I love Christmas but not necessarily because it is a Christian holiday. I read statistics the other day on those who celebrate Christmas and why they celebrate it.
Family Trumps Jesus in Christmas Celebrations
Family is the “reason for the season” for 81 percent of people who celebrate Christmas in America, according to a Lifeway Research survey. The study found that nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) personally celebrate Christmas and those aren’t all self-identified Christians. A majority of agnostics or those claiming no preference (89 percent), individuals claiming other religions (62 percent), and even atheists (55 percent) celebrate Christmas along with 97 percent of Christians. But even among Christians, Christ’s birth tends to get lost among other traditions. “[A] closer look at how they celebrate reveals that it typically revolves around family and that Christ-centered elements are not as common,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “For many in our culture, the season is disconnected from the reason. For many of those, family is the reason for the season.” Religion Today Summaries – Dec. 22, 2010
In some way I fall into the category of family trumping Jesus - but I don’t feel real bad about it. I believe in and follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior every day. I don’t need Christmas to remind me of who He is and what he has done for me because I do that every day.,
I agree with Spurgeon on Christmas: “I love to see holy mirth; I delight to see men well feasted. I like Christmas; I wish it came six times a year.”
The important thing is not whether you celebrate Christmas once a year but whether you affirm Christ as Savior and Lord. What a great tragedy it would be for you to have celebrated Christmas yesterday without having affirmed Jesus Christ as your Savior! What a great tragedy for others that we as Christians make so little effort to assist the lost in affirming Christ as Savior! “To affirm” means “to assert as valid or confirmed, to express dedication to, or to declare by affirmation.” How many loved ones and friends do you know who yet fail to affirm that Jesus Christ alone is their Savior?
It is appropriate and exemplary that the first human response to Jesus recorded in Scripture are these words of Simeon that affirm that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world.
Let us together affirm Jesus Christ as Savior?
What does that mean and what does it look like?
I. In affirming Christ as Only Savior, we follow one who fulfills God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, and Israel.
You have probably heard me refer to Jesus as the quintessential Jew – and maybe scratched your head and said – what in the world is a quintessential Jew and why do I care?
Last Sunday evening we went caroling in the neighborhood and were especially welcomed by one man whom Dawn and I met before. He was thankful for our coming by and in an email to me said this:
L – Remember like all the early Christians I am Jewish. That is why we are all members of the same faith.
Yes, I see Christianity as fulfilling the expectations of ancient Judaism.. As I understand God’s covenant with Abraham, God expected that true Israel would eventually bring the blessing of God to the nations of the world and in so doing reunite the human race that was scattered and broken because of sin. We believe that the quintessential Jew, Jesus, brings about a new humanity where Jew and Gentile live in unity. So in some sense, the New Testament says that believers in Jesus the Messiah are children of Abraham through faith.
That is a good message thanks for this clarification.
It is important to Luke as he writes his gospel that he shows that Christ – the Messiah – was the perfect man – the obedient Israelite, who lived under the law – and who lived in a family that complied with the Mosaic covenant.
In prior verses Luke has show us that Jesus is a true Israelite (having just been circumcised, vs 21) and that Jesus has the heritage of pious parentage who adhere to the Mosaic regulations. Luke emphasizes two aspects of the Mosaic regulations.
Luke 2:22-24 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
The Purification of the mother after childbirth – Mary
According to Lev. 12:1-8 a mother waited forty days after the birth of a male child to become ceremonially clean in order to enter the sanctuary. This was time for the discharge from childbirth to cease and the normal menstrual cycle to return. Any loss of blood – a symbol of death – constituted someone as ritually unclean.
ESV Leviticus 12:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days. 6 “‘And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. 8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.’”
The kind of offerings she brings indicates that she was poor and that she knew she was a sinner. The offerings are not peace offerings but sin offerings. It’s not that childbirth is sin, but that loss of blood (i.e. the symbol of death) made someone ceremonially unclean.
By means of offerings she was restored to full communion with the worshipping congregation. She once again was ceremonially holy.
The Presentation of the first-born male child – Jesus
Because Jesus was of the tribe of Judah and not of Levi, as a first born male child, he had to be redeemed by a payment of 5 shekels (Numbers 3:46-47).
