I think what I love most about the story of the Feast of the Presentation is the sheer serendipity of the story, superimposed on the…well…odd-ness of the cast of characters. If we want to be blunt about it, Simeon and Anna are essentially two old geezers who hang around the temple all the time. Simeon has visions now and then, and Anna is always prophesying. We can only imagine what the nice polite temple-goers think about all that. My bet is, because they’re old and a tad odd, they are not always taken seriously. People might even be afraid of them if they have outbursts now and then.
Meanwhile, Mary and Joseph once again are doing what’s expected of them, being devout. What happens is not how they’d have scripted this rite of passage. They would not have scripted an interruption, and they most certainly wouldn’t have scripted Simeon swooping in and grabbing their child! Simeon’s words must have felt flattering, yet unnerving.
Then, probably about the time the butterflies in their stomach must have settled from all that, Anna starts in, telling everyone who will listen just who she believes this child is and what will happen as a result of his birth. I can’t help but wonder what Mary and Joseph’s pillow talk was like that night. It’s simply another weird thing added on to the list of weird things since before Jesus was conceived. Angels visiting, shepherds showing up out of nowhere, wise men showing up out of nowhere, an impromptu exit out of Egypt and a return…and now this. I’m sure at times, they both wondered if they were up to all this…and at the same time, I can’t help but think Mary had this inner stability with it all. After all, we know she pondered a lot of things in her heart on a regular basis.
Yet the reality of our own walk with Christ is that it never goes as we would have scripted it, even in our own rites of passage. Perhaps it’s not quite as spectacular as these episodes of “The Adventures of Rearing the Son of God”, but they will complicate our lives just the same. Back in November, I had the pleasure of officiating a wedding. One of the first things I told the couple when we began to meet for the required premarital counseling sessions was, “Take my word for it. There will be something that won’t go as planned in the wedding itself. There always is…and you might as well commit to rolling with it right now. No wedding, no funeral, no baptism, no confirmation goes exactly as planned. Something’s gonna happen…and in the end, if you go into it with eyes open, it will weave itself into the beauty of the moment, and it will all be good.”
God reminds us again and again we are not in control of the script. Nor are we in charge of the cast of characters. The characters that will weave their way into our stories are not always the ones we would have chosen for ourselves. They will often do things that embarrass us, or rock us back on our heels, or, at times, even offend us. Yet, if we go through the world with our eyes and ears open, we might just catch a glimpse of the holy.
I know I have seen my personal versions of Anna and Simeon in my own life. The homeless guy who struck up a conversation with me in the back pews of the National Cathedral, at a time I was feeling emotionally bereft and homeless in a different way. The tow truck driver who picked me up after hitting a deer. The chatty woman in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, at a time I really didn’t want any conversation at all…and there are plenty others. I would never have written any of them into the script of my life. They showed up anyway…and in time, what they said revealed things to me I would not have expected, and they reminded me that God’s script is always ultimately better than the one I would have chosen.
Who are the Annas and Simeons who have woven their way into your life story? What did God reveal through them?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.
Image: Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, 12th century cloisonné enamel icon from Georgia By Unknown Georgian artist – Public Domain, Link