Simeon’s Salvation Song
The third song in our Christmas Playlist is Simeon’s Salvation Song. After meeting the Christ child, Simeon felt he could die in peace, knowing that mankind would now be given the opportunity to live with peace because the Messiah had come. Simeon was ready to die because he had checked the final thing off his bucket list.
How many of you have a bucket list? A bucket list is a list of things that you hope to achieve or accomplish before you die. A bucket list is the result of reflecting on what truly matters most. The term has been around for a while but was popularized a few years ago in a movie about two terminally ill men.
Corporate billionaire Edward Cole, played by Jack Nicholson, and working-class mechanic Carter Chambers, played by Morgan Freeman, had nothing at all in common, with one exception. Both men were terminally ill. While they were sharing a hospital room, they decided to leave their room and do all the things they wanted to do before they kicked the bucket. These guys end up going skydiving, climbing the pyramids, and riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China.
This past week I post a question on Social Media – What is the #1 thing on your bucket list? Some bucket list items make you laugh, like gluing quarters to the sidewalk and watching people try to pick them up, sleeping in a hammock, or staying awake in church. Others have listed more significant things like reconciling with a family member or finding one’s purpose in life. Most people have multiple things on their bucket lists.
As we come to the third song on our Christmas Playlist, our focus shifts to Simeon. Simeon is an older man who had only one thing on his bucket list. He was waiting to meet someone. He was convinced that when he met this person, he would be ready to die.
Let’s set the scene. In the first part of Luke 2, we read about the birth of Jesus. Then in verses 21-24 we hear about some events that took place in the weeks that followed. “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” – Luke 2:21-24 (NIV)
This act of dedication was a way for Mary and Joseph to publicly declare that their child belonged to the Lord. It’s in that same spirit that we offer parents the opportunity to dedicate their children to the Lord here at The Point. Next dedication service is coming up on January 15.
Scripture makes it clear that Joseph and Mary not only obeyed the Angel, but they obeyed God in naming and caring for their newborn son. In fact, Luke mentions five times that they did something for their Son “according to God’s Law” which is such a great challenge for every parent.
We need to make sure we are doing what God wants for our family. This passage also provides insight into the financial situation of Joseph and Mary. Leviticus 12 says that when a woman came for her purification, she was to bring a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon for a sin offering. If she couldn’t afford a lamb, she could bring two doves or two pigeons instead. That made it possible for even poor women to obey the law of purification. That is what Mary did, and it is at this point that Simeon enters the story line.
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 specifically say so. We also believe he was an old man, but we can’t even be certain of that. His age is simply an assumption.
Simeon appears on the stage of history very briefly. He has a small but important role in the drama surrounding the birth of Christ. After his part is over, he fades from the scene, never to be heard from again. Luke tells his story like this…“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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” – Luke 2:25-26 (NIV)
Simeon’s name means “he who hears.” Here is what we know about him. Simeon was righteous and devout in His relationship with God. He was not a phony like the Pharisees. Simeon was waiting for the Messiah to come. That’s what “waiting for the consolation of Israel” means. Simeon was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. Simeon was waiting and watching for the Messiah. He was anxiously awaiting the day that Immanuel would come.
He probably came to the temple often. He might have shown up daily. He might have been doing this for years or even decades. “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…” – Luke 2:27 (NIV)
I wonder if Simeon was mocked by the religious people as they performed their religious rituals. How would he know what to look for? Who could it be, this Messiah he is waiting for? What specific traits would he possess? Each time a young couple came in with a baby, did he whisper, “Is this the one?”
One day the Spirit of God must have whispered, “Simeon, there He is. He is the One. The long days of waiting are finally over! There is the Messiah. He is the One you have been looking for. He is the One for whom the nation has been waiting and praying for.” “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God…” – Luke 2:28 (NIV)
Can you picture it? We don’t even know if Simeon introduced himself. He simply took Jesus in his arms and held Him. As Mary surrenders her infant Son to Simeon, he takes the baby realizing that he is holding in his arms the salvation of the world. Try to imagine it! At that precise point Simeon breaks out into a song of praise. I picture Simeon with a huge smile on his face as he starts his salvation song. It goes like this…“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” – Luke 2:29-32 (NIV)
God had kept His promise. Simeon’s first thought is that he is now ready to die. When he says, “you may now dismiss your servant in peace” he is using language that would be similar to the release of a prisoner; untying a ship to set sail; or taking down a tent.”
