Celebrating Christ After Christmas
January 14, 2018 | Randy Smith
Celebrating Christ After ChristmasLuke 2:21-40
Sunday, January 14, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
So how many of you guys still have your tree up? For us, the tree is down, the Nativity Set is wrapped up and all the decorations are back up in the attic. You know, some people take forever to take the decorations down. Sure it's nice to still celebrate Christmas a few weeks after the holiday has passed, but some people cross the line from loving Christmas to sheer laziness. How about the guy who has his Christmas lights on the house until July? What makes it even better is when it's connected to a timer that's still turning them on at 5:00 in the sunlight of summer.
I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas. It's a very worshipful time of the year. I personally enjoyed the three weeks going through the Christmas story of Luke 2 and ending on Christmas Eve. But now we move on in our study. The Christmas parties are over. It's a new month and a New Year. So how should we live today in light of Christmas? Do we just forget about the gift of the Christ child?
We saw the reaction of people when Mary conceived and Christ was born. Witnesses! We looked at the response from Zacharias and Elizabeth of Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds.
But as it always does, time moves on. In verse 21 we learn nearly eight days had passed since Christ's birth. The Baby was called Jesus and circumcised. In verse 22 we learn Mary's purification was complete (that would have been at least 40 days after His birth) and the family traveled to Jerusalem to present Jesus before the Lord. The family then according to verses 23 and 24 offers a sacrifice of a couple of birds (an indication of their lack of wealth). Notice how the focus in these four verses is squarely on Jesus. Luke goes out of his way to prevent us from being lost (as many Christians do) in the trivial details.
And then in verse 25 and the verses that follow, Luke introduces us to two new and very unique individuals that serve as a complementary pair of witnesses. One is Simeon and the other is Anna. Our goal this morning? I'd like to take a look at both of them and understand and learn from their post-Christmas reaction to Jesus.
Anna (verses 36-40)
Let's first take a very brief look at Anna.
We learn in verses 36 and 37 a little about this woman. She was a prophetess. She was advanced in age. She was a widow. She "never left the temple." She served God "night and day with fasting and prayers." Godly woman!
Verse 38, when she saw baby Jesus she thanked God and spoke of Jesus as "the redemption of Jerusalem." We'll come back to that. This was her witness that Jesus is the Messiah. That is it for Anna.
Simeon (verses 25-35)
The second one is Simeon.
You know, we have a tendency to look around at the lack of faith today and believe that things were much better during the time of Jesus. Let's not forget that all the Jews were not necessarily believers. There was "national Israel" and within that was "spiritual Israel." We know it was a small percent of Jews that received Jesus as their Messiah. As a matter of fact, near the end of our Lord's life the overwhelming demanded from the Jews was for His execution.
Yet like there is a remnant today, there was a remnant back then. There were some that believed God's promises from the Old Testament. And the heart of all those promises centered around the reality that God would send a Savior to redeem His people and establish His kingdom where all of God's greatest blessings would be experienced.
Simeon was one of those individuals. Along with Anna in verse 38, he was, verse 25, a "righteous and devout" man who was (here it is) "looking for the consolation of Israel." He was part of that small remnant that was waiting on God for the true Messiah.
There are so many verses from Isaiah that these folks back then held to in this regard: "And it will be said in that day, 'Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation'" (Isa. 25:9). "'Comfort, O comfort My people,' says your God. Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD's hand Double for all her sins" (Isa. 40:1-2). We see there was a promised "redemption," a "consolation" of Israel.
There were a lot of religious people in Jerusalem back then. But very few seemed to care about the birth of this particular baby. So why did Simeon?
Three times from verses 25-27 the text says the Holy Spirit was upon Him. As I have said so often, God must do a miracle in a person's heart. People do not on their own choose Jesus. There has to be a moving of the Holy Spirit that opens eyes to see and regenerates dead hearts to believe and moves mouths to confess and empowers minds and bodies to obey. Being saved is not man's will, but God's will that man by God's grace responds to.
The text makes it clear that the interest that Simeon had for Jesus was a work of the Holy Spirit who as Jesus said in John 3, moves on people as He wishes. The Holy Spirit there is compared to the wind. You can't see the wind, but you can tell were the wind was blowing by the effects it leaves behind. Simeon shows an incredible passion for Christ because of the work of God in His life.
Imagine the scene of verses 27 and 28. The parents know there is something amazing about their Child. They are in the temple in obedience to the law and suddenly an old man comes straight toward them. Did the Holy Spirit reveal it was Jesus? Did Simeon have to ask a few questions? I don't know, but the verse says when he recognized Jesus he took the Child into his arms and began to praise God. This is the man to whom it was revealed (verse 26) would not see death until he saw the face of His Messiah. This is the man who lived day-to-day wondering if today would be the special day. And then it arrived as Simeon held the baby and looked into His eyes.
And what does Simeon do? According to verses 29-32, his first words are a song of praise. Lesson for us? Even after Christmas, we praise the Christ child every day as well.
Verse 29, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Thy word."
This is really an amazing verse. Talk about a love for Jesus. No fear of death. As a matter of fact, a strange reality that the baby He held was holding on to and securing his soul in heaven. God gave the old man a promise and when that promise appeared, the man felt as if his mission in this world was complete. His life was all about Jesus and He knew that the ultimate fulfillment of life begins when we depart from this existence. Simeon had incredible priorities, incredible faith, incredible hope and incredible love for Jesus. Simeon knew that this Child was his Savior.
He makes that clear in verses 30-31. "For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples."
I sometimes wonder why people go to liberal churches. I mean, if you disbelieve the Bible, what is the purpose for gathering? They may claim to love God, but apart from biblical teaching, what do you do? What do you teach? Most importantly, who is Jesus Christ and why did He come to earth? This is the most important question and how many Christians do not have an answer!
