Summary: This series looks at the 5 stories after Jesus was born and the one thing whic unites all of them: their search for the Christ. This message looks at the story of a man who didn’t want to avoid Christmas but instead had been looking and waiting for Chri
A shopping mall Santa Claus in California had a meltdown after refusing to cuddle a bawling toddler, calling the mother evil and ripping off his beard and costume in front of startled children. Kelly Fornatoro, 33, said she told Santa her 19 month old son, Brian, would stop crying if he put his arm around the child. According to her, he balked and told her, “I will not imprison your child.” He started to rip off his costumes including his beard, wig, coat and belt. Some stunned parents covered their children’s eyes. Santa was then led away by security guards, and a replacement was brought in. That Santa was obviously stressed! Can anyone relate?
Paul Harvey tells of a man in England who had rented an old bomb shelter. His intention was to stay there from the middle of December until sometime in early January. His purpose: to escape Christmas. The sad thing was - there were 49 others in line behind him wanting to do exactly the same thing! Some people will do anything to avoid Christmas! Well today in our Scripture, we have the story of a man who didn’t want to avoid Christmas but instead had been looking and waiting for Christmas all of his life and when it came, he embraced it! Let’s set the scene today. Mary and Joseph brought the Christ child to the temple when they made a sacrifice for the purification of Mary. Jewish law says in Leviticus 12:3-8 when a woman gave birth, she was ritually unclean and 40 days after the birth she was to go to the Temple and make a sacrifice to become ritually clean. So Jesus was 6 weeks old when this occurred. A lamb was the acceptable sacrifice but Leviticus says that if a woman is unable to afford that, she can offer two pigeons or turtledoves in place of the lamb. Matthew records that they brought two doves so that tell us Mary and Joseph were poor. The fact that the day they came to the temple was the 40th day tells us they were devout.
This takes place in the temple courts. The temple was rebuilt and expanded by Herod the Great beginning in 19 BC and was under construction for the next 60 years. He not only refurbished it but he expanded the temple courts by literally leveling the top of a mountain to enlarge the Temple mount to span more than 35 acres. This was to hold the large crowds of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for one of the three high festivals of the year. This was the center of Jewish life and worship, where people came to pray and make sacrifice to God. The temple mount had several areas. All around the Temple Mount beautiful marble porticos were constructed. This is where many teachers taught the Law and where the early church met. Surrounding the actual Temple itself was the court of the Gentiles where they could watch worship from afar. Inside the Temple was the Holy Place, which contained the Holy of Holies. Then closest to the Holy Place was the portion set aside for the altar of burnt offering and the officiating priests. Next to it was the court for the Israelites who came to watch the service. By the side of that was the court of the women. This is the place where Simeon would have encountered Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
Now thousands of people came to the temple each day to pray and make sacrifice. Among them was an elderly man slowly climbing up the temple steps, pausing occasionally to rest. He felt moved by the spirit to go into the temple courts. This wasn’t his normal time to come to the temple but he felt led to be there, beckoned if you will to be at the temple that day. The temple steps he climbs were a busy place for buyers and sellers of animals and birds for sacrifice. In addition Beggars camped out on the steps, crying out, “Alms for the poor!” The students and scholars scurried to and fro some coming to learn, some coming to teach but all with the harried intellectual look. The sounds of the temple were all around. The sellers crying out they had the purest lambs and doves; the baaing of the lambs, the cooing and startled cries of the doves. The voices of the people arriving for worship. There is movement, activity and a loud bustle everywhere. Can you feel the chaos, can you hear the noise, can you sense it? This elderly man was no stranger to this for he for he went to the temple every day.
Amidst the large crowd were undoubtedly dozens upon dozens of parents coming to make sacrifice for the mother to be purified. They would have been surrounded by others making thanks offerings and guilt offerings. The air would have been filled with the sweet aroma of burnt offerings. As Mary and Joseph walked into this place, there was an elderly man, Simeon, who stopped them, looked at the child and then began to proclaim that this was the child of God.. And Mary and Joseph were astounded by this. What do we know about Simeon and what can we learn from him?