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.
Luke 2:25 (NIV)
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
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,
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:26-32 (NIV)
In the time of Jesus the law of Moses required that the first child be dedicated as holy to the Lord (Exodus 13:2, 12, 15; Numbers 18:15). As they went about their business in the temple, a man named Simeon came up to the couple and asked to hold the baby.
Simeon was described as “righteous”—meaning he behaved himself well in respect to others—and “devout” in respect to the laws of Moses. God had revealed to him that he would live to see “the consolation of Israel”—meaning he would see the Messiah.
Perhaps Mary was a little anxious handing her precious baby into the arms of a perfect stranger. But she did, and when she did she heard wonderful prophetic words from the man. The man prayed to the Lord and rejoiced that he was holding the Saviour of God’s people Israel—also the Gentiles “light”—in his arms. Because the man told the Lord he was now ready to die, having seen the Messiah, some people conjecture that he was old. Scripture does not tell his age and so we must leave that notion to the area of speculation.
What a Christmas it was for Simeon! God had promised he would be alive when the Messiah appeared and God’s word was fulfilled. Simeon knew in his mind that God’s word was always fulfilled but to experience the fulfillment in real life was very wonderful for him.
The joyful parents of Jesus must have been very encouraged to hear the man’s words as it once again confirmed to them that Jesus was extraordinary. That was the good news.
But then Simeon went on to say some bad news that upset the young couple greatly. Luke 2:34-35 (NIV)
“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,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’”
Of course the man spoke of the suffering of Jesus through being rejected by His own people Israel, and by the Gentile world as well. Only when Mary stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross did these words come home to her heart. She was learning that there is no Christmas without the cross. So as we draw near to the day we mark Advent, let us remember the cross—while thinking of the manger. Only then shall we have the full celebration of Christmas in our hearts.