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All scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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What do you most want to do before you die? Hike the Grand Canyon? Run the Boston Marathon? Have grandchildren? Win $315 million in the lottery?
What do you have to do before you can say life is full -- life is complete -- I’m satisfied!
"Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me...¡±
Simeon, the subject of our text this morning was just such a man... A man driven by ambition and desire to live life to its fullest -- to go for the gusto -- to have a full and a complete life! Satisfied.
Now, we don’t know a whole lot about Simeon’s early life. We don’t know if he was originally driven by the desire to accumulate things and comforts. We don’t know if he was driven by the desire for personal security. We don’t know if he was driven by pleasure.
But we do know that at some point the object of his life’s ambitions -- his desires -- his drive merged with the messianic expectations of Israel.
Simeon lived to see the Messiah. He was a man who genuinely longed for his the coming. This is what defined his life.
Many people said they were looking for the Messiah but Simeon was genuine. He lived as though he expected the Messiah to come.
In verse 25 Luke describes him as "a righteous man and very devout. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he eagerly expected the Messiah to come and rescue Israel."
Verse 26 tells us that unlike many of us who have lists of things we’d like to do before we die but don’t really expect to fulfill them, Simeon fully expected to see the Messiah in his lifetime.
As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit had somehow revealed that to him. Luke 2:26 -- "The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah."
This is the context for the unusual events that took place on that day in the Jerusalem Temple. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There was the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. People coming to make sacrifices -- to dedicate their children to the Lord. But the ordinary was soon to give way to an extraordinary and mysterious encounter.
Verse 22 says -- "Then it was time for the purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord."
This makes Jesus about 40 days old. For women had to wait 40 days after child birth before they were considered ritually pure -- before they could enter the Temple. Thus when Jesus was just seven weeks old his parents brought him to the temple "to present him to the Lord."
Follow with me. I’m at verse 23 -- "The law of the Lord says, ’If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.  So they offered a sacrifice according to what was required in the law of the Lord -- either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’"
Luke is telling us that the child is a firstborn son for it is the birth of the firstborn son which required a sacrifice.
You see, according to the law of Moses the firstborn son technically belongs to the Lord. So you made a special sacrifice in the temple to remind yourself of that fact.
This is a principle that is consistently taught throughout the Bible. That is that you give the first to the Lord -- the firstfruits of your harvest -- the first portion of your income (not what’s left-over -- not what you can give once you’ve paid the bills) -- the firstborn of your sons. They all belong to the Lord as a reminder that the LORD is to be the first priority of life.
Now, the fact that Mary and Joseph offered a pair of turtle doves or pigeons tells us that they are poor people. If they were wealthy they would be required to bring a lamb AND a bird.
So, as this poor couple is standing in line to make their sacrifice the old man Simeon suddenly appears.
You can imagine him walking right up to that young couple and without a word gently taking the baby into his arms. He starts to chant a praise song that in all likelihood caught the attention of everyone in the Temple -- spooky -- strange.
"Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me,  I have seen the Savior  you have given to all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!"
By the way Simeon’s song or poem here in verses 29-32 is called the "Nunc Dimittis" and is often used in funerals -- even today. Or if you’ve ever been in a very traditional Lutheran worship service they sing the Nunc at the very end after everyone has received communion. It’s as though each person who has received communion is old Simeon -- having in communion seen the Messiah -- the salvation of the world. Each one has been satisfied.
For this is Simeon’s statement of fulfillment. "God, I’ve now done and seen it all. You can take me to my peace. There is nothing more that I am looking for in life."
I’m sure that Joseph and Mary just stood there speechless. Actually what else could they have done? One doesn’t grab a baby out of the hands of a crazed old man.
I’m not so sure that they would have anyway. They just seemed to take it in. After all the birth of this baby had already attracted angels and stupefied shepherds. I’m sure they were beginning to expect the unexpected.
Simeon finished his song, then turned his divine words on the couple -- raising his hands he blessed them and said in Luke 2:34-35 "Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, ’This child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others.  Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.’"
Note that verses 29-32 are a message of hope. "Thank you Lord that the messiah has come. He will be salvation and light for all people."
But this hope is tempered in the prophetic words of verses 34-35. This child of yours will cause many people in Israel to fall and others to stand. The child will be like a warning sign. Many people will reject him, and you Mary, will suffer as though you had been stabbed by a dagger. But all of this will show what people are really thinking.
This child is the incarnation of hope but don’t fool yourself -- trouble will follow him. And you, Mary, will suffer with him.
As you know, it was Mary who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross.
That’s the way Christmas is. Christmas is wonderful. Peace on earth. Good will toward men. A baby. Presents. Light. Angelic choirs. Hope. Totally cool!
BUT the shadow of the cross is cast on Jesus even as a baby. You can’t get away from it.
Now, I’m convinced that the message of Simeon is applicable not only to Mary and the bewildered Joseph -- but also to us. Dr. Luke included Simeon in his gospel intending that his story would affect our own stories -- intending that our lives would be positively impacted.
So, I want to make a four practical observations this morning -- highlighting lessons from Simeon.
1. SIMEON IS A WITNESS REINFORCING THE TRUTH AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INCARNATION.
At the beginning of the gospel Luke says -- " Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you,  to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught."
And all through the gospel Luke is laying out evidence and witnesses to establish the reliability and significance of what’s happening in the account.
This isn’t just a nice story to make people feel better. He wants his readers -- you -- to see that this stuff really happened. He wants you to see that as incredible as it may sound -- Jesus really is the incarnation of God -- and that he came to save the world from sin. He came to suffer and to die. This was not an accident or an after thought on the part of God. It was a plan from the very beginning.
And Simeon, like the prophetess Anna, also featured in chapter 2, is a witness to this mission. He is a witness to you.
No, you weren’t there when the baby was born. No you weren’t there when the shepherds showed up. No you weren’t there when Simeon did his thing. But you just as well could have been for here is a reliable witness and record of what transpired -- not a schlocky romanticized version but a real version which recognizes the dark side of Christmas.
This is a gospel that you can believe not only with your heart but also with your mind. You don’t have to check your brain at the door says Luke. Here is a witness to this incredible event.
Secondly, SIMEON GIVES US A BALANCED PICTURE OF THE GOSPEL.
As I mentioned a second ago there are two halves to Simeon’s message. The first half is a celebration of hope fulfilled -- "Thank you Lord that I’ve lived to see the arrival of the light of the world. Truly I’m blessed."
But then he turns around and tells Mary how divisive Jesus is going to be and that his ministry will be characterized by suffering.
This is a balance that many of us lack. We have a propensity to get hung up on either the glory or the suffering.
The name-it and claim-it Word-of-Faith-type believer would just as soon ignore the cross. But some of us Old Fashioned Gospel Hour-types dwell on the suffering and agony of the cross to the point of forgetting the hope that was accomplished through the resurrection. Just tell me about the blood!
Simeon is a good picture of balance -- a balance that we’d do well to adopt. Don’t talk about the Christmas without also talking about the Good Friday. Don’t talk about hope without also talking about suffering.
Thirdly, SIMEON IS AN EXAMPLE OF ADVENT LIVING.
Advent is the season of anticipation -- the four weeks before Christmas when we focus on the coming of Christ. We have it in the church calendar as a reminder of the fact that the second coming of Christ is intertwined with the first coming. It’s best to not separate the two. So when we get ready to celebrate the first coming we ought to be getting ready to meet Christ at the second coming. The calendar is a teaching tool.
Simeon, however, was a year-round personification of the Advent attitude. He lived for the coming of the Messiah.
