The following two Simeon and Anna lessons were contributed by Silverdale UMC. They are based on lessons ideas previously posted at rotation.org.

Art and Puppet Workshop Lessons for the story of Simeon and Anna -- Baby Jesus presented in the Temple

Summary of what's posted below:

  • Bible Background: Who were Simeon and Anna?
  • Art: decorate baby-food jars for scented candles (Messiah meaning "One Who Smells Pleasing to God").
  • Puppets puppet drama of Simeon and Anna and baby Jesus.

Scripture References:

Luke 2:21–39 and others as cited in “Biblical Explanation and Background for Teaching”

Memory verse: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” II Corinthians 9:15

Theme: God leads a prepared Simeon, and a prepare Anna and US to know his son, Jesus, when we prepare to know him and seek Him in obedient faith.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Children will become familiar with the faith stories of Simeon and Anna in relationship to Jesus’ birth.
  2. Children will learn that God reveals himself to those who prepare and seek him in obedient faith, just as Jesus, God’s Son, our Savior, was revealed to Simeon and Anna.
  3. Children will thank God for sending Jesus as their Savior from sin, just as Simeon and Anna did. 



Biblical Background and Teaching Concepts:

Taking Baby Jesus to the Temple

Why was Jesus coming to the Temple?
Beginning at Luke 2:21 we see Jesus beginning to be seen and KNOWN among his own people as he is circumcised and named “Jesus”. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham, and God commanded the Jewish people to circumcise all baby boys on the eighth day after birth. Mary and Joseph were carefully observant of the Jewish law. They named their baby “Jesus” just as the angel had told each of them he must be named, the name that means “the LORD saves”. It was not an uncommon name in their culture, however.

Why was Mary coming to the Temple?
According to Leviticus 12, a woman was ceremonially unclean until forty days after the birth of a male child, and then she had to make an offering of a lamb and a pigeon or dove for her cleansing. If the couple was very poor, they would offer two doves (pigeons), and that is what Mary and Joseph did in Jerusalem when Jesus was presented at the Temple. Firstborn baby boys also had to be consecrated to the LORD, as Moses had commanded in Exodus 13:2, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male”.

Before Joseph and Mary ever came to the Temple with baby Jesus, God had been preparing Simeon to see the Messiah, the “consolation of Israel”. Simeon lived a life close to God. No doubt he frequently spent time meditating on the Old Testament scriptures and time communing with God in prayer. He must have known the prophecies concerning Messiah’s coming.

But reading the Bible and worshipping was not enough. God needed to tell Simeon who Christ was. And that's a lesson for us all right there! We prepare, God blesses.

 Messiah

The word “Messiah” means “the anointed one” or literally, “the one who smells pleasing to God”. He was “the acceptable sacrifice” or “Saving One”. Our word “Christ” is simply the Greek version of the Hebrew word “Messiah”. In Bible times, just as now, people associated good smells with cleanliness and good health. They rubbed themselves with good smelling oils as part of their cleanliness routine. A bad smell meant sin, rottenness or excrement. So you can see how the word “Messiah” would be associated with God sending the Savior. The root word of Messiah, “Meshach” literally means to rub ritually with oil. Oil also symbolized the Holy Spirit in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit is sometimes called “the Spirit of Jesus”.

 Simeon

Simeon, righteous, devout, and full of the Holy Spirit, had received a promise from God that before he died he would see the Messiah. We have no indication from Luke about Simeon’s age, only about his devotion to God. A person could wonder whether Simeon had a health problem that made him aware of death or whether he was an aged man, but the important fact is that he communed with God. He listened to God, and, by faith, on the day Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple, he went to the Temple, as God led him to do. A person can also wonder how he recognized Jesus as the One, the Messiah, his “salvation” (Luke 2:30). It seems that the Holy Spirit just spoke to him, showing him that this baby was God Himself in human form entering His Temple in Jerusalem.

Most parents don't hand over their baby over to just any stranger!

How did Simeon approach Mary and Joseph and gain the privilege of holding his Savior in his arms? How are WE privileged to behold and share the gift of God's Son? How are WE deserving?

We know he truly recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and that the first thing he did was to praise God, thanking Him for fulfilling the personal promise that he would live to see his Messiah and also that God had kept His promise to Israel.

Simeon also knew his scriptures. He had prepared himself for this moment. How do we prepare? And if we don't prepare, how will we really understand who this Christ Child really is??

