The next part of the Christmas story is relatively unknown and for some reason forgotten by most. I think we’re content to think about the Baby in the manger, the shepherds, angels and wise men but not to remember the point of the story. In Luke’s Gospel ch2 vs22-38 we are told what happened when the Lord Jesus was only fifty days old and was taken to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to God. This was a Jewish custom instructed in the Old Testament (Lev ch12 vs8).
In the temple there are two old people Simeon and Anna who are waiting in the temple so that they can see the Messiah. God had revealed to Simeon that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Saviour and now Simeon was overjoyed as he held the Child in his arms.
As we saw with the shepherds a few days ago, we see again that although most of the world ignored Jesus’ birth, God revealed it to a few humble and poor people who were ready and sought Him out.
Simeon then says something to Mary that we might have found a little strange. He says first of the light to the Gentiles and of seeing God’s Salvation that we have heard before from Isaiah and the Angel. He then says, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2 vs34-35, NKJV. He is speaking of the death of Jesus, the sign spoken against is Jesus who men hated and killed revealing our dark hearts. He speaks also of the heartbreak Mary would face also losing her Son. Why would he mention Jesus’ death when he was only a child?
Simeon is pointing us to the real point of the story, why it matters. Jesus was born in order that He might die. If God had become a man and lived a perfect life only as an example for us, that would be miraculous and amazing but it wouldn’t be enough to save us. God became a man in Christ Jesus in order that He might die. We as sinners were helpless and hopeless in Gods sight, we needed salvation and forgiveness. Jesus came in order to die on the cross for our sins, in our place. This is why the gospel is good news, Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” 1 Peter 2 vs24. We can be free and forgiven by trusting in Him and accepting Him as Lord and Saviour.
Simeon said Jesus’ death would cause the rising and falling of many in Israel. He means that the cross splits all people into two groups, those who accept Jesus and those who reject Him. When we hear the Christmas story and of the death of Jesus (Christmas is empty without the cross), we all have a decision to make. To believe in what Jesus has done, receive Him as Lord and follow Him or to ignore it and walk away, reject Him. The choice is up to us.