Summary: You can have all the things of this world, but if you don’t have Jesus, you have nothing.
There was a family who had no interest in spiritual things, & therefore never went to S.S. or church. But one Christmas their little boy was invited by his best friend to attend the S.S. Christmas Program, & he went. This was a new experience for him, & when he got home he was all excited & eager to tell what he had learned about the very first Christmas. Here is a part of what he told them:
"Well, way back then they didn’t have any Santa Claus, so they had these three skinny guys riding around on camels passing out gifts. They didn’t have Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer to guide them through the darkness. So they had to use this bright, shiny light that kind of lit up all the world."
Now, that young man was a little confused about how the Christmas story actually went, but we don’t have that problem, now do we? We know what Christmas is. Christmas is cards, and gifts, and lights, and trees. Right?
Christmas is about seeing friends, and parties, and caroling. That’s what Christmas is all about, right? You look like maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. That is not what Christmas is about? Well, maybe we need to look deeper.
You’re right. If we really, I mean REALLY, celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, then we need to get beyond the fleeting, here today – gone tomorrow, gimme, gimme, secular idea of how to celebrate Christmas. We need to look deeper and see that Christmas is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. That is what Christmas is all about.
The Christmas story is familiar. We hear about it every year, during the four weeks of Advent, on Christmas Eve, and all the way through Epiphany. We are so used to hearing the story of the shepherds, wisemen, Mary & Joseph and the babe in a manger.
Then, in the church, we go into a lull where we just kind of coast along until we arrive at Ash Wednesday and Lent, then Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. We tend to ignore, as Paul Harvey would put it, “the rest of the story”.
Because there is more to the story. The story continues of Mary & Joseph, our law-abiding citizens. You see, Mary & Joseph are not just followers of God in faith but also in following the “Law of the Lord”. Law is mentioned 5 times in our text for today. It must be pretty important if it’s mentioned 5 times. And so we see Mary & Joseph obeying the law.
As a law-abiding Jewish family, they were to go through 3 ceremonies after the birth of a firstborn son. First was the circumcision, a sign of the Jews’ covenant with God. Lev. 12:3 tells us that each Hebrew boy was to be circumcised on the 8th day after his birth.
The second ceremony was the redemption of the firstborn. Each firstborn son was presented to God, a dedication acknowledging that he belonged to God. The child would be redeemed, or repurchased, by giving a sacrificial offering in his place.
The third ceremony was the purification of the mother. For 40 days following the birth of a son, a mother was considered unclean. At the end, a sacrifice was offered as part of her cleansing process.
We pick up the story as Mary & Joseph are coming to the temple to present Jesus to the Lord. This presentation included the payment of the redemption fee. In Mary & Joseph’s case it was a pair of doves or 2 young pigeons.
This payment goes back to the time when God rescued His people from Egypt. God said the firstborn of each family belonged to Him. But in place of death, God said that He would accept from the tribe of Levi lifelong service in the temple and from the first born of the other tribes, five shekels. This payment redeemed their lives from the penalty of the sin in which they were born.
Now, you might be thinking, why did Jesus need to be redeemed? He was sinless, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born without the inherited sin of Adam. Even here we are shown that he came for our sins. Being presented, his parents paying the redemption fee, being crucified on the cross, Jesus is treated as a sinner. That’s why He came.
So as they enter the temple, they meet Simeon, a man filled with the Holy Spirit. Simeon is part of a group of Hebrew men called the “quiet of Israel”. They were men who devoted their lives to praying, reading God’s word, and waiting for the Messiah. Simeon had received a special revelation from God that he would not die before seeing the Christ. When Mary & Joseph enter the temple, the Spirit says to Simeon, “This is the one”. This is the moment he has been waiting for all his life.