Summary: A sermon built on "God's resolutions" and promises. The holy family keep the Jewish rules for purification. Visited the temple. Simeon for tells the future. Herod seeks to dismantle God's resolutions and fails.
In Jesus Holy Name December 29, 2019
Luke 2:25-32 Christmas I
“The Song of Simeon: The Cradle & The Cross”
Well, here we are almost at the then end of another year. Do I still say “Merry Christmas” or do I greet you with “Happy New Year”? Liturgically we are still in the Christmas season, but most people are probably looking ahead to new resolutions for 2020.
The sad thing is that most of us aren’t very good a keeping our resolutions. Statistics say 55% of American can keep a resolution for about a month; 40% are faithful to their resolutions for six months, but the numbers soon drop to 19%. We may not be good at keeping our resolutions and promises but the gospel of Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph were good at keeping their promises.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise their newborn infant son, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. Mary and Joseph were keeping the Law of Moses and dedicating their first born son to the Lord. They brought a pair of doves or two young pigeons. That’s verse 21.
The Law also required that women wait 40 days after the birth of a son before presenting themselves in the temple for their purification. That’s verse 22
The Law also required that a mother and father present their firstborn son before the lord to be “redeemed” by offering a sacrifice. This is now their 3rd trip to the temple. That’s verse 23. Verse 21 takes place 8 days after Christmas, verse 22-23 take place 33 days later.
Forty days have passed since the birth of Jesus. Now Mary and Joseph return to the Temple to “redeem” their firstborn son. There was nothing outwardly to distinguish them, no marks or signs that indicated they were anything other than another poor young couple coming with their newborn son.
At this point Simeon enters the story. Aside from what we are told in Luke 2, we know nothing about him. We don’t know his background, his hometown, his education, or even his occupation. We assume he was a priest—although the text doesn’t explicitly say so. We also assume he was an old man—but even that is not a certain fact. He simply appears on the stage of history as a bit player in the drama surrounding the birth of Christ. After his part is over, he fades from the scene, never to be heard from again.
A divinely-planned encounter is about to take place. Luke tells the story this way: Read Luke 2:25-32)
Simeon was waiting for the Messiah to come He was a Spirit-filled man. He was eagerly awaiting the imminent appearance of the Messiah. That last part is fascinating. The Holy Spirit had told him, “You will not die before you see the Messiah.” Each day Simeon would be a the Temple. . How would he know him? What should he look for? Did he know to look for a baby? Or was he looking for a teenager or a strong young man? No one knows the answer to those questions.
Day by day he kept watch over the throngs coming into the Temple. Each time a young couple came in with a baby, he whispered, “Is that the one?” My guess he has been waiting in the temple for many years.
Perhaps he is now 70 or 75 or even 80 years old. Perhaps he has a long gray beard, stooped shoulders, wrinkled face, bushy eyebrows, and trembling hands. If so, then he knows it can’t be long. The Lord’s Christ must be coming at any moment.
Here comes Mary holding the baby in her arms with Joseph by her side. Jesus is only forty days old. Never was there a more unlikely couple. He is a poor carpenter from Nazareth, she is a peasant girl carrying a little baby boy. They are obviously from the country. They obviously don’t have much money. If you were people-watching, you wouldn’t give them a second glance.
And here they are in cosmopolitan Jerusalem, timidly walking onto the Temple courts. When Simeon sees them, he asks his question for the 10,000th time, “Is this the one?” And the Holy Spirit says, “Yes.”
Suddenly Simeon’s heart leaps within him. The long days of waiting are finally over. The Lord’s Christ is before him. Here is the One for whom the nation has been waiting. He walks over, introduces himself, and says, “Do you mind if I hold your child?” As Mary gives the infant Jesus to Simeon, the thought hits him, “I am holding the salvation of the world in my arms.”
At that point Simeon breaks out into a song of praise, a song that is so beautiful that it has come down through the centuries to us as the final and climactic song of Christmas. The song is called the Nunc Dimittis, the title being taken from the first two words of the Latin translation of Simeon’s words.