Luke 2:25-32 (NIV) 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
“What child is this?” It’s a good question, but it was not the first question asked at Christmas time. Joseph was wondering, “Whose child is this?” when Mary returned from Judea six-months pregnant. The snickering gossips in Nazareth were wondering, “Whose child is this?”—long after Jesus was born.
“Whose child is this?” That’s Mary’s question. “How will this be since I don’t have a husband?” The angel answers with a promise that God the Holy Spirit would take care of it all. “The child born of you will be called the Son of God.” At Jesus’ Baptism his Father testified from heaven, “This is my Son whom I love.”
“Who is this child?” That question was answered by the prophets of long ago: Son, Seed, Savior, King, Messiah, Mighty God and Comforter. The angel who spoke to Mary, to Joseph and to the shepherds also knew who he was: “The one born of you will be called the Son of God and will sit on King David’s throne forever.” “You will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.” “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
“What child is this?” The angel choirs taught the shepherds that this child, the one lying in the manger is (1) God’s glory in the highest, his greatest gift, his greatest love for us; (2) This child is God’s peace on earth, the person is the peace. (3) This child is the demonstration of God’s good will to all people of all time.” Now it was Simeon’s turn: “What child is this?” For Simeon and for us all:
THIS CHILD IS THE END OF WAITING
THIS CHILD IS THE BEGINNING OF JOY
So by the time that Simeon takes Jesus in his arms, Luke has already answered the question, “Who?” “A Savior, Christ, the Lord.” He has even made sure that we know the “For whom?” “To you is born this day...for all the people(s).”
But the Holy Spirit is not content just telling us the “whose?” the “who?” and the “for whom?” Much of the Christmas confusion arises from the failure to understand “What Child is this?”
So the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen “the Lord’s Christ!” This phrase connects the “who?” with the “what?” Simeon would see the Messiah promised to Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to David and the prophets. He would see the Anointed One, the Great Prophet, Priest and King. No greater Christmas present could be offered—the end of waiting for Christmas promises made thousands of before.
Simeon was waiting for God to keep the promise he made through Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people.” For the last seven hundred years, God’s people Israel had been waiting, waiting for that comfort (or consolation). The “Lord’s Christ,” was not only going to deliver that comfort, he was going to be “the consolation of Israel.” So when Simeon holds a 40 day-old baby in his arms, he was holding God’s COMFORT in his hands! He was holding the END OF WAITING.
“As you have promised!” Simeon wants the Lord to know that he was waiting for the Savior, the Consolation and Comfort that God had promised, and not one of the seven or eight false Messiahs being promised to God’s people by the political, moral, and religious world in which he lived.
Isaiah promised that God would bring three very specific comforts. (1) He would bring the end of brutal conflict and humiliating loss. (2) He would bring the end of guilt and the horrific debt owed by sinners to an angry God. (3) He would bring an end of God’s wrathful recompense for sinners. Instead he would bring to the two blessings for every sin.
Now there was no more WAITING. Simeon was holding the KING whose victory over his enemies would end the HUMILIATING DEFEAT AND SLAVERY of God’s people to sin forever. No more waiting for victory.
Simeon was holding the PRIEST who would offer the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sin, and to be the perfect sacrifice to whose blood covers over our guilt.
Simeon was holding the PROPHET who announces that instead of God’s anger and judgment, we would receive double blessings for all our sins.
Pick up the Baby. He is the beginning of joy. You can hear the joy in the words of Simeon. He is holding in his arms the one wish and pray that has filled his thoughts and occupied his mind for his whole life. Now he has “what he has always wanted.” Now he can “depart in peace.” Now he can enjoy eternal rest with his fathers. God has kept his word. Such faith! Such peace! Such joy!
Pick up that Baby and understand what child this is. Notice how the Holy Spirit leaves no doubt as to the answer to our question, “What Child is this?
“I am holding GOD’S SALVATION, Simeon says. This Baby is God’s Salvation, and that salvation was “prepared before the face of all peoples.” God wanted everyone to see it (as Isaiah had predicted). He wanted everyone to see the light piercing through the darkness because that LIGHT would end the darkness of unbelief for us gentiles. The Baby is God’s salvation prepared right out in the open, in front of all the peoples of the earth because he was going to be the SAVIOR for all people.
“What Child is this?” This Child is GOD’S SALVATION, the LIGHT of the world.
Pick that Baby up! He is, as Simeon says, “the glory of your people Israel.” Yes, Jesus is Jewish. His mother was a Jew by birth. His ancestors legally and physically were Jewish. Both sides of his line could go on “Ancestry.com” and find that they were descended from David and Abraham. This BABY is Israel’s glory.
It is not the race that is glorious. It is not the land that is glorious. It is not the temple that is glorious. But as you pick that Baby up again, remember that he is the glory of God’s people Israel. They were the one nation on earth chosen to bring the Savior to the world. They were given a special land chosen by God to be the place where Jesus would teach and save. They were given a special temple whose greatest honor would be the place where Jesus taught. It pictured his salvation, according to the book of Hebrews, in a very special way.
The Jewish priest, Simeon, knew the promise, and he experienced the beginning of JOY.
That baby is the beginning of JOY: SALVATION FOR ALL PEOPLE. A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES. THE GLORY OF ISRAEL. No one can remove this Baby from Simeon’s arms. No one can remove the joy from Simeon’s heart or the praise from Simeon’s lips. For God has put the Baby into Christmas, and, more important, he has put the Baby into our arms!
It’s almost as if Simeon is joining us in singing a very old English Christmas carol:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay!
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born, on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy