Most people go to the second chapter of Luke when they want to read the nativity narrative. The language is iconic…
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger…”
There are two who get passed over in the Christmas story like bit players in the whole production - Simeon and Anna. You may not even get to them because their names appear just after Jesus’ birth, when he is presented in the Temple.
Simeon: (Luke 2:24-26)
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
Anna: (Luke 2:36–38)
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
So why are these two important? Look at the story. Everybody was busy. There was plenty of daily fodder grabbing the news headlines. People were trying to pay their taxes. The highways and byways were bursting with the hustle and bustle. Meanwhile, Simeon and Anna were not merely old, they were ancient. They have miles logged and some wear and tear, but there they are in the story just the same, watching and waiting.
If you are approaching this demographic, you will get it. They are seeing the world groaning as in childbirth like so many years before. But they know something, that this time is unlike any other because they have seen the Messiah break into history. How did they know? Age, perspective, the long view, plenty of time spent watching, and enough silence in that armchair listening for the voice of God.
They are front row witnesses to the longing of ages meeting up with God’s goodness. They are you and me, smiling on the action and knowing everything will be OK. They are God’s messengers in a world too busy to notice. Of all the cast I like their part the best, and in true Christmas fashion, the bit player may have the most important role of all. Everyone brings something to the party, but Anna and Simeon provide the HOPE.