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The Characters of Christmas: Simeon

When you "see" Jesus are you filled with excitement and anticipation?
This sermon is part of the sermon series "The Characters of Christmas". See series.

This sermon is part of “The Characters of Christmas” sermon series. See the whole series here.

Introduction

With this sermon, we conclude our series on the Characters of Christmas. My goal throughout this series has been to give us a perspective of Christmas through the key characters that God uses when his Son is born.

We often think about the obvious ones: Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Wise Men. I have included two characters that I believe are also important to the story and serve as a natural introduction and conclusion to this series. Zechariah formed the introduction and Simeon forms the conclusion.

Let's step into the life of Simeon, the man who was promised he will not die until he sees Jesus. The anticipation for this moment was probably intense, but this moment became a reality.

Let me begin with a question: Has there ever been a time in your life when you learned someone famous (athlete, musician, etc.) was going to be at a local store giving autographs and you decided to go? Let me tell you a story, about such an event which took place when I was younger.

I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia. If you live in the city of “brotherly love” you have a serious passion for the Philly sports teams. As a middle school/junior high student my brother and I loved playing street hockey with some friends in the neighborhood. Every day after school, from 3:00 to 5:00 we would meet outside our home and play hockey.

We loved the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, we had one friend who we think bled orange and black, the colors of the Flyers. One day we learned that a Flyers star player was going to be at the grand opening of a sporting goods store in our local mall. We decided to go. We could not wait for this moment and every day was agonizing as we waited.

Finally the day arrived, and our friends came over to ride with us to the mall. When my parents were ready to go, we burst out of our house in excitement to get in the car. After standing in a long line for what seemed like an eternity, we finally met this professional hockey player.

Something happens to us when we learn high-profile people will be in our town. We buy tickets or make plans to catch a glimpse of the person in real life. As we will learn in this final story, Simeon was a guy who was promised to see not just any person, but the Son of God. One only wonders what excitement and anticipation filled his heart.

A Presentation to the Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:22-24)

Before we are introduced to Simeon, we learn that Mary and Joseph bring Jesus into the temple in accordance with the Law. Remember, Mary and Joseph are Jewish and are faithful in obedience to the Law.

Since Luke is writing primarily to a Gentile audience, you will notice in verses 22-24 that he includes some clarifying details to explain what is happening and why. Luke brings in Leviticus 12 which is the Law of God that Mary and Joseph are obeying in this moment. In our churches today we may associate this presentation with the dedication of children. This may be the closest thing we can relate to concerning this event, but what is happening in this text is more involved than our traditional baby dedication.

Here is a quick synopsis of Leviticus 12. The Law stated that parents were to present their child to the Lord. This presentation was to be after the mother’s purification, which would be seven days after birth. On the eight day the child would be circumcised and named. Luke tells us this in verse 21. According to the Law, following the eighth day she was to continue for thirty-three more days before she could enter the Temple or anything holy. The parents also bring a lamb or two turtle doves or two young pigeons if they cannot afford a lamb. One sacrifice was a burnt offering and the other sacrifice was a sin offering that the priest would make in atonement for the mother. This presentation in the temple is forty-one days following the birth of Jesus.

Why is this significant? The Apostle Paul said this to the Galatians about Jesus’ birth: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV). Paul tells us specifically that Jesus was born under the Law, meaning that his life on earth was bound to the details of the Law. For example, every year Jesus and his disciples would celebrate Passover in Jerusalem as prescribed by the Law. But also, Jesus will redeem those under the Law by ratifying the New Covenant through his blood, so we can be adopted as sons. The presentation of Jesus to God seems strange to us, but Mary and Joseph are simply obeying the Law.

Mary and Joseph’s obedience to the Law of God is astounding. Never once do they think they are beside the Law or above the Law even though the Messiah has been born. No, they continue to obey the Law until the Law is changed. We also must obey the standards of God as written in his Word and not waver from what he requires of his adopted children. How obedient are you to the truth of God’s Word?

Now that we have a little background that explains the actions of Mary and Joseph in the temple as they present Jesus to the Lord, we are ready to be introduced to Simeon, a man with a very special promise from the Lord.

A Promise Made Is Fulfilled (Luke 2:25-35)

We are introduced to the man with the following promise “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (2:26). That is a strong promise, and who knows how long Simeon waited for this revelation. This promise was revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit. The promise made to Simeon affirms the reality of the Messiah’s coming. Just as the Old Testament spoke of the Messiah’s coming, the Holy Spirit has promised Simeon that he will see the Messiah in his lifetime. For Simeon, that time comes when Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple.

