We’ve been in a focus this Christmas season on the Holy Spirit’s role on the Christmas story, which is often overlooked. In every message we’ve seen the Holy Spirit’s impact where there was a supernatural conception within the virgin womb of Mary that led to the virgin birth. The Holy Spirit’s visitation with Mary and Elizabeth, her relative who was the mother of John the Baptist, or the Holy Spirit empowering John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, to really proclaim the reason for Jesus and John’s birth.
Today, we look at another example of the Holy Spirit’s role in the Christmas story as we see the waiting is over for a man that has been longing to see the Messiah before he died. (Read Luke 2:25-28.)
Thursday, December 17, 2015—a lot of Star Wars buffs woke up with a special tingle of excitement within their being because, at last, the force was reawakening and Star Wars was coming back into movie theaters all around the land. There was a buzz of excitement. At last the waiting was over.
And on Christmas morning, there will be children dashing from their beds to the living room or family room or wherever the presents are to see what gifts they have gotten. And what they’ll be thinking when they can finally get out of bed is ‘the waiting is finally over.’
About two thousand years ago there was an elderly man by the name of Simeon, and the Lord had made it clear to Simeon that he was going to see face to face the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. He was not going to die until he had seen the Messiah. And at this point in Simeon’s life, he had become an old man, so he knew that it was going to be happening soon. He was not going to live much longer. And that’s the encounter we see today when in Simeon’s life—at last, the waiting would be over.
Look with me at verse 21 to understand what led to this event as we see Jesus growing up in the home of devout Jewish parents: “And when eight days had passed, before Jesus’ circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
Now because Mary and Joseph were devout Jewish parents, they wanted to obey the law, and God made it very clear to the father of the faith, a man by the name of Abraham, thousands of years earlier that as an outward sign of being His specially chosen people, the male child should be circumcised on the eighth day. That’s found in Genesis 17:12.
And so Mary and Joseph, on the eighth day of Jesus’ life, come to have the rabbi circumcise him. I’m so thankful I’m not a rabbi in this regard! I have nothing against rabbis, but rabbis to this day still have to circumcise the male child. That would make me real nervous. And if I’m nervous, Mama’s nervous. Imagine the little boy. So I’m thankful I don’t have to do that. But that was the custom and still is the custom in devout families to this day.
Then 40 days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary come to the temple for another dedication and purification ceremony. (Read verse 22.)
On the 40th day after a male child was born, the mother and father in the Jewish faith were to go to the temple in Jerusalem. Because they were in Bethlehem, that was just a trip of five or six miles. And there would be two things in this dedication ceremony. Because the elder child, the firstborn son, was to be dedicated to God, they would bring a monetary offering to the priest or the rabbi in order to redeem that child for themselves—at least to temporarily have responsibility for the child, knowing it is God’s child—but for the privilege of raising the child in a godly home.
They also would come to make a sacrifice before the Lord—a sacrifice in order to have an animal die in the place of their sins. And the custom was to bring a lamb, an unblemished lamb. But if the family was poor, they could bring two pigeons or two turtle doves.
So what we see in Joseph and Mary’s life is devoted Jewish parents fulfilling the law, and you can read about this law in Leviticus 12:2-8. Some of you might want to go home and read that passage tonight to see exactly what it said about what Joseph and Mary are doing; because, for some of you it will be the first time in your life you’ve ever read a passage in Leviticus! Now, in verse 25 as they have come to the temple, that’s where they connect with Simeon.
Now understand this about Simeon. He is a devout Jew. He is a righteous man. He is a good man. And the Holy Spirit made it clear, when he was a much younger man, that he was not going to die before he would come face to face with the Messiah. The word used here is “the Christ.” That is the Greek word for the Jewish or Hebrew term “Messiah.” So here is Simeon being led by the Holy Spirit to the temple at the very time when Joseph and Mary are coming for this dedication and purification ceremony when Jesus is 40 days old. Look at what Simeon says as he is blessing God for realizing this is being answered. At last, the waiting is over.
“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word.” In other words, You made me the promise that I would see the Messiah before I died, and I realize that is occurring now. “For my eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Question. Why would a devout, a good, a righteous man need salvation? If he’s good and devout, why? Well, he needed salvation like you need salvation, like I need salvation; because there has only been one man who has ever walked the face of the earth that was not a sinner—and that is Jesus. All the rest of us sin. And the Bible is very clear that that sin separates us from God. Just one sin separates us from a Holy God. And because of that, all of us need a Savior to offer us forgiveness and to make us right with God.
So Simeon realizes when he sees the Christ, when he sees his Messiah—even though this is a little baby only 40 days old—he realizes he is looking into the face of his Savior. All of us need a Savior. Jesus came to be that Savior. He goes on. He says: “Which was prepared in the presence of all people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles.”
