The Story in the Bible
When eight days were fulfilled to circumcise him, his name was called Jesus, which was given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the days of their purification according to the Law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb will 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."
And look, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the requirement of the Law, then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now you are releasing your servant, Lord, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel."
And his father and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him, and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, "Look, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years), who did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fastings and petitions night and day. Coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The History behind Jesus going to the Temple, Anna and Simeon in the Christmas Story
Circumcision, as part of the naming ceremony for baby boys, was required by Jewish law and still is today. It is done to remind Jewish people of the agreement that God made with a man called Abraham in the Old Testament of the Bible. It normally takes place on the 8th day after birth and during the ceremony the baby is officially named.
31 days after birth, the time came for Mary and Jesus to be presented at the temple in Jerusalem for the purification service. Jesus had to be presented, like all new babies, to be 'paid for'. This was a way of recognising that the baby was a gift from God and really belonged to him, so the parents had to symbolically 'buy back' the baby from God. The amount that had to be paid for a baby was about 60 grams of silver.
Mary had to go to the temple to be symbolically made clean and pure for the blood that she had lost when she gave birth. To be made pure, a dove or other bird had to be sacrificed; and to be made clean, a lamb to be sacrificed. However, if you were poor, a dove could be sacrificed instead of a lamb. That is why a pair of doves or pigeons were sacrificed.
When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for the purification service, he was welcomed and nursed by two very old people. Many of the Jews were eagerly awaiting a mighty and magnificent king, who would lead the people to glorious victory against their enemies. But there were others looking for a just and godly Messiah. They were known as the 'Quiet in the Land', for they spent their days in prayer and worship of God, waiting patiently for the day when he would send his chosen Saviour to earth. Simeon and Anna were two of the Quiet in the Land. They had waited many years to see God's promised Messiah. As soon as they saw the baby Jesus they recognised him as God's Deliverer and knew that their dreams were fulfilled.
The shepherds could well have bought the news of a very special baby to the Temple when they sold their sheep to be used in the daily sacrifices. So Anna and Simeon might have known that they would soon see the promised messiah.