Christmas: A Promise Fulfilled
by Bob Burridge ©2018
Luke 2:25-35 is about Simeon’s encounter with the baby Jesus.
25. Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Simeon was a Jewish man who as far as we know was just a layperson, not a Priest of Israel.
It tells us that he was righteous:
– His righteousness was that which was earned by his Savior. He believed this Messiah, this Anointed One, would come to redeem his people from their sins.
– He understood that what moved God to do that was grace, not what Simeon had done. This doesn’t mean that Simeon didn’t do any truly good works. But he knew that what he did wasn’t meritorious. He knew he couldn’t earn his salvation. All his good deeds or thoughts were confirming evidences of God’s work of grace in him.
He was also devout:
– He took God’s instructions and promises seriously.
– He was determined to try, by God’s enablement, to obey what God commanded.
It was a discouraging time for Israel.
– Pagan Rome ruled over the Jewish people and oppressed them.
– Wicked King Herod had brutally killed many who opposed him.
– Most of the Jewish religion had become superficial. It was legalistic and prideful, and many had compromised with their worldly culture.
Yet some in Israel, like Simeon, looked in true faith for the “consolation of Israel”.
The Holy Spirit moved Simeon
to speak special words
of thanks and blessing.
27. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
28. he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
30. for my eyes have seen your salvation
31. that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32. a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
The setting was
God’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Leviticus 12 required that 40 days after a male child’s birth, he was to be brought to the Temple. (so Jesus was a baby, a little over a month old) The mother was to bring two pigeons or turtledoves for a sin offering.
– There the child was presented before the Lord,
– and the mother was declared to be ceremonially pure after giving birth.
What Simeon said is often called the “Nunc Dimittis“. Those are the first words in the Latin translation of what he said. It means, “now dismiss” your servant …
Simeon had lived to see the Messiah who came to fulfill God’s ancient promise! He was ready to live out the rest of his life in peace having seen his Savior come. He was now ready to die in God’s time.
The promise of the Messiah was part of God’s Eternal Plan. This coming of the Christ to redeem some from a fallen race was intended even before the world was created. Ephesians 1:4, “… he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…”
Simeon knew that this promised child was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to … Israel.” (verse 32). Jesus himself said he was the light of the world in John 8:12. This light is God’s revealing himself not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles.
In Genesis 12:3 God promised to Abraham, “… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Imagine what went through Simeon’s mind when he realized that this was that turning point in history!
Mary and Joseph were also amazed at the gravity of what Simeon said.
33. And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
34. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed
35. (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
How people respond to this Messiah reveals the true state of their hearts.
– Some were angry and opposed him showing their reprobate hearts. They tried to silence him, and killed him.
– But others in Israel put their trust in him because of God’s work of grace in them.
Today we see more about
how God’s plan was fulfilled
than Simeon or Mary and Joseph
saw that day.
We understand how Jesus fulfilled his mission and is now at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. Stop and think about it!
But Jesus is still the light, and we are the light bearers of that fulfilled promise. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
In Romans 2:19 church members were told, “… you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness”
We don’t actually know the date of Christ’s birth. It may or may not have been December 25th. But it’s the amazing fact of it that we should celebrate. The date isn’t important. From his miraculous conception, through his birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension God’s promise made way back in Eden became a reality.
As bearers of that light we’re to bring the light of God’s plan to the world around us. Not all those chosen by grace have been reached by that promise yet. The message goes out through our local churches and by missionaries in unreached places. But we’re also to shine the light of God’s saving work ourselves. The light should be seen in our changed lives, and in our giving all the credit for it to the grace of God and the work of our Savior.
We won’t be perfect, actually far from it. But we should live repentantly, humbly confessing our need for Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us grow to be more what God calls us to be. We should be learning, living by, and promoting what Jesus taught and did.
We testify to that truth all year long in our worship, fellowship, daily lives, Bible studies, and prayer.
We have a special opportunity at Christmas time. The world reduces it all to decorations, presents, candy canes, and a deified St. Nicholas. The history and truth behind it all is stripped away and suppressed. What remains is re-written.
We can enjoy many of the traditional customs and decorations, but we can use them to point out what really happened back then.
We can remember and pass on the amazement of Simeon and the others who came to Jesus. When we see a beautifully decorated and lit Christmas tree, we can comment about how Jesus is the light of the world, and how we’re called to bear that light to the world around us. We give gifts, but not because they were earned. We give out of love for those to whom we give things. We can talk about God’s gift of salvation through our Savior which was an act of love and grace. Those candy canes can remind us of the shepherd’s crook of our Good Shepherd.
And while we thank people for the gifts they give us at Christmas time, we should also take time together as friends and family to thank God for the greatest gift ever.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)