got the big names out there…David from Judah, of course, Saul from Benjamin, Elijah the Tishbite, Deborah in Ephraim…Next to all of them, Asher is pretty insignificant when it comes to the people of Israel.
Even among the tribe of Asher, I am a very low person, status-wise. I’m a woman, for starters, and a widow, and old. You think eighty-four years is a long time in your world? Try eighty-four years in ancient Israel…some people thought I was cursed or blessed to be so old. Haha. When those people come around, I usually just smile and tell them that I guess those Kosher laws were there for a reason…
All this insignificance is why I really wasn’t expecting anything terribly important to happen in my lifetime. Especially something like this…especially to someone like me. I mean, we had been waiting so long—prophets had been talking for ages about this new vision of God’s world, one in which God’s dominion stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Israel had been expecting this deliverer for ages, and then it just happened. It was just a normal day…I was at the temple as usual—not really fussing over anything. I think the shirt I wore had perhaps been washed a week ago, so at least it was somewhat fresh.
Then Simeon started shouting about something—well, I’m old, I know, and sometimes the hearing gets a little fuzzy, but when Simeon makes a fuss, you can’t really miss it. He was over by the families waiting to dedicate their sons, and then there He was…just a little baby! It was so strange with all of the pop-culture versions of the visions from the prophets…you expect it to be, you know, different. Chariots of fire breaking through the clouds with angel warriors to take on the Romans and all that. Once I saw Him, though, there was no mistaking it. The Son of God, a little baby.
What struck me most were the child’s parents—they were as insignificant as I was! Well, maybe even more so since they were buying birds instead of the “preferred” lamb for the dedication. And let me tell you, there is nothing prestigious about their story, either. Giving birth with a bunch of barn animals wandering around—that’s just gross—and having your first visitors be sheep herders coming in from the fields. Seriously? The first visitors to this ‘king’ aren’t diplomats or royalty or even family, but a bunch of smelly herders…servants to the more comfortable, mostly. You know, those people who can afford things like houses and extra sets of clothing.
The Son of God, a little baby. How silly is that? How ingenious is that? I couldn’t stop talking about it for days. Well, I still can’t, if you can’t tell…anyone who’s willing to listen gets an earful from me. If I’d have known this was going to happen on that day, I probably would’ve prepared a bit more—written something hymn-worthy like Simeon…or at least have one of the Psalms ready in my back pocket…something more than the rambling words of an old woman. I’m just not as good when I do this ‘off the cuff’ stuff.
I guess my only real regret is that I won’t get to see how this little life turns out. I know I’ve been blessed with enough years to see this day finally come to Israel, but I wish I could see a bit more now. I mean, this is the Son of God, so you know it’s going to be a big life. I guess I’ll do what I can in simply telling as many people as possible what I know. This news has to be passed on to the rest of the country—it’s too good to keep all to myself. Oh, I know Simeon started it all—maybe I should just let him tell it. I don’t know…I thought that way for a while a few weeks back there, but I guess I sort of decided that I can still tell my part, no matter how small, and try to let a few people know about it, anyway.
As I look back on my long life, I wonder how many other stories are out there...I know my own time has been filled with stories. I look around at all the people around me now, and think of all the people to come, and I wonder how many of them will have stories like mine, of Jesus, I believe, is his name, entering into their life here or there and really changing it. And how many of those people might think that their story pales next to someone else’s, and, like me, consider not telling it, because they don’t think it’s as powerful?
I don’t expect most people will remember my name or part in the story—it’s not even that big of a deal, really. I saw Jesus in the temple as a child and kept on telling people about it until they told others. Now I know they eventually told this Luke guy, I guess, who decided to put a few verses of it in his book—a small part, easily overlooked…no wonder, the way I ramble…there’s really no possibility of getting a good quote from me, is there? I do hope that the story itself will continue to be told…the story of Jesus entering people’s lives. I wonder what that will look like, will sound like, I wonder how my story will be woven into the larger picture of this event.
I hope you—whoever you are, wherever you’re at on your journey—do take the time to remember and retell those times that Jesus entered your life, too. If it’s like mine, you know how amazing it is to you. The only way we continue to keep the story going is to share it. I’ve noticed that with something like this, if you keep it to yourself, it fades away, and becomes just as small as you think it is, but share it, and it joins with other stories—weaves together with them—until there is more to it than you ever imagined. And then, if we get enough of it, we might see a bit of what the Hope of the World really does look like.