Simeon and Anna Praise the infant Jesus by Arent de Gelder (1645 – 1727)
Prayers of Approach
As Mary and Joseph
went on a pilgrimage of faith to Jerusalem,
so we, too, come on a pilgrimage of faith
Meet us, O God, as we gather, spiritually in many different places,
and open our eyes
to see the eternal truths all around us,
calling us into love and more love
and things that are everlasting.
Let us all, young and old,
be like Anna and Simeon –
nurtured in the place of prayer,
and looking to the world for the signs of God’s presence.
Held together by this beloved truth,
we turn together to worship
the one who calls us all
in prayer and practice
towards the works of love.
There are some among us who are young,
and others among us who feel young,
some among us who can’t wait to grow up,
and others among us who can’t believe they did.
But we come with all we have and we approach you, who welcomes all,
knowing that you sustain us
at all ages, and in all ages.
All of us, all ages, are gifts to each other.
We honour you, God, and each other.
May we listen to each other,
more and more,
in quiet, and in noise.
Music: Angels from the realms of glory (R&S 163)
Reading: Luke 2:21-40
A week after his birth, at his circumcision, Jesus was officially given the name which the angel had told Joseph he should have, a name which means ‘God saves’. Names were very important in Jewish culture and said something significant about those so named. Jesus’ mission and purpose in life is thus acknowledged from the very beginning of his life. A few weeks later when Mary and Joseph travel to the temple in Jerusalem to present Jesus and fulfil the requirements of the Law he was immediately recognised by Simeon and Anna, two faithful people who had been waiting their whole lives for the promised saviour to appear.
Music: O little town of Bethlehem (R&S 145)
After the birth of a baby a Jewish mother would stay at home and not take part in any religious events for 40 days if the baby was a boy or 80 if it was a girl. At the end of this time she would make an offering at the temple of a lamb (for a burnt offering) and a pigeon for a ‘sin’ offering. If a family couldn’t afford a lamb they were allowed to offer two pigeons. This was known as ‘the offering of the poor’ and it tells us that Jesus didn’t come from a well off home and didn’t have anything which would have set him apart from any other baby from an ordinary family.
Simeon was an old man who had been promised that he would not die before he saw the Messiah, the saviour of Israel. He had been waiting a long time for this special person, someone chosen by God with the authority to carry out God’s work on earth. As a faithful servant of God Simeon would have known the scriptures well and would have had in mind in particular the prophesies of Micah and Isaiah which said where the Messiah would come from and what he would be like. He would have known that ‘unto us a son is given…’ (Isaiah 9:6) and that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, a small town only a few miles away from Jerusalem (Micah 5:2), but how would he recognize him?
When Simeon was led to the temple that day he probably knew he should be looking for a young child, but in a city the size of Jerusalem and in the central place of the Jewish faith, there must have been lots of people bringing their children to the temple. How would he know where to look, how would this one child stand out from the rest? Would Simeon have expected the Messiah to belong to a poor family? We don’t know how Simeon did recognize Jesus but we do know that he was delighted and praised God when he held Jesus in his arms. Even though Jesus was still only a baby Simeon had faith that in him God’s promise was fulfilled and he rejoiced that ‘with my own eyes I have seen your salvation…’
Anna too had been waiting a long time. 84 was a very great age to live to (even today it’s quite old) but, arriving at just the right moment, she too recognized Jesus and was so excited that she went around telling all those who ‘were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free’ about him. It could have been a dangerous thing to do, both for her and for Jesus, especially as we know what Herod’s reaction was later on when the Magi came looking for Jesus. Simeon however had already warned about what lay ahead, suffering and sorrow would come, but for now they were far in the future and before that there was a message to be proclaimed.
God saves – Alleluia!
Music: Born in the night, Mary’s child (R&S 188)
Prayers of intercession
Today we honour Simeon and Anna. Both of them old, they had a light that sustained them. They both held strongly to what they knew they hoped for. May we – people of all ages – be held together by what sustains us. Whether seven or seventy, may we know what is most important.
God in your mercy, hear us.
Today we honour all shapes of families. Families by choice, families by adoption, families by birth, families in grief, families in multiple homes, families in negotiation, families in care, families in support. In all shapes of family, may we find words of love and kindness.
God in your mercy, hear us.
Today we pray for people who are ignored because of their age. In an era where youth and beauty are praised, we have so often ignored wisdom, experience, longstanding faithfulness and perspective. For all who have felt overlooked, for all who have love and wisdom to share, we pray.
God in your mercy, hear us. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Music: Hark the herald angels sing (R&S 159)
A sending out prayer
Lord, your faithful servants Anna and Simeon
had dreams and visions that sustained them into their old age.
Enrich us all with visions and dreams that sustain us, from one decade to the next;
so that our eyes might always be bright, with the life that we see all around.
Send us out, today and all days,
with this love, and this vocation.
Rev. Janet Calderley