They sat like two children, playing on the steps, outside Jerusalem’s temple. The game they played wasn’t one of competition or make-believe. It was a game children don’t play well. But they weren’t children, yet they laughed as they played. And each day, as they continued playing, they shared stories from their childhood. The game they played was one of patience, but one worth playing. The waiting game is like that.
Many people passing on the street said the pair were living their second childhood. At 84, Anna considered it her third or fourth. And Simeon, while he couldn’t recall his exact age, knew he enjoyed waiting more than anything he’d done in his long life.
When the Spirit comes upon you—this feeling. Oh my, Anna, it's like a knowing without words.
It was here, on the steps of the temple, that Simeon first met Anna. He had been drawn to the temple as if something was beckoning him. An invitation sent. Invitation received. He couldn’t be sure what the invitation said, just that he was meant to be here. So, he sat on the temple steps and watched the people come and go.
He found himself, like most people of grandparent age, drawn to the young parents who brought infants to the temple to dedicate them to the Lord. He studied the parents’ faces. And, if they walked within earshot, he called them over, asked to hold the baby and stared—transfixed—into each little face.
He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Until he met Anna. She had been watching him from a distance for many days. She, too, was drawn to the temple. But she knew her calling. She was a prophetess and was often called to speak into the life of some person for whom God had a message. She, too, was studying the young people, assuming the prophetic blessing within her was for someone early in life.
She couldn’t help but notice Simeon. He spent most of his day smiling, laughing and talking with people who journeyed to and from the temple. Simeon was about her age and she felt herself drawn to him. Her husband had died lifetimes ago, after only seven short years of marriage. Although she’d felt much too old to be, she couldn’t help but be drawn closer each day. Until one day (many years ago now) she’d joined him on his step.
They watched the faces together, studied the young parents together, cuddled babies together—laughing, loving, sharing stories—new and old. After months of togetherness, the message came upon Anna. She knew the old feeling of a prophetic word. It was here and she was surprised by the person God had put on her heart.
Anna turned to Simeon, “The Holy Spirit has a message for you, Simeon. You will not die until you see the Lord’s Messiah!”
Hot tears rushed down his wrinkled face, creating pathways of joy through the dust on his time-worn cheeks. It was as if all his Christmases had come at once. Or, it would have been, if he had known what Christmas was to be and would become. He embraced the old prophetess and they laughed and wept together.
Years passed. Each day they sat on the temple steps. People became accustomed to their presence. Everyone learned of Simeon’s passion and Anna’s prophecy. It was the talk of the town, like Noah’s Ark, for a year or two. Then it was just an old couple, dreaming their days away on the temple steps. “Let them enjoy their sunset years,” people would say, smiling as they passed. “They’re a lovely couple and they’re not hurting anyone.” And they would watch Anna and Simeon laugh, tell stories and kiss babies. “They’re like children,” the people said. “They love to play their game on the temple steps.”
Then one day, Simeon felt it. He couldn’t explain what it was that he felt, but he turned to Anna and said, “This is what it’s like for you?” She raised her eyebrows, not understanding, “When the Spirit comes upon you—this feeling. Oh my, Anna, it’s like a knowing without words.”
Anna nodded, tears coming to her eyes. “The time is here, Simeon,” she said. “The Holy Spirit has come upon you. The Messiah must be somewhere near the temple today. Watch, seek out the eyes of each man. You will know when you see Him.”
Simeon, sitting on his step, gripped his hands tightly together across his knees. They were shaking—hands, knees, even his heart. He began studying the face of every man as he walked by. It was too hard to see, from down here, so he stood up. His anxious eyes jumped from man to man. Some were on the steps. Some were walking below the steps. Some stood above him, on the landing. How could he see them all?
Then he was distracted by his usual interest, a young couple carrying a baby, coming down the steps. He studied the man’s face, caught his eyes. Nothing. He looked down at Anna, “Another baby, Grandma. Shall we?” Anna laughed and said, “After you, Grandpa!”
“May I hold you precious babe,” Simeon asked. The young woman looked at her husband; they had expected this encounter as does every couple leaving the temple. She smiled and handed the small bundle to the old man.
As the child rested against Simeon’s chest, his racing heart stilled and a gentle breeze, like a solitary dove landing, blew across his face. Simeon, whispering a prayer, praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
The old man kissed the Baby’s forehead and blessed Him. Then, as he handed the Baby to His mother, words cascaded from above, like a waterfall in spring, erupting from Simeon’s mouth. “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Simeon shook with the after effects of a prophetic word, spoken. Anna had shuffled toward them, a few steps behind Simeon and arrived as the words of prophecy flooded from him. She gave thanks to God for this moment. One prophecy fulfilled, another commissioned.
Although they had seen the Messiah, the couple remained on the temple steps—laughing, loving, sharing stories—telling all who would listen about the arrival of the Christ-child and God’s plan for the rescue of Jerusalem.
Pastor David Edgren is director, Children’s Ministries and Sabbath School, for the Victorian Conference.