Children can begin to learn to live a life in the Lord, a life of trusting God, of faith-filled prayer, and of meditation on God’s word. We don’t know when or how Simeon came to have such a life, but no doubt it involved the making of choices regarding how he spent his time and energy every day. It involved putting God first, obeying the first of the Ten Commandments, and it must have involved obeying the other commandments too. Simeon did not live a selfish, willful or careless life. He purposely chose to live close to God, by faith. He also sought to know God better all the time. When we, by faith, obey and seek God, God is faithful to reveal himself to us.

After Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph, he prophesied concerning Jesus. He was speaking especially to Mary. He spoke of how Jesus would “cause the falling and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). Jesus’ disciples, humble fishermen, former tax collectors and others would be among the “rising” as they obtained forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross. The religious elite of that day would be among “the falling” because many of them rejected Jesus.

Simeon said, “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:35), and indeed Jesus did the reveal the thoughts of many hearts, such as the heart of the rich young ruler who refused to leave all and follow him (Luke 18:18 – 30). Simeon said Jesus would be “a sign that will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34), and told Mary, “a sword shall pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). The Holy Spirit was reminding Simeon of the prophecy of Messiah in Isaiah 53 that says he would be “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3) and would be “cut off from the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).

 Anna

Aged and devout Anna, at least 84 years old, was also on the Temple grounds that day. She came up to Mary and Joseph as Simeon was prophesying, a second witness to declare that Messiah was in His Temple. The Holy Spirit showed her that baby Jesus was the longed-for Son of God. As she gave thanks to God, she “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38) Anna spoke about this baby, God’s Son, to any and all she met who were expecting Messiah to come.

Luke makes a point of Anna’s age and of her life-long devotion to God. She, like Simeon, lived close to God in prayer and meditation on the scriptures, expecting God to soon fulfill His promise to send the Messiah. She was known for her life of fasting and prayer and was called “a prophetess”. Nothing she said is recorded in the Bible, but her character and reputation are exalted. Again, children can choose to live close to God and can, like Anna, be a praise to Him. What a privilege she had to see baby Jesus and to share the news, the Good News, that God had finally sent the promised Messiah! Children who know that Jesus, God’s Son, has forgiven their sins can also share the Good News about Jesus.

 Isaiah

Children need to know that God not only knew them and loved them before they were born (Psalm 139:16), but that He also provided for their salvation from sin. He knew each one of us needs a Savior, so Jesus went to the cross to take the punishment for our sins. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…” (Isaiah 53:5). These words from Isaiah were written hundreds of years before Jesus came; God told his people he loved them and was providing for their salvation long before Jesus came. Anna and Simeon knew these words and these promises, and just like we each need God’s forgiveness and obtain it by faith, they did too. They had the great privilege of actually seeing baby Jesus, but we can read about them and about Him now in our Bibles. Emphasize to the children you teach the great importance of reading and believing the Bible. God uses his word to change us from the inside out as we respond to it in faith.

 






Jesus' Birth Through the Eyes of Simeon & Anna
Art Workshop
(Creation Cove)

Leader Preparations:

  • Read the scripture ahead of time
  • Gather the Materials

Materials:

  • Graters
  • Scented votive candles
  • Old crayons
  • Glitter
  • White glue
  • Shallow trays
  • Warming tray covered with aluminum foil
  • Baby food jars
  • Permanent marking pen (for child’s name on the bottom of each jar)

Puppet Materials:

  • “Simeon”, “Anna”, “Mary”, “Joseph” and “baby” puppets
  • Backgrounds to look like Bethlehem
  • Jerusalem and the Temple. The Temple and a palm tree can be mounted on a stick and moved across the stage to simulate the traveling. Or, you can have the kids draw the scenery IN ORDER across a long sheet of paper, which can be rolled onto two poles and 'scrolled' by helpers behind the puppets to simulate movement and scene changes. This idea turns your scenery-making time into a learning/memory time.

Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction

Greet the children and introduce yourself and any helpers that you have.

Dig- Main Content and Reflection

Art Project: Scented candles
The good scent reminds us of Jesus, God’s Son, Israel’s Messiah, who became a perfect or “sweet-scented” sacrifice to God when he died on the cross for our sins. Remember to teach that Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth, and also instruct the children about candle safety, such as “only an adult should light your candle”. Editor's Note: It is suggested that the candle be given as a GIFT to the family or as a dinner table centerpiece so as to keep the candle from being used without adult supervision.

