Series: The Characters of Christmas
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 3, 2000
I’d like to invite you to turn with me to Luke 2:21-35 which is our Scripture passage for today. While you’re turning, let me explain what our focus is this morning.
How may of you have seen VeggieTales? If you’ve got small kids or grandkids you’ve probably seen these. VeggieTales is a series of cartoon videos that feature vegetables and fruits as the main characters. Its cute and teaches the Bible and Biblical values to kids.
One of these videos is called, “The Toy That Saved Christmas.” The story is about a place called Dinkletown where they didn’t “get” Christmas. They had Christmas. They just didn’t understand what Christmas was really about. According to the kids in Dinkletown, “Christmas is when you get stuff.”
There are a tremendous number of people - even some Christians - who simply do not “get” Christmas. They celebrate the season - give gifts - attend church - sing carols - talk about God’s love and peace on earth and loving each other. But, they’ve missed what Christmas is all about.
This week and next week we want to look at two individuals who “got” Christmas. This week we’re looking at Simeon and next week will come to Anna. Because, we want to understand - to prepare our hearts to celebrate and to know God’s presence in our lives.
Luke 2 - starting at verse 21: And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Let’s pause here and look at what’s happening. When Mary gave birth to Jesus - according to the law of Moses - she became ceremonially unclean for 41 days. During that time - 8 days after His birth Jesus was circumcised. Then, 33 days later - Jesus - Mary’s firstborn male child - was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord and a sacrifice was offered. In this case Mary offered either two turtledoves or two pigeons. So, Mary’s 41 days were completed and Jesus was presented in obedience to the law.
There’s something else here that we don’t want to miss. Its important for us to note that there’s nothing visibly unusual going on here.
Imagine the Temple. There are any number of children being presented. A variety of sacrifices are being offered. There are crowds of people - some there for spiritual reasons - some are tourists. Money is changing hands. The religious affairs of the Temple are being conducted. Religious tradition is being followed. Who notices Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Why would anybody notice or pay particular attention to them - even though this is the most significant child in history?
Verse 25: And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel - the spiritual salvation of Israel - and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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.
Simeon lived in a right relationship with God. He lived filled with the Holy Spirit - listening to God - faithful to God. The name Simeon literally means, “one who hears and obeys.” The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah - God’s salvation - with own eyes.
Verse 27: And he - Simeon - came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
This is the man who “got” Christmas. Amidst all the activity of the Temple - he heard God and understood what God was doing. Told by the Holy Spirit, he knew that Mary’s child was the One - the One through whom all peoples of the world were to blessed. The child born in Bethlehem - presented in the Temple - is the Savior of the world.
Verse 33: And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
Here were Mary and Joseph - watching and listening to all this. The more we know about God - what God can do in us and through us and what He allows us to be a part of - the more we’re amazed.
Verse 34 - notice that the tone of what Simeon says changes: And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - and a sword will pierce even your own soul - to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Simeon tells Mary that many will fall and many will rise. The thoughts of our hearts will be exposed. God’s truth in Jesus will reveal our sin - the depths of what motivates us and commands our lives. Because of Jesus, there will be a struggle in our hearts - a difficult choice to be made. Many will choose to oppose Jesus - to reject Him as their Savior and fall away from God. Others will choose to accept Him as their Savior - to rise - to move towards God.
Its significant that Simeon specifically tells this to Mary. This choice will pierce her soul.
When I took Andrew to Kindergarten - on the first day of school - I distinctly remember the moment his hand went from mine into the hand of his teacher and she led him into the classroom. His whole life passed in front of me - his education - His first car - career - marriage - my grandkids - the whole thing. I think every parent has dreams and wonders what the future holds for their children. This is especially true for mothers and sons. There’s a special type of bond between mothers and sons.
Mary must have wondered what the future held for Jesus. But, on that day in the Temple, how could she imagine what His unique life would be like? How could she understand the implications for her own? Her soul would be pierced. She would need to choose.
Mary was Jesus’ mother. This was her baby. He fed at her breast - took His first steps holding her hand - she changed His diapers. She watched Him grow into a man - call His disciples - and lead thousands towards God’s Kingdom. And, Mary was there when they drove the nails in His hands and feet. She watched them lift Him up. She watched her 33 year old first born son die the most cruel death imaginable at the hands of those He had come to save.
