I’ve enjoyed re-reading the Christmas story again this year in the Matthew and Luke. Each time I read it new things pop out that I’ve never seen before! This year, one of the things I pondered was the small community of people that were not swept up in the cultural expectations of a military Messiah who would come and conquer Rome. People like Anna, Simeon were faithful followers of God and His Word. Even the powerful Sanhedrin member, Joseph of Arimathea, was “Looking for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43).
Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin – which was a powerful group that would not hesitate to kill those that opposed the system (Jesus only lasted 7 days for opposing them). So, Joseph is in an awkward position. He finds himself in a corrupt, powerful and evil cultural system, yet he was drawn by the prophecies of the Old Testament to look for the kingdom of God. Stepping outside of the Sanhedrin’s well-established boundaries like that would come at a price for him. Yet, he read the bible and was able to anticipate the biblical Messiah.
Simeon was “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25). He had been waiting for the “consolation” of Israel. He too, was not waiting for their cultural Messiah to come and overpower evil Rome, he was waiting for the biblical Messiah to bring comfort/ consolation of another kind. He was waiting for the kind of Messiah that would fulfil prophecy, who would comfort the outcast and overlooked (Like Luke 4:18-21). It’s this kind of Messiah that would forgive and restore the broken relationship with the God that created us. And God promised him he would not die until he saw it! Wow. That’s crazy!
Then there’s Anna. She worshiped and prayed for hours upon hours in the Temple (Luke 2:36ff). At the very time that Simeon was blessing baby Jesus and predicting to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul”, Anna “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Did you catch that last part? There is a group of people that were “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” and Anna spoke to them about the Messiah. Give me a time machine and I’d love to drop in and hear her speech!
Joseph, Simeon and Anna tell us that it’s possible to navigate the tension of being in our culture, but not being caught up by our culture. I wonder how they did that. It seems that faithfully reading God’s word and focusing in His kingdom over our comfort would be step #1 in navigating this tension.
Hey, that’d be a good New Year’s resolution…reading God’s word more regularly as we open ourselves up to His Kingdom work in and through us.