by Pastor Eric Isaac
One of the challenges I face around this time of year is figuring out what sort of gifts I want for Christmas. My wife, my mom, and my sister like buying gifts for people. They also like being organized and making lists, so some time between Canada Day and Thanksgiving Day they tell me to write down what I want for Christmas. This is a problem because last Christmas I didn’t know what I wanted and this year I have more stuff than I did last year.
In Luke 2:22-32 we meet an old character named Simeon. If there had been Christmas and Christmas gifts in his time I wonder if he would have been a hard person for which to buy. Though he had less than us, I wonder if the list with his name on it would have been empty or at least mostly empty.
It seems that there was only one thing Simeon wanted. If there had been Christmas and Christmas gifts and if he had had a sister who prodded him a bit and said, “Come on Simeon, there must be something you want.” what would he have done? Maybe, with a bit of smirk on his face, he would have finally written, “I’d like to see the Messiah.” Seeing the Messiah seemed to be the only thing that mattered to Simeon.
A Wish Come True
Simeon was probably an old man by the time Jesus was born. Luke tells us that he was devout and righteous and that the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon he would not die before he had seen the Messiah.
One day, when Jesus was about 40 days old, Joseph and Mary went to the temple to dedicate their firstborn son. This was the ordinary thing for an obedient Jewish family to do (Lev.12). It was on this day that Simeon was “moved by the Spirit” and went to the temple courts (2:27). It was on that day that Simeon’s Christmas wish came true.
Simeon’s ‘Bucket List’
When Simeon saw the baby Messiah he held him and praised God. However, his first words of praise might sound weird to us. He said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace” (2:29). In other words, “Lord, you have kept your promise. I’ve seen your Messiah and I’m ready to die now.”
Remember that imaginary Christmas list of Simeon’s with only one item? His “bucket list” also only had one item. Some of us have vacations we want to take, sights we want to see, and accomplishments we want to achieve before we “kick the bucket.” Not so with Simeon. He had wanted to see the Messiah. Now he had done so. Therefore, he was ready to die.
Who This Messiah Would Be
Simeon’s words of praise were also prophetic words about who the Messiah would be. In verse 30 Simeon said, “For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon looked at Baby Jesus and simply said, “God, I have seen your salvation.” Notice Simeon did not announce, “God, I have seen part of your salvation plan,” or “God, I have seen the one who will show us salvation.” He simply said, “God, I have seen your salvation.” Period.
Simeon announced, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations” (2:30-31). God sent Jesus to earth because He wants all people to be saved regardless of their ethnicity, religious history or worldview.
No Favourite Culture
Unlike many people, God does not have a favourite culture, ethnicity or country. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that there is at least a hint of racism or ethnocentrism in our hearts. Ethnocentrism is when someone views the world with the belief that their culture is superior to others.
Consequently, racism and ethnocentrism are almost everywhere in this world. But they do not exist in heaven. Therefore, God sent Jesus to earth because he wants all people to be saved. As Simeon put it, “God prepared this in the sight of all nations.”
Simeon also declared that Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (2:32). Jesus would reveal truth to the Gentiles, the non-Jews. He would give them understanding about God’s character and how he acts in the lives of people.
Unlike the Gentiles, the people of Israel had Moses and the prophets, so they had a clearer understanding o f God and needed revelation less than the Gentiles did. Simeon announced that Jesus would be revelation for the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.
Fixed on the Messiah
Jesus was the one that made Israel most praiseworthy. The Israelites were proud of their kings and their great prophets, but if they really understood who Jesus was they would be proud of him the most. They would say, “Moses was great, King David was great, but Jesus is the greatest of them all. Jesus is the one who makes Israel great.”
During this season may this passage help us see two important aspects of the Christian life. First, may it help us to see how our eyes should be fixed on the Messiah. Simeon’s deepest longing, maybe his only longing, was to see the Messiah. Everything else was second place in comparison to this.
May we be able to repeat what the Apostle Paul said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). May we see that living the Christian life means “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2).
Second, may we also see that the Jesus, on whom we are fixing our eyes, came for all peoples.
May our whole lives agree with the Apostle Peter when he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). May we see that living the Christian life means accepting and loving all people, no matter how different they are from us.
Eric Isaac loves his wife Jennifer and their three children (James, Clara, and Emily). He graduated from Steinbach Bible College (BA, Pastoral Ministries) and is pastoring the Morweena EMC in Manitoba’s Interlake region.