Her soul was pierced. He had come to save her. Mary was Jesus’ mother. But, she also needed to choose to become His disciple - to put her own Son in the proper place in her life. She needed to choose to let go of Him as her Son - to trust in Jesus as her Savior and to follow Him as her Lord.
Two thoughts of application. How can we “get” Christmas? First: We need to make a deliberate choice to allow God to pierce our soul - to hear Him speak to us and to respond.
May 18, 1980 is one of those dates that a lot of people will remember. That was the day that Mount St. Helens blew up. Do you remember this? Tons of airborne volcanic ash being blown thousands of feet into the air. Everything around the mountain laid to waste.
From where I lived in Portland, Oregon - while I was doing some of my graduate studies - I could see this mountain. A huge mountain - flat on top - its summit literally blown away. It was just awesome to think about the released energy that would cause something like that. The explosion was like a nuclear bomb going off. 57 people were killed.
The explosion was heard as far away as 600 miles. But, amazingly - people who were rescued just a few miles from the mountain never heard the blast. They were in what scientists call a “zone of silence.” Apparently, the upward thrust of the exploding mountain also sent the sound of the explosion upward into the atmosphere where it bounced back to earth - but away from ground zero.
We can come close to the powerful - amazing - event of Jesus’ birth and still not hear God speaking to our hearts.
To “get” Christmas, we need to make a choice to allow God to speak to our hearts. That means spending time alone with Him - in prayer - reading His word - quietly listening to Him. We need to make a deliberate choice to say “no” to all the busyness and demands and obligations and travel and traditions and things that crowd our time and our minds and hearts and keep us from being quiet before God. We need to choose to just sit and allow Him to speak to us.
We need to be in a place where we can listen as He shares with us about hearts - the truth about our lives - the choices we need to make about Him and who will rule our lives.
Allowing God to pierce our hearts means that we need to choose to adore Him - to worship Him - to appreciate Him - to allow Him to remind us of who He is - to give Him the central place in our lives.
If God has given you the gift of being a great singer - even if its in the shower - sing to Him! Make a list of God’s attributes - His grace, mercy, love, omnipotence, and so on. Think about how these impact your life and share with Him your gratitude and praise. Set up an altar in your home - a place to remind you of God’s presence - and when you pass by praise and thank Him. Take time in these weeks of Advent to focus on Jesus’ incarnation - His life - death and resurrection. Respond to who He is by putting Him first in everything.
First - we need to make a deliberate choice to allow God to pierce our soul. The second thought of application comes from Simeon. Simeon made the choice to allow God to speak to His heart. But, Simeon’s relationship with God didn’t stop there. He was led by the Spirit. He came to the Temple. He gave thanks to God. He prophesied giving testimony about Jesus. Simeon was looking expectantly for God’s coming salvation.
Imagine if the church were a museum. Here, within these walls is preserved the historical record of the life of Jesus. Each Sunday we gather together to remember and discuss His historical significance. During the week a few of us meet to discuss His teachings in more detail. On special days - like Christmas and Easter - we have visitors who come to tour the museum. I suppose that there might be some importance to our lives - this museum. But, what relevancy is there?
The birth of Jesus and His ministry on earth were only the beginning. We’re not curators of a museum. We live with the life of Christ inside us. We’re empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. We live with expectation and hope. Jesus, who was born - who is resurrected - is returning.
To “get” Christmas means that we need to choose wisely how we use the time we have left before the Savior returns. There’s a vital need to go deeper in our relationship with God - to allow the Holy Spirit to have control over our lives - to live centered in His will. There is an urgency to our study of Scripture - to our fellowship together - our worship of God - our sharing of the Gospel.
So many do not “get” Christmas because they seek the warm feelings and the traditions. There is a place for these. But, the message of the incarnation is so much more. Mary’s baby came to pierce our hearts - to transform our lives today and forever.
We need to “get” Christmas. Today we have the opportunity to make the choices that will allow us to center on Jesus - to dwell in Him - and to share Him with others.