Editor's Note: The origin of the Hebrew word "Messiah" is thought to mean "one who smells pleasing to God". Sin was sometimes thought of as an evil smell. It was no doubt associated with the concept of being "clean" and cleanliness, about which there were many religious laws. Anointing Oil was scented. The "showbread" in the Temple was scented with frankincense, and frankincense was burned in the Temple where Simeon spent a great deal of time. Kids will certainly relate to the concept of how some attitudes and actions "stink". The actual smells of this workshop will reinforce this on an olfactory level within the brain. Smell memories are deeply wired in the brain and quickly retrieved.

Frankincense oil or incense can be found in stores and online, and could be included in this workshop so that it doesn't stink!


Procedure:
Be sure you make a newspaper “placemat” for each child to work on this time. Pass out the graters; children will probably need to share them. Then pass out used crayons. Ask the children to peel any paper off the crayons. You may be able to teach the lesson while children are grating the crayons. They won’t need a huge amount of crayon. They will spread the crayon bits on the covered, heated warming tray and let them begin to melt. Each child should have a turn to roll a votive candle in the colored crayon on the warming tray so that it’s covered with a colorful layer of wax. You could also experiment with adding glitter to the wax. They can also roll the baby food jars in thinned white glue in a shallow tray and then roll them in glitter in another shallow tray. Alternatively, a child could draw a design in glue with a Q-tip on their jar and then roll it in the glitter. Let the glue dry while you conclude the lesson; the candles will harden quickly.

It would be nice if we could light our candles as we conclude the lesson today, but it’s likely that fire regulations make this inadvisable INDOORS. Check with your leaders. In addition to the scent reminding us of the meaning of the word, “Messiah”, a burning candle also reminds us that Jesus said “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12) and “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Simeon said Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). That meant that the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people who previously had no knowledge of God and of salvation, would find out that Jesus died for their sins too. Most of us are Gentiles who have benefited from the faithfulness of believers who lived before us and faithfully passed on to us the good news about Jesus Christ. God also compares our sinfulness without Jesus Christ to “darkness”, so a candle shining in a dark place reminds us of how the Holy Spirit reveals our sin. (See I John 1:5 – 10 for more background on this.)

Additional Idea: You can also decorate the jar on the outside by gluing glass beads to the glass creating a "stained glass" jar for the candle. Do not use paper or plastic as these may melt if the candle is left to burn. You can glue strips of colored tissue or cellophane to a small plate to go UNDER the glass jar. The Bible verse can then be included on the project.

Discussion questions:

  1. Who helped Simeon find Jesus, God’s Son, in the Temple? (ANS: The Holy Spirit guided Simeon to the Temple and showed him who Jesus was.)
  2. How did Simeon and Anna know what to say about baby Jesus? (ANS: Each one spoke out of faith in God after having spent their lives studying God’s word and living close to God by praying often.)
  3. What did Mary and Joseph think of the things Simeon said to them about Jesus? (ANS: They “marveled at what was said about him”, Luke 2:33.)

 

Journal:
Draw or write about what Mary and Joseph looked like and thought about as Simeon and Anna spoke to them about baby Jesus.

Closing

Close with a circle of prayer. Light one or all candles (if permitted). Pray as the Holy Spirit leads, allowing all who want to pray have a turn to pray. Remind children to bring their Bible and a friend next week for their next workshop so that they too can find the Christ Child.

 






Jesus' Birth Through the Eyes of Simeon & Anna
Puppet Workshop
(Master's Mountain Theater)

Leader Preparations:

  • Read the scripture ahead of time
  • Gather the Materials

Materials:

  • “Simeon”, “Anna”, “Mary”, “Joseph” and “baby” puppets
  • Backgrounds to look like Bethlehem
  • Jerusalem and the Temple. The Temple and a palm tree can be mounted on a stick and moved across the stage to simulate the traveling. Or, you can have the kids draw the scenery IN ORDER across a long sheet of paper, which can be rolled onto two poles and 'scrolled' by helpers behind the puppets to simulate movement and scene changes. This idea turns your scenery-making time into a learning/memory time.

Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction

Greet the children and introduce yourself and any helpers that you have.

Post the Bible memory verse, II Corinthians 9:15. The children should already have their own copies. Repeat the verse with the children before beginning to teach the lesson.

Teach the lesson. If this is the first Sunday of the rotation, most children will either not be at all familiar with the Simeon and Anna story, or will maybe only have heard of it vaguely. Children who can read should be encouraged to open their Bibles to Luke 2: 21-39 to read the story in the Bible before you teach the important points of the lesson. You will need to outline a version for yourself using the goals, concepts and background material as a guide to what you choose to emphasize, and especially explain any parts that pertain to the drama, like the words “sacrifice” and “salvation”. You will also need to explain how God promised to send His Son long before Jesus was born. You could start with a brief review of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the shepherds’ visit to worship Him (the wise men had not yet visited at this point, we think.)


