Christmas 1 – Our eyes have seen your salvation
Sunday, December 27, 2020
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What Does Jesus Bring?
Every now and then, you need to look up. As you well know, a few days ago there was a blizzard here. As the blizzard was starting I made a visit to the post office. And I was reminded of a very important truth. Every now and then you need to look up. You need to look at the space in front of yourself so that you do not fall. But you need to look up so that y0u don’t end up in someone’s yard or walk into a car on the street. This morning God’s word shows us two people who were working very hard, getting done what was in front of their feet. But, then, in a wondrous way, God was kind enough to lift their eyes up to what was in front of them. In Luke 2, we read these words: “22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”” (Luke 2:22–24 NIV11-GKE)
In these words we see what happened after Jesus was born. What happened after Jesus was born was that Joseph and Mary had to get busy. And, so that we understand this work fully, what we need to know is that this may be some of the most important work any human beings, other than Jesus himself, have taken on. Jesus came to fulfill the laws in our place. And as part of those laws he had to be brought to the temple, circumcised, presented, and named. Jesus cannot bring himself since he is an infant. They are the ones who have to bring him. And this is work that they take on faithfully and zealously. I mention this because what happens after this might make us think that Joseph and Mary were a little dull and dense. No, my dear friends, today we praise our God above that he provided Jesus with parents who knew and studied God’s word and worked to fulfill these regulations in Jesus’ place.
So Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple for this important work. But, what they didn’t stop to consider is what Jesus brought with him. And to teach them this important truth, Luke introduces us to an elderly man, named Simeon: “25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”” (Luke 2:25–32 NIV11-GKE)
They brought Jesus. But what did Jesus bring with himself? To answer that question, we meet Simeon. We are told that he was waiting both for the Messiah to come to Israel and also for his own exit from this world through death. The Lord was gracious to him and told him that he would not die before he had the immense privilege of holding the Christ in his own arms. And that’s precisely what happens. Joseph and Mary complete the regulations and ceremonies and Simeon comes up to them, introduces himself. They he reaches out and holds the baby Jesus in his arms. And as he does this, he bursts forth in a wonderful prayer. And there is so much to look at in this prayer. But, for today let’s focus in on just two details. First, what is it that Simeon sees? And second, what is his response?
What Simeon sees there in his arms is every detail of salvation provided and taken care of—both for Jews and for Gentiles.1 That’s what Jesus brings with him. Every rule and regulation in the bible that we knew about and didn’t live up to; every law and legislation we never even heard of is faithfully fulfilled by this little holy child that Simeon held in his arms. And he could not contain his joy. So he burst out in song.
That was what he saw: every detail of salvation fulfilled. But his response is amazing. In our versions it says, “you may now dismiss” (Luke 2:29 NIV11-GKE). But both the context here and the word that Simeon speaks leads us in a slightly different direction. Simeon is saying, “I’m old. I’ve faithfully fulfilled the work you set out in front of me. Now you can do away with me.”2 It wasn’t just a prayer of dismissal. It was also a prayer for death. He had held Jesus in his arms and seen salvation. What else was left?
My dear friends in Christ, Christians of all ages have heard Simeon’s prayer and took these words to heart. And we know this not just because they repeated Simeon’s prayer. But we also know this because of when they repeat his prayer. In the early Christian church they spoke these words right before they went to bed.3 Notice what they were saying by where they placed their prayer. They were saying, “Yet again I have seen you, Jesus, through your word. And I’m about to go to sleep. If you want to put me to death now, I”m ready.”’” It was the ancient version of “Now I lay me down to sleep.” In more recent times, where do we put the Song of Simeon? We put it right after the distribution of the Lord’s Supper. By that placement, notice what we are saying. We are saying that, just as Simeon saw and held Jesus body in his arms, so also, we have received Jesus’ body and blood in our mouths. And with that we have received every detail needed for our salvation. And we are saying and singing, “since this is true, now, you can do away with me too.”
Joseph and Mary brought the Christ-child with them to the temple. But it was Simeon who let them know what Jesus brought with him. He brought salvation with him. But that’s not all he brought with him: “33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”” (Luke 2:33–35 NIV11-GKE)
What this child also brings with him is not just salvation. It’s also separation. When Jesus comes into the world there would be talk-back and push back.4 Why? Jesus would reveal the internal discussions and yearnings inside of people’s hearts and condemn them. And when people hear of their sin, they will separate from those who follow Jesus.
My dear friends, the same is true today. The biggest problem that people outside of the church has with the church is not that we say that there is such a thing as male and female, and they think you can choose your own gender. No, the bigger, larger problem is found here in these word. God’s word cuts and kills. It tells you that you have done what is wrong. And it does so in the full force of the Holy Spirit crushing a person’s conscience. And when this happens, there is both talk-back and push-back. People don’t like having their internal discussions and yearnings dragged out into the light and condemned. But even worse than this, they do not like that Simeon praises. They do not like the idea that God, and God alone, is the one who rescues and redeems us from our sins.
And we should not be surprised that when this happens there is a separation in our own lives with those we know—co-workers, friends, even family members. That is what this child brings. Yes, he brings salvation. But he also brings separation. Look at Joseph and Mary. Imagine the pain the Mary felt as she saw her son bleeding and dying on a Roman torture device. But the Lord watched over her and preserved her. And years later, the Lord safely brought her home to heaven where she could see her son and Savior face to face again.
So there may be the times where are so busy with what is in front of our faces. We need to pay attention to what is front of us. But there are the times where we also need to have our faces lifted up. Look at the child that Mary and Joseph bring to the temple. But also look at what Jesus brings with him. For he brings this to you He brings every detail of salvation. And he brings separation. Amen.
1 “ⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟ̅” (Luke 2:30 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲁⲡⲟⲗⲩⲉⲓⲥ” (Luke 2:29 GNT-ALEX)
3 Vol. VII of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Accordance electronic ed. (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1885), paragraph 62935.
4 “ⲁⲛⲧⲓⲗⲉⲅⲟⲙⲉⲛⲟⲛ·” (Luke 2:34 GNT-ALEX)