The events surrounding the birth of Jesus show us ways that God works in the lives of individuals to accomplish His will. In this case, He used six righteous people to do mighty things for all mankind. Two of these folks were younger; four were older. Three were men, and three were women.
Zechariah and Elizabeth
First, God sent Gabriel to talk to righteous and “advanced in age” Zechariah who was the husband of righteous and “advanced in age” Elizabeth. Gabriel talked to Zechariah about their being the parents of John the Baptist, the messenger prophesied about in the Old Testament who would prepare the way for Jesus.
Mary and Joseph
Then, God sent Gabriel to Mary. The angel called her “favored one” and told her that the Lord was with her.
Later, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to let him know that it was still okay for him to marry Mary. The gospel writer Matthew describes Joseph as a righteous man.
Simeon and Anna
After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph obeyed the law of Moses by offering a sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem. While they were there, they met two more servants of the Lord, a man named Simeon and a woman named Anna.
Simeon was righteous and devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Simeon was looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s prophecies.
Anna was a prophetess. She and her husband were married only seven years before his death. Since that time, she had lived as a widow. By the time Jesus was born and Mary and Joseph brought Him to Jerusalem, Anna was 84 years old — which touches me personally since that is the age of my mother. Anna never left the temple but served there night and day, fasting and praying.
The Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. One day he came in the Spirit into the temple. When Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus to obey the law of Moses, Simeon took the Baby into His arms. He blessed God and prayed and prophesied. He recognized that God was now releasing him because he had seen His salvation. He spoke of God’s work to redeem both Israel and the Gentiles.
Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon was saying, and he began speaking directly to them. At that very moment, Anna came up, too. She began thanking God and she continued to speak about Jesus to all those who, like she and Simeon, were “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
When God looked down at Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna, He liked what He saw. We know from the fact that Zechariah doubted the message that Gabriel brought him, that righteous people don’t choose to do right every time. God punished Zechariah for that by making him mute until his baby was born. Evidently Zechariah took God’s discipline to heart; because, when he could speak again, his first words were praises to God.
Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna became the righteous people they were by making one righteous decision at a time — one day at a time and one moment at a time.
If you are still looking for that just right New Year’s resolution, you might consider resolving to follow the example of these six righteous people; and, when you end up in a pickle like Zechariah because you flubbed up, you can follow his example of learning from the flub and getting right back on track.
We have it so much better than Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna because at this point in their stories, Jesus had not yet died for their sins. We can make righteous choices — and we must — but God offers us a righteousness that is through faith in Christ and which comes from God.
But whatever things were gain to me,
those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, I count all things to be loss
in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
and may be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,
but that which is through faith in Christ,
the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.