Simeon had watch been standing watch like a military sentinel during the long hours of the night. His task was to watch for the rising of a very special star in the darkest part of the night. When he finally spots that star, he knows that his work is done. He has seen what He has been waiting to see. He is now ready to be dismissed.
The long wait is over. The years of anticipation have been fulfilled. His sentry duty is finished. He can now be discharged from his duties. He has seen and personally held “the Lord’s salvation” and with that, he’s ready to die. This baby boy had symbolically checked off the final item on Simeon’s bucket list.
Joseph and Mary’s response is recorded in verse 33. “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.” – Luke 2:33 (NIV) Mary and Joseph are amazed. They are astonished by what Simeon says and by what he does. “Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’” – Luke 2:34-35 (NIV)
Jesus raises those who believe in Him, but He is a stumbling block to those who don’t. Simeon prophetically states that many rise up against Jesus. It has been that way from the start. When we come face to face with Him, the truth about who we are, our thoughts and motives are exposed before the Lord.
When Simeon refers to the sword that will pierce Mary’s soul too, he is speaking prophetically of the dark shadow of the cross that will one day fall across the Christmas narrative. Both Mary and Jesus will suffer deep anguish. This is a difficult side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told.
Those tiny hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made in preparation for nails to be driven through them. At this point, those precious infant feet, so small and soft have never taken a step. But one day they will walk up a dusty hill called Golgotha before being nailed to a cross. This beautiful baby’s head will become the resting place of a thorny crown. That tender body, so soft and warm, now wrapped in swaddling clothes, will one day be ripped open by tiny shards of glass and bone at the end of a brutal whip.
That is because this baby, this innocent child, was BORN TO DIE.
There are two sides to every story. This is the difficult side of the story we dare not forget. We like to talk about the blessings found in following Christ, but there are burdens that come with following Christ as well. We celebrate God’s favor, but we want to flee from the problems. Listen! Following Christ will always cost you something. Jesus satisfies but suffering goes along with following the One who suffered for us.
Simeon was letting Mary know that they were coming for this child.
There was nothing she could do to stop it. The world would hate him. They will spread rumors about Mary and Joseph, and they will smear Jesus’ name with malicious lies. They will have to helplessly stand by and watch it happen. I don’t think we’ll ever hear Simeon greeting anyone by saying, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” Instead, he pauses for a moment, clears his throat and leys us know that Christmas will never be merry, and the New Year will never be happy apart from Jesus. This will be our lot in life until people surrender their lives to Christ.
Simeon spoke the truth. Since Jesus has entered the world, the human race has been divided. Jesus has certainly caused the falling and rising of many. Because of who He is and what He came to do, people are forced to make a decision about Him. The Bible uses the powerful imagery of a rock – Jesus is either a rock that you build your life upon (that’s the sense of rising) or he’s the rock that you stumble over (that’s the meaning of falling).
In the midst all the pretty trees, brightly colored lights, parties and presents, remember this: Christmas is COSTLY. There is a cost to following Christ. Following Jesus is sometimes accompanied by piercing pain. Everything would happen exactly as Simeon had predicted. When Mary watched her Son die, a sword pierced her soul. Above the cradle stands the cross which reminds us, this little baby was born to die.
Simeon’s story reminds us…
1. Be in the right PLACE at the right TIME to hear from God.
Simeon was in the Temple at the right time. Joseph and Mary made it a habit to honor God. Their desire was to obey Him. They were exactly where God wanted them to be. They brought their baby boy to the temple.
I wish every parent would follow the example of Mary and Joseph by getting in the habit of consistently putting their family in the right place, at the right time, by engaging in worship privately and corporately each week. When you put yourself in the right setting at the right time, you are ready to hear, obey, and honor God. Simeon also teaches us…
2. Wait patiently for God’s PROMISES to be FULFILLED in your life.
One of the messages from this part of the Christmas story is “don’t quit!” Don’t give up! Don’t give in to the darkness and despair. Hold on to the One who is holding on to you. Keep watching and waiting for God to show up. And in the meantime, don’t stop doing what’s right.
