Series on Luke, II The Identification, E The Babe Adored, Text: 2:21-38, Title: The Seers and the Savior


The celebration of the greatest event in history comes annually. The Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace was born in human nature. No matter how much our society is blinded to the significance of this event and no matter how much they try to keep the story buried, the world will never be the same. On TV we have gushy sentimental stories about the spirit of Christmas being lost, and tension filled tales about how Santa Claus is going to quit. The romantic endings display our best hopes but they also show our moral bankruptcy and our lost condition. The plethora of Christmas specials on TV recently have included, “It Nearly Wasn't Christmas, Scrooged, In the Nick of Time, Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus, A Wish That Changed Christmas, Missing Santa-When Time Went Wrong, The Grinch That Stole Christmas,” and many others, all of which present the Christmas spirit as dangerously close to extinction and exhort us all to be charitable much like Dickens’ Christmas Carol, only in modern idiom. None of them tell us the real truth, that Christmas is the birth of the Savior of the world who said, I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me. This little known part of the Christmas story in our text may serve to remind us that Jesus was born to save our lives. If that hasn't happened, then we still need to find the real Christmas. i want you to see tonight what these people saw, for they saw the span of God's love, the spectacle of God's light, and the sign of God's life.

I The Span of God's Love

The incarnation, when God came down to suffer the limitations of time and space through our nature, and to bear the shame of our sin is indescribable. Poets and hymn writers lament the limitations of their words. “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell, it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.” Charles Wesley described it as, God contracted to a span.” George McDonald wrote of the infant savior, “Where did you come from baby dear?  Out of the everywhere into the here.”  This story of pious prophets, Simeon and Anna has an ominous context. We read in verses 21-24, On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 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.” When God made a covenant with his people through Abraham he gave them a sign, circumcision. Circumcision was the fleshly sign that you were Abraham’s seed. It brought you under the law of God with all its attendant blessings and curses. To be a servant of Yahweh was to be a servant of the law. Jesus was circumcised so that the lawgiver would be made subject to the law He had given.  His dedication here is also the prescription of the law for all first born sons. As Paul puts it in Galatians 4:4-7, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. He was made under the law that he might redeem them that were under the law. And for 33 years Jesus was immune to the curses of the law because He always kept it perfectly. But then on Calvary our sin was laid upon Him and the full weight of God’s curse on us sinners was instantly laid on Jesus. We have not truly seen the span of God's love until we see that in this place God brought His Son under the law with all its fearful judgments to the disobedient. A much maligned but wise president of the US, Calvin Coolidge once said, “Christmas represents love and mercy. It was ushered in by the star of hope and remains forever consecrated by the sacrifice of the cross.”

II The Sight of God's Light

There were those in Israel who were looking for the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and David. They were waiting for the deliverer. Simeon and Anna were such people. We find the story of Simeon in verses 25-32, and Anna in verses 36-38, 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 upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 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 now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel...” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. The occasion of these revelations is when Jesus is forty days old. At this time the mother must be purified according to Old Testament law, and offer appropriate sacrifices, in this case the poorest, a pair of doves or two young pigeons. This dedication of the firstborn son is not merely a pious religious custom. God saved the firstborn children of Israel in the passover and in return he demanded that every firstborn son become a priest to him. But then condescending to the weakness of sinful man, he instead appointed the tribe of Levi to be his priests and released each family from this obligation. It is on this occasion of Jesus’ dedication to God as a priest who is redeemed from service that Simeon and Anna see Him. This is ironic because Jesus is a priest, but not a levitical priest. He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Simeon describes the saving mission of Jesus with words from Isaiah. He saw the light of God in the in the book of Isaiah which he quotes. Isaiah is the prophet who, more than any other, describes the priestly mission of the coming Messiah and deliverer, Behold my servant shall deal wisely, his face will be marred more than any man, he will be a man of sorrows, he will bear our griefs, he will be wounded for our transgressions, and the iniquity of us all will be laid on him and so shall he sprinkle many nations. Anna’s words are not recorded but obviously she saw the same light, and what they saw was that their people needed saving and indeed the whole world would be blessed, even as Isaiah says, so shall he sprinkle many nations. They realized the significance of Jesus’ arrival by singing of salvation for the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike. What do you see when you look at the babe of Bethlehem. Do you see a cross? Do you see a sword aimed at you but striking him? This brings me to the last thing Simeon saw

III The Sign of God's Life

The sign of God's life is the cross, an so we read in verses 33-35, The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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.” From death comes life because before a salvation there must be judgment, before forgiveness there must be a suffering savior. In order to find life one must lose his life. The falling and rising of many in Israel surely refers to rich, and powerful leaders who were righteous in their own eyes and rejected Jesus on the one hand, and on the other hand, to the publicans and sinners who found a way into His kingdom. As he was a sign spoken against in His own day so it is today. God's life does not flow easily into ours like a gentle stream. It is a waterfall, a cataract of judgment and mercy that overwhelms the soul. It brings us to our knees. It prostrates us in repentance and wonder. In this sign the thoughts of many hearts are revealed, Sin rebellion and injustice are exposed for what they truly are, not hidden in the cloak of white collar piety. True humility repentance and faith are elevated to the highest place as the meek are blessed, the mourning are comforted, and they that hunger and thirst after righteousness are filled. This sword would even pierce Mary's own soul, not just because she was his mother nor because she stood at the foot of the cross, but because there is no one, even Mary who can escape this. Every living human being must consider the claims of Christ, even Mary. And so the sword comes as it flashed on the borders of the Garden of Eden in the avenging hand of the angel of God, and as it thrust through the holy Son of God on the cross of Calvary. So it comes to me and to you each Christmas and asks again what do you see in the babe of Bethlehem? A Santa Claus Christmas where justice has disappeared, or the sword of the Lord upon which the son of God is impaled and upon which are hearts are impaled? And thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. There is none other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved.