Waiting for Christmas Luke 2:21-29.
Christmas is coming and if you have children or grandchildren you know they can hardly wait for it to arrive. There is a Bible story associated with Christmas that tells of an adult who felt exactly like our kids do. He wondered if Christmas would ever arrive.
The background to this part of the Christmas story is that, according to Jewish law, Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day and officially named Jesus, the name the angel said He was to have. That name means Savior and we know God gave Him that name because He came to give His life a ransom for our sins. He came to be our Savior. Christmas means little if we do not pair it with Good Friday and Good Friday would not be Good if we did not pair that with Easter. Jesus did not come merely to give us an example of how to live but to provide salvation for us. Read John 3:16.
Read Luke 2:22. Luke skipped ahead from day 8 to day 40 in the life of baby Jesus. Mary and Joseph made the 50-mile trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for two Jewish ceremonies. The first, recorded in Leviticus 12, was for the requirement that each woman, Mary in this case, to go to the temple for a rite of purification following childbirth.
The second reason for going to the temple was to consecrate Jesus as the first born to God. Exodus 13 records that God required the first-born son in every family to serve Him as a priest. God has always required our first and best, not our last or leftover because He deserves our best. As the Old Testament time moved forward, God chose the family of Aaron to serve as priests. In a sense, God no longer needed the first born to serve as priests, but they still belonged to Him. God, therefore, provided a way in which the family could figuratively buy back that first born from God. It was done when the mother was at the temple for the rite of purification, thereby saving a trip to the temple.
A part of that ceremony was the presentation of a gift to God. Leviticus provided for a variety of gifts depending on the means of the family. Mary and Joseph, while they had become parents to the One who created the whole world, had next to nothing, so they presented the gift required of the poorest, a “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Remembering this helps us appreciate the reality that Jesus left the beauty and riches of heaven to be born, not in a palace or some mansion to a rich family but in a manger, to a family like ours. He truly became one of us.
Enter Simeon. Luke does not tell us a lot about him. Read Luke 2:25 Many assume he was an old man, in part because Anna, who was also at the temple, is described in the verses following as being old. The Bible does not give us Simeon’s age. The fact that we are given the age of Anna and nothing is said about Simeon may be an indication he was not that old. The Bible does tell us he was a devout man, that is a man who knew the Scriptures and sought to live by them. Because he knew the Scriptures, he knew the promises of God to send a Messiah to redeem His people and set up His kingdom. Like many Jews of his day, he longed for that promise to come true. The Greek word translated “waiting” carried with it the idea of “anticipation.” He was not focused on the idea that someday a Messiah would come but he looked for it on a daily basis. He was certain it is going to happen. Perhaps it was comparable to today when Christians know the promises of Jesus that He will return. We all believe that will happen but only a few begin each day wondering if this will be the day He comes again. Simeon deeply wanted the Messiah to come. Luke went on to write, according to verse 26, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.”
Simeon was totally convinced that a Messiah was coming because he knew the many prophecies God had given and he was certain God would keep His promises. Many things, including His genealogy, place of His birth, and the visit of the Wise Men, had been predicted ahead of time. God is a promise keeper. He kept every promise concerning the Messiah’s coming and He will keep every promise He has ever made to us. Christians should never put a question mark where God has put a period. Simeon was not only told by God that he would live to see the promised Messiah but, according to verse 27, he was “Moved by the Spirit,” and “went into the temple courts” at exactly the right time. He arrived just when Mary and Joseph arrived with the baby Jesus. It was perfect timing, but then God’s timing is always perfect. Try and picture that scene. Mary and Joseph walk in and are greeted by a total stranger who said to them, “I am so glad to see you. God told me you and the Messiah were coming.” Then this total stranger reached over and took the baby from Mary’s arms. I’d have panicked if some stranger took my baby without permission. Maybe at that point Mary and Joseph were getting used to the unusual, although they never lost the ability to marvel at how God works.
Luke wrote that Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismissyour servant in peace” Literally Simeon said that he had seen the Messiah and now he was ready to die. He was saying, “my life is complete. I could ask for nothing more of importance to seek so I’m ready to die.” If Simeon was an old man that was one thing but assuming he was not that old, he was saying that having met Jesus, his life was now complete. He was saying, “I’ve everything I could ever dream of so if this is the end I am satisfied.”
Many individuals say, “Why can’t I just die? Life has nothing left for me.” Simeon was not saying he wanted to die because there was nothing left but he was ready to die because life was totally complete. What makes one’s life complete is a personal relationship via faith with Jesus. Jesus asked the question about what an individual would really have if he gained the whole world and lost his soul. Simeon found his treasure in child who was in the arms of Mary. He knew his life was complete.
Read Luke 2:30-32. Luke wrote that both of Jesus’ parents marveled at what Simeon declared. They marveled that their baby was the salvation, “which you have prepared in the sight of all nations.” The message of Christmas is not simply that the promised one has arrived for Israel but for all nations. Jesus is not just a Jewish Messiah or Savior but the Savior of all who will come unto Him. Read II Peter 3:9. The message of Christmas is not one to be talked about just in the church as if Jesus is the unique Savior of Christians but the message of Christmas is that God wants everyone to know who Jesus is and what He offers to them. Read Romans 10:14 where Paul raises an issue that should be in the front of all our minds this Christmas. Are we going to be the ones who share the message of a Savior? It is important we share with everyone that the Jesus of the manger came to be personal Savior of each individual.
Read Luke 2:34. Simeon told Mary what the history of the church has shown, men will either love Jesus or hate Him. Jesus Himself said during His ministry that, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) We live in a society that wants us to believe that whatever one believes is true for that individual and maybe only that one. That is not what the Bible says. The Bible says there is only one way to God, not many ways as is commonly taught today. Read John 14:6 and Acts 4:12.If there are other ways to God apart from Jesus and His provision on the Cross, then the whole Christmas scenario was one huge mistake on God’s part. If whatever a man believes will get a person into heaven, then Jesus was foolish to leave heaven and dwell among us and certainly the Cross was unnecessary.
Simeon concluded his address to Mary with the declaration that, “And a sword will pierce your own side too.” I doubt either Simeon or Mary understood that, but 33 years later it would all come together as she stood at the foot of the Cross and watched her Son die. Christmas has no meaning apart from Good Friday and there is nothing good about Good Friday if there was no Easter.
Note one more interesting aspect of that encounter. Verse 33 records, “The child’s father and mother marveled.” One would think after all they had seen and experienced very little would seem marvelous to them, but it did. One of the big dangers of Christmas is that it is so familiar to us that we can tell the story and not marvel any longer. What a victory for Satan that is! This Christmas contemplate again and again all God did for us when He came to dwell among us. Contemplate it over and over until you marvel at so great a love and so magnificent a salvation. That will make Christmas truly important.