Luke in the first two chapters of his gospel makes the purpose for our Lord's arrival very clear. Please look there with me. In 1:47, Mary says, "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." In 1:69, Zacharias said, "And [God] has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David." In 2:11 the angels declare, "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." And here in verse 30 as Simeon held the Child, "For my eyes have seen Your salvation."
Please listen carefully; because we are sinners in the sight of a holy God, our greatest need is for salvation. We can't remove our sins. We need Someone to remove them for us. We need Someone to take our sins upon Himself and be judged by God in our place. We need a Savior. Jesus was born to be that Savior. Jesus was born to bring us salvation.
So how many Jews back then recognized Jesus as their Messiah? How many as they passed by Simeon that day and possibly thought the old man was nuts, praising God for this little baby born to two obscure parents from Nazareth? Maybe they thought he was a little weird. But if they continued to listen to him their thought of bewilderment would have quickly turned to thoughts of anger.
No one in the temple disbelieved that the Messiah was, verse 32, for "the glory of [God's] people Israel." But wait a minute. Did Simeon also say that the Messiah has come, verse 31, for "all peoples" and verse 32, "the Gentiles?"
You see, the Jews did not believe the Gentiles were worthy of salvation. When they thought of the Gentiles, they thought of blasphemers and idol worshippers and haters of God and spiritually filth. The Gentiles were the enemy. It was repulsive in their mind that God would send His Messiah which was perceived as their Messiah to these people to be their Messiah as well. It is just how Jonah reacted when he was told to preach God's forgiveness to the Gentile people of Nineveh. The brother ran in the opposite direction! The Jews couldn't fathom how a Gentile could be saved or moreover, how a Jew could be lost.
Yet we must remember that "God so loved the world" (Jn. 3:16). That salvation was always intended for all peoples. And the Jews were specifically chosen for this purpose. Isaiah 42:6, "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations." In Isaiah 49:6 God said, "I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
However, the Jews made it all about themselves. They were disobedient to reach the nations. So Simeon quotes this very verse from Isaiah 49:5 and sees it ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the light to the Gentiles. He was obedient and He reaches the nations through His church. That is why the commission is given to all of Jesus' people. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:19).
And there are Mary and Joseph watching these events and hearing these words spoken about their son, Jesus. Luke provides the commentary in verse 33. "And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him." You bet they were!
But hold on a second! Just as they are rejoicing in more good news about their son, Simeon in a sense speaks the first words of negativity regarding Jesus. He says in verse 34, "And Simeon blessed them [confirmed God's favor on them], and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed.'"
In this statement, it becomes clear that Jesus is not just another new religious figure. He will be a Person that all people must deal with. All people will be confronted with what they will do with Jesus. Neutrality is not permitted.
Either He will be embraced as God or hated as the world's greatest nuisance. Either He will be the smell of life or the smell of death. Wholesale repentance or wholesale rejection. Those that love Him will show that love by strict allegiance, acknowledging Him as their Lord, giving Him firstplace in their lives. And those that hate Him will be repulsed by His name. They mock Him and do the same to His followers. Jesus is a lightning rod. Either He is the rock of salvation or the stone of stumbling. For all people, either He is either heaven or hell. It's not that we put Jesus on trial. He is already vindicated as God. But Jesus puts all people on trial as to how they respond to Him. It's ultimately what we do with Jesus as to whether we will rise or fall as verse 34 says. There has never been more love for a person and at the same time never more hatred for a person.
So as we have seen the remnant praise God for the Messiah in Luke 1-2. We now learn that there will be many that will greatly oppose Him. This is preparing us for the rest of the Gospel that will lead us on a one-way street to Calvary. Today others present Jesus in Jerusalem with a sacrifice. Tomorrow He will present Himself as the sacrifice.
And Simeon still speaking to Mary also added, verse 35, "And a sword will pierce even your own soul - to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
As the mother of Jesus, Mary will become uniquely acquainted with severe pain because of her relationship to Jesus.
Erwin Lutzer said, "She sees the crown of thorns but cannot remove it; she sees the nails but is not allowed to pull them out; she sees the lacerations but is not able to soothe her Son's pain with salve; she hears the mockery but is not able to quiet the crowd" (Lutzer, Erwin, Cries from the Cross, p. 77).
Mary saw the soldiers gambling for Christ's tunic (Jn. 19:23-24), most likely a gift (according to historians) that she made for her Son.
One commentator said, "If Christ was the Man of Sorrows, was she not the woman of sorrows" (Pink, A.W. The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross, p. 48)?
All from this eerie prophecy that would be fulfilled before her eyes: "A sword will pierce [your]…soul, [Mary]" (Lk. 2:35a).
Every mother to a degree can most definitely identify with her pain. The most blessed woman that ever lived is not exempt from suffering because the most blessed Person that ever lived (her Son and Savior) was not exempt from suffering. So much for God blessings His choicest servants with only health and prosperity.
And why, why so much hatred toward Jesus? It's because of Simeon's final words to Mary in verse 35. "To the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
That's why people hate Jesus. He is righteous and calls you to forsake your sins. And you can't hide from Him. With Jesus it must be a love-hate relationship between Him and your sin. A choice has to be made. You will love one and hate the other or hate one and love the other. You will live in the darkness and hate the light or you will live in the light and hate the darkness.
Verses 39-40, "And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him."
And that grace flows freely to all His people. Christmas doesn't end on December 25. We celebrate and worship and adore Christ throughout the year as we experience the hope and the peace and the joy like Anna and Simeon that comes through the revelation of the Messiah.