As I continue to look at the Christmas story out of season, I am praying for understanding to see the story anew – to step back to see it with fresh eyes. My focus today is on Luke 2:22-40, about 40 days after the birth of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, to the temple to fulfill the Levitical law – two required ceremonies – the purification of a woman forty days after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12), the presentation of the firstborn to God (Exodus 13), and then the dedication of the firstborn into the Lord’s service (1 Samuel 1-2) – not a requirement of the law.
While at the temple they meet Simeon. I love serendipitous moments, and I’ve come to realize they are gifts from God. Not really coincidences, but the working out of His plan and purposes. God orchestrates, arranges circumstances in our lives to achieve His eternal purposes in our lives! Our serendipitous moments should lead us to praise God and thank Him for His particular work in us that leads us in His ways, His paths. AND that’s just what happens for Simeon!
There is an interesting contrast in Luke 1 and 2 between old and young, old and new. We’ve already discussed Zechariah and Elizabeth – having a child in their old age. Mary was particularly young. Simeon is old. It’s almost as if God is saying I am doing a new and fresh thing … out with the old, a closing of a chapter, a season, a covenant, and the opening of a new, young, fresh event, season, covenant.
Also, notice the prominence of the Holy Spirit in Luke 1 and 2 – but especially in Simeon’s story. The Spirit is mentioned three times in his story – the Spirit is on Simeon, the Spirit reveals that Simeon will see the Lord’s Christ, and the Spirit moves Simeon to meet this young couple with a baby!
I love this picture of the Spirit working in Simeon’s life – such a great example of how the Spirit also is at work in us. At the moment of salvation, we are filled with God’s Spirit, He comes to dwell within us. He is our helper, the one who teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus has revealed to us. And the Spirit moves us to will and do the good pleasure of the Father. This is the very promise given in Ezekiel: A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon’s song is the fourth song in Luke in these first two chapters. In his song, Simeon points out that Jesus, just a baby, is God’s overt, public display of His purpose and plan to save His people. Jesus is light which reminds us of two prophetic passages – one in Isaiah 9, again in Isaiah 60, but also Jesus’ own words in John 8.
The people who walked in darknessIsaiah 9:2
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,Isaiah 60:1-2
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,John 8:12
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
Simeon sang … Jesus will be a light for revelation to the Gentiles. I’m reminded of God’s covenant with Abraham, that last part, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed!” It has always been God’s plan to bless all people! John reports in his vision of the throne of God that by Jesus’ blood He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and made them a kingdom and priests to our God!
The idea of waiting is a repeated concept in today’s passage. Interestingly, Simeon was waiting for “the consolation of Israel,” and Anna, the elderly prophetess, was waiting for “the redemption of Jerusalem.” It’s as if the two, Simeon and Anna, wanted us to hear the words of Isaiah, “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted [consoled] his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 52:9)
Notice that Simeon is at peace. It’s as if he is speaking his final words – I’ve seen the Lord’s Christ, I can now die. God’s promise to Simeon is fulfilled. I was intrigued by other final words spoken by people who knew God well.
- Jacob, aka Israel, gathered his twelve sons to bless them, and to tell them what would happen to them in the days to come.
- Joseph gathered his brothers in his last days to remind them, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24)
- Joshua challenged the people of Israel to follow God well, to obey His commands. He spoke these words often framed in our homes right before his death, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
- David charged Solomon … “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses.” (1 Kings 2:2-3a)
- The repentant thief uttered these famous words, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
- Stephen died forgiving his tormentors, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)
- We don’t have Paul’s dying words, but we have the final words in his final letter: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:16-18)
What are you asking God for before you draw that final breath? What might your final words be?
Last – imagine Mary’s questions, her feelings. I love how Luke attends to her emotions. When the angel delivered his message, Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting he was bringing. Then the shepherds visit the babe and tell about the angel’s greeting and song. Mary treasured up all those things and pondered them in her heart! And in our passage today, Simeon praises God but also prophesies a sword will pierce her heart. Mary marveled at what was said about her son! Clearly, Mary was a reflective young woman!
I hope you are enjoying digging into Luke, and especially considering the Christmas story before the holidays descend on us. Already I’m praying that I can stay “in the present” while shopping for presents, and intentionally worship our Saviour while celebrating His birth! May we “break forth together into singing” the praises of our Lord!
I long to behold him arrayedCharles Wesley
With glory and light from above;
The King in his beauty displayed,
His beauty of holiest love:
I languish, and sigh to be there,
Where Jesus hath fixed his abode;
O, when shall we meet in the air,
And fly to the mountain of God?
*Follow the sermon series on Christ Church Cedar Park website.
**Blog posts from this series: