We all have our favorite Christmas playlists that we pull out after Thanksgiving. But the FIRST playlist can be found in Luke 1 & 2.
Merry Christmas! We’re so glad to have you join us today as we continue celebrating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ!
For the last few weeks, we’ve been working through a sermon series entitled “Christmas Playlist”. It comes from the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, where we find four different poetic passages, songs sung about the birth of Jesus. We’ve already looked at Mary’s song and Zechariah’s song, both from the first chapter. And last week, we looked at a song sung by the Angels who appeared to the shepherds at the beginning of Luke 2.
Today we look at the last song, sung by a godly man named Simeon in the Temple. And, we see even more revealed in his words about God’s redemptive plan in Christ.
When we wrapped up our time in Luke 2 last week, Jesus had just been born, the angels had appeared to the Shepherds, and they had visited Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. We join the story again in the very next verse.
Luke 2:21–24 (NLT) - 21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. 22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the LORD.”* 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”*
Just over a week after Christ’s birth, it was time to go to Temple in Jerusalem, have the young boy circumcised, and publicly name him. They also made a sacrifice, a purification offering, of two birds.
Again, this was standard practice in Israel, and we saw the same thing practiced by Zechariah and Elizabeth six months earlier, when John was born. Both families traveled to the Temple, faithfully following the Old Testament commands of the Lord, in dedicating their child to the Lord.
As a church, we still follow this example today. We don’t require circumcision or the sacrifice of animals, because Jesus ushered in a New Covenant that fulfilled the Law’s need for such things. However, we do offer times when the church publicly shares in prayers of dedication for our parents and children. In fact, we’re planning another dedication service in the new year, so if you happen to have a little one and you are interested in this, be sure to talk with us soon!
Continuing on in Luke 2, we are introduced to a man named Simeon. This is what scripture says about him:
Luke 2:25–32 (NLT) - 25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
Simeon was “righteous and devout”. He was a faithful follower of the Lord. He was waiting for the Messiah to come, and the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die until that happened.
Was Simeon old? Was he ill? Why would he even be concerned about his future death? We honestly aren’t sure. It’s not clearly revealed in the text of Scripture. However, that promise, that the Messiah would come before he passed, must have been an incredible thing. Simeon knew that the long awaited redeemer would come during his lifetime.
He just had to be patient. And so, he was, eagerly waiting for God to do what He said He would.
Waiting. Patience. These aren’t exactly “a few of our favorite things,” are they?
It’s Christmas, so let’s put this into context.
How many of you get up early on Christmas, race down the stairs and tear into every present you can find?
Why don’t we do what we normally do on a day off, and sleep in? Have a nice breakfast? Catch up on some reading or something? And then, late in the morning, get into the presents?
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I don’t do that either. But it illustrates a point... Many of us are so excited for Christmas, and the gifts that come with it. And there’s nothing particularly wrong with eager anticipation. But imagine how Simeon must have felt, trying to be patient, waiting for Jesus himself to come, the first and best Christmas gift.
When Joseph and his family came to the Temple, Simeon was already there. The Spirit had prompted him to come with expectation. Finding Jesus, the one for whom he had been waiting so long, Simeon took him in his arms and held him (imagine that!).
Then he prophesied:
In verses 28-32, we read Simeon’s song:
28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
The first thing we notice is in verse 29 and 30 is Simeon saying “let your servant die in peace”.
Simeon had seen the Messiah. He had literally seen salvation! And after that, was ready to go.
Now, that could seem dark if we didn’t know the context. But again, we don’t know why Simeon was even thinking about his death, if he was old, ill, or otherwise.
However, the focus here does not need to be negative, but rather a positive reflection of his absolute contentment. A contentment which came from knowing God. He had seen the Sovereign Lord fulfill His promises, and it brought a sense of peace that nothing else could. He could die in peace, because he trusted in Christ.
In verse 30, Simeon says he has seen God’s salvation, in the person of Jesus Christ.
However, moving on in verses 31 and 32, he puts salvation in a larger context. The gift of Salvation will be offered not just to Israel, but to all people. Christ is a light to the nations, revealing the love and mercy of God, and calling sinners to repent.
Again, as we’ve discussed in recent weeks, the offer of salvation is given to all. No longer is God’s work to redeem his people limited just to ethnic Israel, but all people groups, Jew and Gentile, are commanded to repent and believe in Christ.
Simeon ends his song on a positive note... Salvation is offered to all people. However Simeon also knew that not all would trust in Christ as savior. Therefore, he had a bit more to say after the song. We’ll call it an outro:
Luke 2:33–35 (NLT) - 33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. However, not all will be saved. Some will reject the offer of salvation. Others will think the message of the Gospel is foolishness. Still others will even push back against Christ to the point of persecuting those who follow him.
It was important for Mary and Joseph to hear this. God used the voice of Simeon to remind them about the high cost the Messiah would have to pay for his people. It was a “realist” moment, one meant to prepare them for what would come.
And as we consider Simeon, that seems to have been his main role in this story. He wasn’t mentioned before this point, and isn’t mentioned again afterwards. He was here, simply to encourage Joseph and especially Mary about the future their son would face. He was a small thread in the larger tapestry of God’s work.
And that’s still how things are. We each have a part to play in God’s plan for mankind. However, we are each just a small piece of a much larger story. Sometimes we wonder why we deal with certain things, why we struggle in certain areas. In some cases, we’ll find out. But in other cases, we’re just there to be used of God for a larger purpose. To be present in someone else’s life as they learn their own role. Or to develop patience and peace in the fulfilment of God’s promises.
Simeon had much to say, which specifically impacted the life of Jesus, as well as Mary and Joseph’s perception of what was to come. But perhaps the biggest thing he did was to reaffirm and elaborate on the promises that Mary had already heard, and to proclaim God’s salvation as open to all.
Have you taken the message of this song to heart? Do you see what God is doing even now, to draw you closer to Him? The message of salvation in Christ is just as relevant today, on Christmas in the year 2016 as it was to those who sang the songs we’ve looked at over the past few weeks.
May we celebrate this Christmas and embrace the free gift of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.