3. Cultivate a keen sensitivity to the HOLY SPIRIT of God.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned three times in three verses (25-27). Let’s face it. There are so many voices crying out to us at Christmas. I want to challenge you to pay attention. Get tuned in. Make sure you are listening to the voice of God, instead of to all the others that are competing for our attention.
I love the fact that when the Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to move, he didn’t sit still. I do wonder what would have happened if he had not responded the way he did. I think the lesson here is Don’t procrastinate when God prompts you to do something. That is how you will miss out on a miracle this Christmas.
In fact, here’s an action step I want you to consider. When you’re out and about, ask God three questions…
• “Who do you want me to talk to?
• What do you want to teach me?
• Why have you put me in this place and in this position right now?”
Instead of being upset when your plans change, look at that interruption as an appointment to speak with someone or to learn a lesson that God is trying to teach you. I guess what I am saying is go on a God-hunt this Christmas. Look for Him in the ordinary and unexpected.
4. Begin to MARVEL again.
Mary and Joseph marveled. Children often marvel at Christmas. So, what does that mean, anyway? What does it mean to marvel? To marvel means to express great surprise, wonder, or admiration. When was the last time you allowed yourself to marvel at something?
Are you a marveler at Christmas? Or, are you too caught up in the busyness and stress of the holiday season? I am not convinced that you can marvel on the run.
It seems like you’ll have to stand still to marvel. It will take some time.
Have you been running around in a frenzy because of the Holidays this Christmas? Not Simeon. Simeon had a routine. He was waiting and watching for the Redeemer to come. What are you waiting for? Who are you watching for? Are you watching and waiting anxiously to get the holidays over with? Are you watching for your annoying cousin Eddie to show up? Or are you taking time to wait, to watch, to wonder, and to make Christmas a “holy” day?
Sometimes Christmas can become too predictable, and so familiar. That is because some of us have heard the Christmas story so many times, that we just run right past it and it no longer astonishes us. That is a legitimate hazard this time of year. Our annual celebration of Christmas can immunize us to what Christmas is really all about.
We hear just enough of the story each year to inoculate us against the real thing, so that we really never catch the true spirit of Christmas. Do you remember your earliest Christmases? Do you remember the first time you really understood what Christmas is all about?
There’s something exciting about meeting Jesus for the first time, isn’t there? We initially marvel at the Christmas story. Some of us may need to make an intentional choice to get back to that this year. The final lesson from Simeon…
5. Get ready to DIE by receiving the SALVATION that only Christ can give.
Are you ready to die? When Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms, he said, “Lord, I’m ready to go home now. I can die in peace.” You’re not ready to die until you have received Jesus and trusted Him as your Savior.
Once you have taken Him as your Savior, death is no longer an enemy. If you come to the end, and you’ve never received the gift of salvation that Jesus offers, you will have basically wasted your years on this earth.
Life is a BRIEF MOMENT of time in which to prepare for eternity. If you succeed at everything else, and fail in this PREPARATION, your life will have been WASTED.
If you’ve never done so, I would like to invite you to accept Jesus Christ into your life right now? Invite Him to forgive your sin and come into your life as your Savior and Lord. Some people try to sit on the fence regarding the person of Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground. You have to make up your mind. Either Jesus is the Son of God sent from heaven, or He’s not. If He is the Son of God, then the only reasonable response is to bow down and worship him!
There are only two options regarding Jesus Christ. You either accept Him or you reject Him. There is really nothing in between! And make no mistake, no decision is rejection at least for now.
The story is told of three frogs on a log. One of them decided to jump off. How many are left? Two, right? Wrong. There’s still three because while one did decide to jump – but he never made the leap! I am asking you to take the leap today.
Just as Simeon received Jesus personally in his arms, you and I must personally receive Him if we hope to spend eternity with Him. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 (NIV) The whole point of a bucket list is to maximize every moment of our existence so that We can live our lives to the FULLEST and come to the end with no REGRET.
Simeon had one thing on his bucket list. He was waiting to see the Messiah. He was waiting and watching for the salvation of the Lord. What about you? What’s on your bucket list? Or more important than that, will you be ready to meet the Lord when you kick the bucket? If you’d like to settle that question right now, I want to invite you to bow with me for prayer.