This goes back to when God judged Egypt in the 15th century BC by taking the life of the first born of every household in Egypt that did not have blood sprinkled on their doorposts. The death of the firstborn applied to both Jews and Israelites. From that day every first-born male other than from the tribe of Levi (all of whom were set aside for the Lord) belonged to the Lord and has to be bought back by his parents. This was a perpetual reminder of cost of redemption.
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal….”
11 “After the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your forefathers, 12 you are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. 13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. 14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
It is in this context where the themes of holiness and redemption and obedience to the law abound that we find this affirmation of Simeon.
The righteousness of the law was fulfilled in Christ. This is what we call his active obedience, which led to his passive obedience of death on the cross.
Now to his actual confession:
II. In affirming Christ as Only Savior, we do so with a heart and life prepared by the Holy Spirit (this keeps us humble)
Luke 2:25-28 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
The focus in these verses is on the role of the Holy Spirit in preparing Simeon to recognize Jesus.
Simeon was a faithful Jew who believed God’s promises and was waiting for the Messiah. In this instance he demonstrates that he is a true Jew, not simply one who bore the mark of circumcision but one who truly had faith in God’s word like Abraham did (Romans 2:25-29; 4:11-12).
Three times Luke mentions the genuine work of the Spirit in Simeon’s life. The Spirit was upon him; the Spirit had given him personal revelation that that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Christ; and the Spirit led him to the time and place when he would see the Messiah.
This work of the Spirit in Simeon’s life that leads him to affirm that Jesus is the Messiah is a good reminder that apart from God’s gracious initiative in our lives we would all be blind to whom Jesus Christ is!
Remember when Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 16:17).
The Father through the Holy Spirit is in the business of bringing men to recognize who Jesus really is.
John 6 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
Admittedly, as Jesus said the spirit’s work is somewhat mysterious. Yet it is very real and necessary to bring about new life in Christ.
John 3 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Just as Simeon’s heart and life were prepared by the Spirit of God to bring him to an affirmation of Jesus as Savior, we need to realize that this is true for everyone.
1 Corinthians 12 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
This means that affirming Jesus as Savior is initially a result of God’s work in our lives and leads to two practical conclusions:
- There is no basis for human pride for those who affirm Christ.
1 Cor. 1 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things– and the things that are not– to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
2. In seeking to bring others to Christ we can be both dependent upon the Spirit and confident in His powerful work.
Jesus said concerning the Spirit: 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned (John 16).
Admittedly, there is a profound mystery in how the Spirit of God leads us to a confession of Christ without violating our personal responsibility to hear and to believe. Yet, without the prior and ongoing work of the Spirit there could never be true, saving faith, so we always give glory to God for His work never to our faith.
III. In affirming Christ as Only Savior, we affirm God purpose for all the world (this keeps us from ethno-centricity)
Luke 2:29-33 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
Simeon acknowledges the Sovereignty of God and His faithfulness in keeping His promise that Simeon would live to see the Messiah.
The utterances of Elizabeth, Mary and Simeon are consecutive. Each begins where the other ends. Mary sings of her own born Messiah; Zacharias celebrates the triumph of Israel, and Simeon announces the hopes of the Gentiles. But, besides this holding forth the Messiah as a Savior for Gentile as well as Jew, what is remarkable is, that he announces in Jesus a suffering Messiah as well as a glorious.–Whedon http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/bjohnson/hg1/PNT03-02.HTM
Jesus is Universal Savior for all people of the world.
Simeon sees the incarnation of Jesus Christ as a public display (prepared in the sight of all people) which God sets forth for the entire world to see. It is as if a bright beacon, like a lighthouse, shines from Bethlehem and then Jerusalem to every corner of the earth.
Note: “all people” is literally “all peoples” (pa,ntwn tw/n law/n), including both Jew and Gentiles.
The Scriptures are plain and clear that Jesus Christ is the only Savior for all people.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
This is why we are to preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15) and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
Specifically, Jesus is Light for Gentile and Jew
Luke introduced the metaphor of Jesus as light in chapter one in the words of Zechariah and continues that metaphor even through his next book, the Book of Acts in the words of Paul.