Now it’s not just Jewish people that needed a Savior. Yes, Simeon is Jewish. Jesus is Jewish. Jesus came first for the Jews. But it’s also very clear that Jesus came to be the Savior for all mankind—not just for the Jews but for all mankind. This means no matter what your ethnic origin, no matter what your religion or no religion, Jesus came to be the Savior for all mankind. Whether you’re Hindu or Buddhist, whether you’re Muslim or Jewish, whether you’re Baptist or Catholic or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever it may be, whether you’re an atheist or agnostic, Jesus came to be the Savior for all mankind. He come to be a light to the Gentiles.
I don’t know about you, but one of the customs Anne and I have at many a Christmas season is just to ride around the community to see the beautiful lights around some houses. Some houses do it very tastefully and some, “bless their heart,” they’re just like the Griswold movie. Some man at that house just goes berserk on the lights. What most people don’t realize is that Christmas lights at night are to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, that Jesus came to be the light that overcomes darkness, to overcome spiritual darkness that is the evil of this world, the hatred of this world, the violence of this world, the greed and the idolatry of this world, the decadence of this world, and the death of this world that results from man’s sin. Jesus came to be that light.
This candle-lighting service is another reminder of that as we light the Christ candle later on in this service and share that light with others, a reminder that Christ is the light of the world overcoming the darkness of the world. As we share the light of Christ with others, it is a reminder that we are to be the light in a very spiritually dark world. As Simeon is blessing God for the privilege of knowing that the waiting is over in his life and he has seen the Messiah, he realizes He has not just come for the Jews, but He has come for all mankind. He goes on to say that Jesus “is the glory of Your people Israel. “
The Jews have contributed much to the world in which we live, but the greatest contribution of the Jewish people, of Israel, is the Messiah—God chose the Hebrew people to give the world a Savior.
Joseph and Mary were astounded by this. And in verse 33 it tells us that: “His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Jesus.”
Put yourself in Joseph and Mary’s shoes. Nine months before the virgin gave birth to Jesus, an angel appeared to her and said she was going to give birth to the Son of God. Then later when she told Joseph, he didn’t believe her for a second. He was going to divorce her, but an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “Mary is telling the truth. She has supernaturally conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is going to give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus because He has come to be the Savior of the world.”
And then the night that Jesus was born, some shepherds showed up. They told Joseph and Mary how the angel had appeared to them. And the angel said to them, “Today in the city of David (that’s Bethlehem) there’s been born to you a babe, who is Christ the Lord,” to be the Savior of the world. So Joseph and Mary have had the appearances of angels with them, have had the shepherds confirm what had happened with them, and now have this elderly man, Simeon, on the 40th day of Jesus’ life, really confirming all that they have been told about this special child. So it’s no wonder that they were amazed by this.
And then as they have this look of wonder, Simeon shares some haunting words with Mary: “Simeon blessed 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—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (v. 34)
Jesus’ coming divides all the world into two groups: the fall of many—those who miss it, those that stay in the darkness, those who never have a Savior for their sins, those without that Savior who wind up spending eternity in hell. But Jesus would also be the rise of many—those who come to receive Christ, to trust in Christ as the One who can save them from sin and death and hell and give them victory over the grave, give us the gift of eternal life. Jesus is the cause of all mankind being in two groups. Which group are you?
Simeon very prophetically made it clear that Jesus would be the fall and rise of so many. But not only that, like Mary, one day your heart is going to be pierced like a sword piercing it. And when Mary, with a mother’s love, was at the cross when Jesus had the spikes nailed into His wrists and the spikes nailed into His feet and the spear thrust into His side, she would remember these words. It would be like a sword in her heart, seeing her son suffering so, but remembering that from the time Jesus entered this world, He came to be her Savior as well.
As she reflected on the words of Simeon, she knew why Jesus was dying. He was dying for her. He was dying for you. He was dying for me. He was dying for all mankind. And all mankind has to make a decision in how to respond to the gift of Christmas, which is Jesus.
Those of us who have received Christ as our Savior and Lord, we know the waiting is over in our life when it comes to realizing that we have received salvation, that we have been forgiven of our sins though we don’t deserve it. We have been made right with God though we don’t deserve it. We have received the gift of eternal life though we don’t deserve it. For those of us who have trusted Christ and received the gift of Christmas, which is Jesus, we know the waiting is over. We don’t have to wait for all of this, we’ve received it.
But for many of you here, there are folks who have not received the gift of Christmas, the gift of Jesus, putting your faith in Christ as your only hope for salvation from sin and death and hell … putting your faith in Christ as the only hope for receiving the gift and eternal life and victory over death. Today can be your Simeon moment, when you finally see Jesus and believe.
And if you do, you will instantly know that the waiting is over in your life. The waiting is over of wondering if you can ever get yourself free of this nagging guilt, of this nagging emptiness in your heart. The waiting is over in realizing that you would have found the ultimate meaning and purpose in life and it comes from knowing Jesus as your Savior and Lord.