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Luke 2:22-40

31 December 2023

Exploring the Scripture

Today’s text is set at the temple at Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus there to fulfill the requirements of Jewish law. The previous verse (Luke 2:21) refers to Jesus’ circumcision, the ritual required for all newborn males. But in the temple we read of presenting Jesus, as the firstborn male, to the service of God, a ritual also required by Jewish law. Included is the necessary sacrifice. Wealthier couples would have brought a lamb, but Jesus’ parents brought the also-acceptable sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (v. 24), perhaps showing the family’s low economic standing.

After these requirements were fulfilled, the text describes the words and actions of two people who are on the scene at the time. Nine verses (vv. 25–34) are devoted to Simeon, who, according to the text, was guided to the temple that day by the Spirit—an important motif for Luke. But Simeon was not just a casual observer. The Spirit had assured him that he would live to see the One who God sent for the world’s salvation. He recognized, by the Spirit’s power, the baby Jesus was this savior. Simeon blessed Jesus and his mother and father.

The other person to give attention to Jesus on that occasion was an aged widow, Anna. She had lived at the temple for some time, engaging constantly in fasting and prayer. Like Simeon, Anna recognized who Jesus was and the role of redemption he would play. The importance of these two elderly sages was in their recognition and prophetic declaration of whom Jesus was and that he had been sent for the world’s salvation. This confirmed what Mary had been told previously by the angel Gabriel and by her relative Elizabeth.

The last verse records the family’s return to their home in Nazareth, where Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (v. 40). This description of Jesus’ obedience and devotion is significant as we do not have other information about Jesus’ upbringing until his visit to Jerusalem at age 12.

Today’s text highlights fulfilling tradition and law, which was of major importance then. But in today’s world, in many places, conforming to rules is not stressed. Religious rituals have become less commonplace. People are less aware of mystery. We can learn important lessons from today’s text. Simeon and Anna were not authority figures. Like Joseph and Mary—and therefore Jesus—they were ordinary people. Yet God, through the Spirit, graced them with the insight, devotion, and faith to be instruments of blessing at this formative time in the life of Jesus and his parents.

This text invites us to find expressive rituals for celebrating the presence of God in the ordinary people and experiences of life. We may not do this in the same ways as did our forebears. But it is just as important for our spiritual well-being and our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, we will keep our lives focused on the One who was sent to redeem the world.

Project Zion Podcast

Co-hosts Karin Peter and Blake Smith consider how this week's scripture connects to our lives today.


Central Ideas

  1. Jesus was born into a tradition where following ritual and law was important.
  2. The Spirit guided Simeon and Anna as they became instruments of God’s blessing to Jesus and his parents.
  3. In today’s more-secular world, we are challenged to find expressive rituals that keep us connected to the Divine.
  4. We need to always open ourselves to the Spirit’s guidance.

Questions to Consider

  1. What relevance do you see in fulfilling rituals and laws as described in the text?
  2. What to you were the key features of the blessing Simeon and Anna brought?
  3. How have you felt guided by the Spirit?
  4. How can you challenge the congregation to be guided by the Spirit?

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