Luke 1 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Acts 26 22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen– 23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
For the nations of the world Jesus is the light that brings revelation. Light for revelation to the nations
From a biblical perspective, the nations of the world lie in darkness. They are without the truth that can open their eyes to know the true and living God. Jesus is the light that takes away the blindness and darkness of one’s life.
For the nation of Israel Jesus is the light that brings glory. and light …for glory for your people
Israel was familiar with the light that displayed the glory of God. In the OT the presence of God (Shekinah) was often associated with the brilliance of light. Jesus becomes to Israel the ultimate manifestation of the presence of God. The presence of God was everything and is everything, The land symbolized the presence of God and the rest He brings; the temple symbolized the presence of God and the worship He deserves.
The glory-presence (Shekinah) which left when Israel was exiled (see Ezekiel); never returned to Israel. Even though in the land, they are still in exile because the glory has departed. Now in Christ the Messiah the glory returns – he is both the glorious land and temple in whom we find rest and are called to worship.
As John said:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
The glory of Israel is not Israel itself, but Jesus, the glorious One.
Through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ we come to see that glory.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
If you are a Jew, there is light for glory and if you are a Gentile, there is light for revelation – as both Jew and Gentile follow this light, they arrive at the same place, the same person, Jesus Christ, and the human race broken and divided by sin, is now brought to unity in Christ.
IV. In affirming Christ as Only Savior, we resolve the most Critical Issue in Life (and we are at peace)
Affirming Christ as Savior brings eternal peace.
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
How often we have heard someone day of the deceased, “may he rest in peace.” Tragically, for many this is only wishful thinking. There is no peace for the wicked. The wicked are like the troubled sea whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Peace belongs only to those who affirm Jesus Christ as Savior.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 2:34-35 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Simeon declares the destiny of this child – Jesus
He is destined to be the one who determines whether you succeed or fail in life or whether you live or die. Whether you rise or fall (live or die) depends upon how you respond to Jesus. In the Apostle Peter’s words, Jesus is either the rock upon which you build or the rock that crushes you (1 Peter 2:6-8). Jesus will divide Israelites; moreover, he will divide the entire world.
He is also destined to be a sign that will be spoken against. A “sign” is something that points to something. Though our text doesn’t specify what sign Jesus is appointed as, the conclusion is obvious – the sign of redemption by vicarious suffering and Lordship over all creation. Jesus is the sign that points to eternal life and the kingdom of God. Simeon says that this sign will face fierce opposition.
Indeed, Jesus faced the fiercest antagonism and was driven to the cross.
There are the two effects of Jesus appointed destiny:
- A personal effect on Mary – she will suffer deeply and emotionally because of the cruel opposition and death that Jesus will endure.
- An effect in revealing the hearts of people – how someone responds to what Jesus stands for exposes where they really are in their hearts.
The humble and repentant submit to him in faith.
The proud and self-righteous reject him as Savior and Lord.
This message of the cross is either a rallying point or a dividing point.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
All of humanity is divided over Jesus Christ, and He means it to be so!
Matthew 10 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
As you’ve read the text of the sermon, I am confident that the Spirit of God has been working in your heart, calling you to repentance and faith in Christ.
If you are have never repented and surrendered to Christ, then the Spirit of God calls you and enables you to take that first step of repentance and faith to begin a new life in Christ today.
If you are a believer, the Spirit of God calls you to renewed and continuing repentance and faith, confessing that Jesus Christ is always and continually your Savior and Lord.
When we do that together, we confess in unity that God’s purposes for the world are brought to their completion in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
When we affirm Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, we have made the most critical decision for all of life – a decision for life
 Luke here uses a word for “peoples” (laos) that includes both Jew and Gentile, rather than using the word (ethne) that speaks of the Gentile nations (the goyim) in distinction from Israel. Normally the singular of this word for “people” (laos) refers to the “people of God” whether Israel or the church.
 Grammatically, the words “light” and “glory” may both be cognate accusatives of “salvation” in verse 30 or both “revelation” and “glory” may be objects of the preposition (eis) and therefore explain the two-fold purpose of “light”. My teaching here is based on the second view.