When studying Scripture, there is a temptation to help God with the details of a story or person that we think he left out. We spend too much time on the what some call, “the white space” that is, the space between the lines on the page of Scripture. As we seek to learn about who Simeon is, we want to understand this man from what the inspired words on the page tell us and nothing else.

First, we learn that Simeon was a righteous and devout man. He was one that lived his life according to the Law of God. We might say that Simeon was a good guy. But his goodness is not what secured this promise. Second, Simeon was a man that was waiting for the coming Messiah, the consolation of Israel (Isaiah 4:1-2). Third, we learn that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, the one who is waiting for the Messiah. The Scriptures do not tell us Simeon was a priest or what party or sect he belonged to—that information is not important to the story. This is the first and last time we see Simeon mentioned in the pages of Scripture.

I cannot help but think about the patience of Simeon as he waits for the fulfillment of the promise that he will see the Messiah. This point is important—that long before the Messiah is born, the Holy Spirit makes a promise to Simeon that he will see the Messiah in his lifetime. Imagine if we had the same promise today?

Yes, we know that Scripture teaches us that Jesus will return and set foot on the Mount of Olives, the place from which he ascended, as promised by the angels (Acts 1) before he reigns on earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20). If you are like me and know Jesus as your Savior, you cannot wait for this moment.

But what if you knew that he would return in your lifetime? Well, I guess he could, but we don’t know the exact time of his return. You see, Simeon was promised that he would see the Messiah in his lifetime. The only thing Simeon did not know, was when. Today as we live for the Lord, we have a promise that one day we will see Jesus face-to-face (1 John 3:2). Until that time, may we continue to walk with him fulfilling the mission he has called us to complete (Matthew 28).

Next, we see Simeon in a very powerful and intimate moment. The providence of God, through the Holy Spirit’s presence in Simeon’s life, brings Simeon into the temple as Mary and Joseph present Jesus, his Messiah! There is no indication that others are present at this moment, but with Simeon’s own eyes he finally sees the promised Messiah.

Well, what does one do in that moment? Simeon takes his Messiah in his arms (imagine this, the Son of God cradled in another’s arms) and blesses God. Simeon then utters a powerful psalm. The psalm and what Simeon says to Mary are truly profound (vss. 34-35).

First, Simeon says that he is ready to die since the Lord’s promise has been fulfilled. The term “now” speaks to the truth that the Messiah has come. Second, Simeon offers praise to God that salvation is now available for all people, both Jew and Gentile because the Messiah has come. Third, Simeon tells Mary that Jesus will suffer, and she will suffer because of him, but this is necessary for the redemption of sin.

After Simeon speaks these words his voice goes silent. We hear nothing more from Simeon following his contact with the Messiah in the temple on that day. Scripture does not reveal how old Simeon was or when he died, what the Scripture tells us is that Simeon sees the Messiah in his lifetime which is proof the Messiah had come to redeem us from our sin.

Conclusion

Earlier I told you about the time I got an autograph from a professional hockey player many years ago. I shared the excitement I had in meeting him. It probably does not need to be said, but I will say it here, Jesus is not a celebrity, he is the Son of God—our Savior and redeemer. Unless you are close to a celebrity in some fashion, chances are you will never have a relationship with a celebrity or even personally see one, but you can have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and we are promised to one day see him face-to-face because he lives!

Each character we looked at through this series experienced and obeyed a unique call from God. Each was given specific instruction relative to his or her role or was simply invited to see the Savior.

Perhaps God is calling you to a relationship with him through faith. Jesus Christ is a gift from God to mankind. Without Jesus, sin would never be forgiven, and man would live forever condemned. Every person must understand they are a sinner before God and await punishment. But God so loves us that he is not satisfied to let us stay in that position. He has given us a chance to be free from sin, through Jesus who came to be the ransom price for our sin and die on the cross.

Today, we must accept the gift of God, trust in Jesus, confess our sin, and through faith call out to him to save us. When we do, Scripture says we are saved. Our hope to see Jesus and live eternally is possible because Jesus conquered sin on the cross and death through his resurrection. One day we will all see Jesus, but will your eternity be with him or without him? Stop trying to work for your salvation and reach out to him in faith. He is the only one who can save your life.

David Karn is the Senior Pastor at Grace Community Church in Goldsboro, NC.

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