25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he would see the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus so that they could do for him according to what was customary under the law, 28 he took him in his arms and praised God and said,
29 “Now dismiss your slave in peace, Lord,
according to your word.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and mother were astonished at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed—35 and a sword will pierce your own soul also, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed!”Luke 2:25-35
“Simeon’s Song: How Did God Do It?”
by Alistair Begg
Of all the things that are said when someone takes a little baby into their arms, many are quite silly and said out of embarrassment. We don’t know what to say and so we just come out with, “My, he has his mother’s nose” or, “Can you believe how much hair he has?” or whatever else. Older men are often the worst at knowing what to say in this situation (I know, because I am one of them).
But our fourth and final “singer” was in no doubt about what he would say when he held the infant Jesus in his arms the first time Jesus was brought to Jerusalem, the capital, and to the temple, the center of Jewish religious life. His name was Simeon. He was a devout believer in God. He was patiently waiting for the promises God had made to be fulfilled. And not only that, but God’s Holy Spirit had told him that he wouldn’t die until he saw these promises begin to unfold on the pages of history.
The angels had brought the news that a Savior had been born. Likewise, Simeon announces the truth that he is looking at God’s salvation, lying in his arms. And Simeon understands that this Savior has come to save not only “your people Israel”—the ancient people of God, the descendants of Abraham—but he has also come “to the Gentiles”—everyone else. If you carry on reading Luke’s Gospel, you find the adult Jesus living this out. People think he’s going to go for the religious folks, and he doesn’t—he hangs out with the irreligious folks. People think he’s going to go for the people who are doing their best, but he doesn’t—he welcomes the people who have done worst. That’s because he has come to bring to light and then deal with their greatest problem, whether they are religious or irreligious, good or bad—their sin. As the angels promised, this child would be good news of great joy for all people. There is no one who does not need Jesus to offer them salvation, and no one to whom he does not offer that salvation.
So this old man is now content to die. He has been waiting his whole life for this one sight, and now he has seen it—the Sovereign Lord’s salvation, in the shape of a human, lying in his arms.
Your Heart will Break
But Simeon did not only speak of salvation. He spoke of suffering too. He had more to say to Mary…. He was explaining, or rather hinting at, what was to come—not just announcing that this child would bring salvation, but hinting at what it would cost him to bring it. He was the child who would cause many to fall, and others to rise. He would reveal the deep secrets, and the true attitude towards God, that lies in every human heart. He would be opposed verbally; and one day, his mother’s soul would be torn apart emotionally. Imagine taking a newborn child in your arms, then looking at his mom and saying, One day, your heart will break because of this child. That is what Simeon is warning of here. He does not tell Mary what will happen; but he does tell Mary how it will feel.
Easter at Christmas
My guess is that Mary never forgot Simeon’s words, nor that she really understood them, until the other end of her child’s life. As an adult, the one who had lain in the devout Simeon’s cradling arms was hung from a cruel Roman cross. But this is Easter—and isn’t this a book about Christmas?! Yes, but unless you understand the events of Easter, you’ll never grasp the heart of Christmas. Simeon understood that—which is why he pointed forwards to Good Friday even as he welcomed the baby at the center of Christmas. Simeon is pointing us to how God redeemed his people….
And this is why the wooden food trough led to the wooden cross, and why you will never get to the heart of Christmas if you don’t grasp the meaning of Easter. Christianity is not good advice about what we should do. It is the good news of what Christ has done. Christianity does not proclaim that you are worth saving or able to save yourself. It announces that God is mighty to save.
Do you like paying bills? I actually love it—I think it is because of the satisfaction and relief of getting it dealt with. I don’t like that I have to pay the bill—but I do like getting the bill paid. And it is especially satisfying to pay a bill in person. You walk over to the counter and you pay for it, and then you have the joy of seeing someone take your bill and write PAID. I prefer it actually when it is a stamp that stamps PAID in red with double circles.
As long as I have that bill marked PAID, no one can make me pay again. It’s been settled. It is all over, paid for, in the past.
And three days after the events that must have pierced Mary’s soul, God stamped PAID unmistakably against all the sins I have committed, all the debt I owe to him. After all, the death of Jesus could have been merely a tragic incident. The afternoon darkness and the ripped-apart curtain could have been sheer coincidences. Within hours, his corpse lay cold in a tomb. But three days later, God the Father left no one in any doubt that he had accepted Jesus’ payment for sinners’ debts—that the price to free sinners had been paid:
1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” (Luke 24 v 1–7)
Luke’s Gospel finishes in a very similar place to where it began. We began with angels appearing, and we finish the same way. We began with an angel announcing the presence of life where it is, humanly-speaking, impossible—in the wombs of a woman who was infertile and a woman who was a virgin. We finish with angels announcing the presence of life in a tomb—the resurrection of a crucified criminal to eternal glory.
And between the events of the first Christmas Eve and the first Easter Sunday, Simeon’s words had come true. Jesus had reached out to those who were outsiders, excluded. He had been opposed. He had revealed what people really believed. Physical nails had pierced his hands as an emotional sword pierced the soul of his watching mother. And, as he hung on the cross, he had redeemed his people—he died the death that tore the curtain and he paid the price that bought the salvation that Simeon had spoken of all those years before.
He died on that cross because Simeon, Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds, you and I are sinners—and because he loves them, and us, anyway.
 Alistair Begg, Christmas Playlist: Four Songs That Bring You to the Heart of Christmas (The Good Book Company, 2016), 51–64.