O, I’m sure he had other ambitions in life. He probably wanted to hike the Grand Canyon and visit Australia like I do. But his life was characterized by a desire to see the coming Messiah. This was the defining paradigm for his life. It’s what set the agenda for everything he did.
He is described in verse 25 as "righteous and devout." Why was he such a good man? Because he lived his life in light of the fact that the Messiah was coming.
In chapter 3 John the Baptizer starts preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand so you better make some changes in the way you live your life. Well, here is Simeon, 30 years earlier than John, living the life characterized by preparedness for the Messianic Kingdom.
Like many of you I grew up in the California. And we Californians have to a degree learned to live in anticipation of the big earthquake. And in more volatile places like the Bay Area or Southern California we store water, kept flashlights on hand, and wrenches to turn-off the gas -- not should the quake come but when it comes.
We should actually probably be doing that here, too -- since the chances are that the ripple will affect us.
We had earthquake drills in school -- learning how to turn away from windows and crawl under tables. We adjusted the types of construction that was acceptable -- changes made in anticipation of the inevitable.
If you’re smart you will adjust your lifestyle in anticipation of the future. This is what Simeon did. He lived the present in light of the future. He is the Advent Man! Just as we are called to be Advent people. We don’t live for the here and now but we live our lives with the awareness of the future -- in light of the hope of Christ’s coming.
And you have to ask yourself, if I know that Christ is coming how does that affect my life now -- where I invest my time? My money? My energy?
Jesus says, "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." He could have added, "Just as Simeon did, strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness."
Finally, SIMEON IS AN EXAMPLE OF TRUE CONTENTMENT.
How many people really fulfill their dreams? Travel to the North pole or live on an island in the Bahamas? We dream -- and fantasize. It’s fun to do and there is nothing wrong with wanting to visit your ancestral home in Italy or Ireland or Germany. But the fact is that even when you’ve done it all there is no real sense of contentment. You want to go back or do something else.
Your expectations expand. That’s why the children are already talking about what they want for Christmas next year -- and they do so within hours of Santa’s last delivery.
But if your contentment is in Christ you are already living the fulfilled life. Even if you don’t fulfill all your dreams and goals your life is fulfilled.
Simeon found his contentment in Christ. This is a contentment that transcends age, social standing, health or even freedom.
The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4 -- "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need."
You see, as Simeon and Paul both recognized -- contentment and fulfillment are found only in Christ.
I want to issue two challenges this morning. I challenge you to go home this week and consider what it is that you really want out of life. What is it that will allow you to stand at death’s doors -- not only fearless but also fulfilled? "I’m ready. I’ve done it all."
I know this sounds somewhat corny because most of us rarely think of ourselves as dying. Sure we know up here (head) that we will die someday but we shove that knowledge to the back burner because we’re young. We’re in good health. It’s a long way off. I’ll deal with it when it comes closer to the time.
But you don’t really know that. You have no control over how a drunk driver steers his semi-truck. You have no control over cancer cells.
If you were to die this afternoon would you die content?
Secondly, I’d challenge you to look to Christ as the source of contentment and fulfillment in your life.
Acknowledge the Christmas baby not only as God’s gift to all humanity but to you personally. Acknowledge the work of Christ on the cross not only as the salvation of the world but as your own salvation from addiction to sin. Acknowledge the resurrection of Christ not only as Jesus’ defeat of death and the forces of evil but also as your own source of new and eternal life.
Take it all personally. Simeon did.
"Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!"
Lord, we want to be like Simeon. Content in you. Fulfilled in the knowledge of your advent. We confess that we have been out seeking fulfillment elsewhere -- in our jobs, friends, families and pleasures. We confess that we have been less than faithful with the knowledge of Christmas. Forgive us and restore us to a close and personal walk with you. Lord, just as the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon in a special way can we by your grace share in that same experience? We know that it would mean changes in how we do business and live our lives. But we need the guidance of your Spirit that we too could declare your glory and see clearly the Messiah. Amen.