The Christmas Blessing of Simeon — by Douglas Wilson

The Lord has brought us safely through another year, and we are grateful for the time He gives us to meditate on the meaning of His Word, born into our midst for the salvation of lost and sinful men. This is the true meaning of Christmas, in contrast with the false antithesis so often propounded, which is between commercialism and generosity. That is not the antithesis; the true contrast is between Christ and sin.

“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:25-35).

Other than this passage here, we know nothing about Simeon. But when his actions are considered carefully, we must recognize that he must have been truly a remarkable man. What was his character like? Luke describes him here as just and devout. A just man, he kept God’s law and was upright and righteous. A devout man, he was careful, pious, religious, and faithful.

We also know of his patience. He was waiting for something, the Consolation of Israel. Recall that just and devout Jews had been waiting for this Consolation for centuries. He was not righteous in the sense of mere “rule-keeping,” he was righteous in the sense that his eye was on the historical fulfillment of God’s promises.

We also learn here of his inspiration–Simeon was an “Old Testament saint, and Luke tells us plainly that the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ . . . the Consolation of Israel. In fulfillment of this, the Holy Spirit brought Simeon to the temple at this particular time. “Simeon, I have someone I want you to see.”

Mary and Joseph came to the Temple in order to “do for” Jesus according to the law. When they arrived, Simeon came and picked up Jesus and blessed God. He says that he was now willing to die in peace, for he had been given a glimpse of the beginning of God’s salvation. This was a salvation prepared beforehand–the arrival of the Messiah was not God’s afterthought. Nor was it accomplished by God in a corner. This was prepared before the face of all people. And here we are, two thousand years later. We are still talking about the ramifications of this event.

Christ came as a light to the Gentiles–Simeon knows that this salvation was not for a small ethnic minority of the world. God loved the world, and brought His Son into the world, and sent Him to the cross for the world. The cross is not for Jews only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Simeon knew that he held a glory to Israel in his arms–In the first century, only a remnant of Jews were saved. But only someone as blind to the Scriptures as the unbelieving Jews of the first century could fail to see that great glory was coming to ethnic Israel. And if their failure was blessing to the Gentile world, what will their eventual repentance be but life from the dead?

The message of Christmas is a mingled one. On the one hand, we are taught to see it in terms of a blessing. Simeon speaks of it this way–he blesses Joseph and Mary. At the same time, we acknowledge the piercing of the sword which came to Mary, and we see why. But how was such a piercing to be a blessing to Mary–to see, as she was to live to see, her Son flogged and crucified? Because that crucifixion was her salvation as much as it was yours, or mine. She was to live to see the basis for her sins forgiven. In a sinful world, this means that many will rise and fall. Our Lord is the great divider, and was identified as such from His youth.

And the conclusion of the matter is this. The meaning of Christmas is that the thoughts of many will be revealed. This is what the judgment of God does, and this is what the gospel does in averting the judgment of God.

From Blog and Mablog

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~ by Michael on December 14, 2005.

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