PUPPET SCRIPT: Simeon and Anna meet Baby Jesus

Younger children can move the puppets as a narrator reads the script. Older children can have the script tape inside the stage and speak into a microphone mounted in front of them behind the stage. (Microphones have the effect of focusing their attention).

Scene I: Bethlehem

JOSEPH: “Mary, are you ready to go to Jerusalem today?”
MARY: “Yes, Joseph. It is several miles, but we can carry baby Jesus and get there in time to offer our sacrifice in the Temple.”

Scene II: Jerusalem

MARY: “Joseph, isn’t the Temple magnificent?”
JOSEPH: “Yes, it’s the place to offer our sacrifice and worship to God. What a privilege to be one of his people!”
(Joseph and Mary walk off stage, and Simeon comes on. He kneels and bows his head, praying quietly, then looks up as if he’s listening.)
SIMEON: “Yes, Lord, I will go to the Temple today. I’ll leave right now.”
(Simeon walks off stage, going to the Temple.)

Scene III: In the Temple

JOSEPH: “Mary, you must wait here while I go in to the priests with the sacrifice.”
(Joseph walks off stage, then returns shortly afterward. Mary and Joseph walk back and forth on the stage, carrying baby Jesus. Simeon approaches them.)
SIMEON: “May I see your baby?”
MARY AND JOSEPH: “Yes. Here, would you like to hold him?”
SIMEON: (He holds baby Jesus as he speaks. He seems to be speaking both to God and to Mary and Joseph) “Lord, I praise you, for you’ve kept your promise to me and to your people! You are allowing me to hold the promised One before I die! This baby will bring salvation for all people. He will be a light to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.”
(Mary and Joseph listen. They are quietly awestruck by what Simeon is saying. Simeon turns and speaks directly to Mary.)
SIMEON: “This child will cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. He will be a sign that will be spoken against, and the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. You, too, will experience great suffering.”
(As Simeon is speaking, Anna comes up behind Joseph and Mary. When Simeon is done speaking, he steps back to one side, and Anna looks at Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.)
ANNA: (speaking prayerfully to God) “Thank you, Lord, for letting me see your promised One!” (Anna embraces Mary, Joseph and the baby affectionately.)

SCENE IV: On the way back home: (an ending suggested by the editor)

This scene takes place in front of the stage where everyone has a puppet to answer the teacher's questions. The teacher asks each character to respond from their character's point of view. Suggested Questions: What did Mary and Joseph talk about on the way home? What did Simeon and Anna say to others in the Temple after they had made their predictions? What would Simeon say to our class? How are we all like Anna every year...thanking God for letting us "see" the Christ child?


Other Possible Discussion Questions:

  1. What did Simeon mean when he thanked God for keeping his promises? (ANS: He meant two things. First, there were many prophecies about the coming of God’s Son in the Old Testament; these were promises to God’s people, the Jews. Second, God had especially promised Simeon that he would get to see the Messiah, God’s Son (Jesus) before he died.)
  2. Who was Anna talking about when called Jesus the “promised One”? (ANS: She meant God’s Son, the one who would die on the cross for our sins and be raised on the third day.)
  3. How did Anna and Simeon know about the promised Son of God? (ANS: They had spent time learning and meditating on God’s word, the Bible, and they each spent much time in prayer.)
  4. What attitude did both Simeon and Anna have toward God when they saw baby Jesus? (ANS: Each one was thankful, praising and loving God.)


Journal: Suppose you were a child who happened to meet Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus after hearing from Anna that Jesus was the Savior God promised to send. What would you think of baby Jesus? What questions would you ask Mary and Joseph?

Closing

Close with "Anna and Simeon's Prayer.
Pass around the Simeon and Anna Prayers asking each child to move the puppet into a praying position and speak a line of prayer in the puppet's voice thanking God for something in the story, and for letting them know the Christ Child. You may write their suggestions on a flipchart and have students take a suggestion and turn it into their prayer during their turn with the puppet.

Celebrating is a privilege God gives us each and every year. Invite the children to come back next week and to bring their Bibles as they attend their next workshop.



Some of the ideas in this lesson were suggested by other posts in the Rotation.org Lesson Exchange. Additional presentation ideas were contributed by Neil MacQueen.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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