Simeon and Anna
The snow is gently falling, making the Currier and Ives vision of Christmas complete. Paul just got up and said he's going out to shovel the driveway. He can be such a pragmatic boy. I imagine that he wakes up, looks out the window, notices the snow, and thinks, "The driveway will need shoveling," and then does it. I don't think he realizes that he could sit around, playing Wii, or texting or generally laze around on the couch until I asked him to shovel, and even then, he'd have like two chances to pretend he didn't hear. But no, he's putting his boots on right now. He hasn't even eaten breakfast! I wonder if he's being good for Santa? But then he's like that all year long. He doesn't do bribery. He just does. Every family should have a Paul. They are so nice to have! I'd even rent Paul out.
Today's scripture (Luke 2:21-39) isn't considered part of the Nativity story, but it occurs so close to the night Christ was born and has revelatory significance that I'd like to consider it today as a part of the nativity. In it I see evidence of Primary answers to questions. People joke that if you answer these four things to any gospel question (especially the "what must we do..." questions), you'll most likely be right, but we'd be right because it's true! Obey, go to church, pray, and read scriptures. Sounds simple, but yet many don't do it (and to be honest, I need to work on some of the four too. This many be considered a Primary child's answer, but aren't we supposed to be like children? (Matthew 18:3, and Mosiah 3:18)
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.
The naming of a child in the grand scheme of the plan of salvation seems so insignificant, yet Mary and Joseph were obedient in the little things. Of course, Christ's name was significant because of prophecies regarding his name, which would be a sign of his Messianic mission.
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; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy 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.
Mary and Joseph were aware of the law of Moses, which means they had knowledge of scripture. Even if they couldn't read, they had apparently been read to out of the words of ancient prophets. We too should be reading the words of prophets, ancient and modern. We should know what it is the Lord has commanded us to do. We can't be obedient if we are ignorant.
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 lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
The first thing Simeon does is say a prayer of thanks to God. When I recognize blessings from the Lord, is my first reaction a prayer of gratitude to Him from whom I received the blessings? When we receive gifts from others, politeness requires the first thing we do is thank the giver. And we have been commanded to be grateful. Prayer is an act of showing gratitude in voice to Heavenly Father. Simeon, a devout and righteous man, knew the importance of showing gratitude to God for fulfilling a promise. And he recognized the Messiah. He too must have been familiar with the scriptures and prophecies of prophets before him to have known that this little child would redeem the world. How wonderful to have seen with my own eyes salvation embodied!
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Mary and Joseph had marveled, even though they had been told by angels the mission of their infant son. I wonder what they marveled at? Did they marvel because here at last was someone else who knew? I imagine that one of the characteristics necessary for raising the Son of God was humility and these two people must have had it. I don't think they would have gone 'round to the neighbors bragging that their future child would save the world. Humility might have made them unwilling to proclaim Jesus' mission to the world and maybe their marveling was because someone else knew it too.
And there was one Anna, prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Anna departed not from the temple. She was a church-goer. She knew where the holy place was and was determined to be in it. So many times, church worship and temple worship can be thought of as a burdensome requirement, but we have been commanded to stand in holy places (D & C 45:32 among many other scriptures) for when trial and tribulation shall come to try to shake us from our faith, if we are standing in holy places, we shall not be moved. Anna was not a Sunday believer, she was an everyday believer. She showed her devotion to God every day, not just on the Sabbath.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
Sometimes when I read the scriptures, I think all the stories revolve around men. They are told by men, about men and the women's stories have been given short shrift (please understand that I am revealing more about my own hangups that I am complaining about scripture). But women and their examples are there, if I look for them and quit assuming I've been discriminated against. We have Mary's story and also a brief description of Anna. Both are righteous women that I can look up to and identify with. Anna was familiar with Messianic prophecy too, because she recognized Jesus as the one who would redeem Jerusalem. I should rejoice in my opportunities to worship every Sunday at the Sacrament and I should be more "every day" in my temple worship.
In the interest of space and length, I didn't include all my thoughts. I had to limit my thoughts to the four Primary answers, otherwise I would have rambled on all day and I need to finish baking molasses cookies.
Merry Christmas! I'll be back tomorrow (I know, I'll probably be the only blogger in the US to blog something) with one more day of devotion.