Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Skip Heitzig: Let's pray together. Father, we are in awe of the sacrifice of the cross. And though we consider the crib, the manger, this time of the year, we don't really see the crib clearly until we understand the purpose of the crib was the cross. And the shadow of the cross falls upon that little baby in the manger. And, Lord, we celebrate; we celebrate the fact that one sacrifice for all time is all that was required. As Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished," and we rejoice in that and partake of that this morning, in Jesus' name, amen.
I guess I should say welcome to the strangest baby dedication in history. In Luke, chapter 2, we have a story of a baby dedication. A senior citizen by the name of Simeon taking in his arms a young baby, and saying the kind of things that will not only shock parents, as you'll see in the text, they marvel at it. But I think a lot of parents would say, "Uh, can I have my baby back now, please?" Simeon is a great story. He's a man who was in the temple and he was waiting for something to happen and someone to show up.
But, you know, Simeon isn't a name we typically associate with the Christmas story. He would be like the backstage crew. If this were a movie, Simeon would have the small letters; his name would be in small letters in the credits. He wouldn't be one of the stars of the film. Most people don't see a movie and wait around to see who the musical researcher on the film was, or who the second grip, or the fill-in guys were. You know, the stars of the Christmas story were, of course, Jesus the baby, Joseph and Mary, wise men, shepherds. Even sheep and cows get a higher billing than Simeon does.
But I'm drawn to Simeon. I'm drawn to his story, because I believe he captures the real spirit of Christmas. He was in tune with God when nobody else was. Think about it, the most important person ever born, Jesus Christ, when he came into the world, Caesar in Rome knew nothing about it; the Roman senate, ignorant about it. The philosophers in Athens could care less. Even the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were too apathetic to find out who this baby was. And Herod the Great who reigned in Judea, he was too paranoid.
But Simeon was among a special group of people who had insight that God was about to send someone and do something great. I want you to notice that as we begin in Luke chapter 2 verse 25. "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And so he came by the Spirit into the temple."
"And when the parents," [that's Joseph and Mary], "brought in the Child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him by his arms and blessed God and said: 'Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.' And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him."
"Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, '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), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.' "Briefly, before we pass out these elements, I want you to see with me this man Simeon: his description, his proclamation, and his prediction. Who was this man? Let's describe him. Let's get an idea of what he was like.
First of all, on a personal note, what did he look like? We're not told. We can't be sure. How old was he? Well, it doesn't say. Although, there were a couple of hints I want you to notice. We can infer from the text that Simeon was probably a senior citizen, an older man. You'll notice in verse 26 that the Holy Spirit indicated "that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." And then you'll notice down in verse 29 he prays, "You are letting your servant depart in peace." So, the fact that it speaks of death and departure, we can infer that he was an older man who had been waiting for a long time.
If you were to picture him in your mind, you would have to picture an old man with a white beard. Because Jewish men kept their beards long, according to the book of Leviticus, they didn't shave the corners of their beards. So, just think about that---Christmas time, an old man with a white beard. See, you're thinking of somebody else, [laughter] because Santa Claus has taken higher billing than Simeon has over the years. But I want you to know something: if Santa Claus were here today, he'd be embarrassed at what we have made him into overtime. Now, you're thinking, "Now, wait, wait, wait. Skip, don't you know that Santa Claus is not real?"
Actually, I disagree with you---he is real. At least the original one was real. Now a lot of stories have come up after him, but actually in the fourth century there was a man by the name of Nicholas who was a pastor. Nicholas was a pastor of Myra, in the area of Lycia, in the area of Anatolia. You're saying, "I have no idea what you just said." That's modern-day Turkey, ancient Asia Minor. This man was a pastor known for compassion, giving gifts, especially to the poor. And out of that grew Saint Nicholas; out of that grew Sinterklaas, the Dutch called him; and out of that came Santa Claus. But he was compassionate and gave gifts because he loved the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was reading a USA Today article that talked about atheists that are feeling a little bit out of sorts right now, because they have a reputation they're trying to overturn. Their reputation is that atheists are sort of stingy and "bah, humbug" and penny-pinchers. And that's because, well, it's true, they are. According to this article, it says this: "Religious people are 25 percent more likely to donate money to important causes than are secularists. Twenty-three percent are more likely to volunteer for important things to do."
And they want to change that. They want to give society the impression that they, the atheists, are as loving and giving as people of faith are. That's what they're working on. But Nicholas, the old man with the white beard from the fourth century, was giving and loving and compassionate because he had a relationship with Christ. This old man with a white beard, Simeon, is about to discover Jesus Christ in the story. Now, look at verse 25. His description is given not physically, but spiritually.
It says, "Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just," [another word would be righteous], "and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." And I don't know if you picked it up, but three times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in conjunction with this man. That's the first time. The next verse says, "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." Verse 27, "So he came by the Spirit into the temple."
Here's what's interesting: though the text does not give us an outward description of Simeon, it gives us an inward description of Simeon. You know why that is? Because that's what God is more concerned with in your life is your inward life, not your outward look. Remember what the prophet said. "Samuel," he said, "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." That's what God is concerned with. And so that description is given to us right here.
We are as a culture; we are as human beings, very appearance oriented. We really spend a lot of our time in the mirror. That's why mirrors are so popular. That's why we have so many of them in our lives, not only at home, but in our cars. I was going down the street the other day and I saw somebody putting on makeup while they were driving. Like, they were at a stoplight putting makeup on. And you thought texting was bad. I think this kind of ranks as worse. But it says that Simeon was "waiting for the Consolation of Israel."
What does that mean? Simply, he was waiting for the Messiah to come. There was an ancient Jewish prayer that said: "May I see in my lifetime the Consolation of Israel." It was a messianic hope. And that's who he was. But he was also described supernaturally. In verse 26, "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's [Messiah or] Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and he said."
So this old guy would be in the temple every day looking around at people who are bringing their babies in, kind of scoping them out, thinking in his heart and saying under his breath, "Lord, could that be the one? What about that one over there? Maybe it's that one." Every day living with that anticipation, until one day a poor couple comes in, Joseph and Mary, and the Holy Spirit of God impressed upon his heart---"That's the One." So, I don't know how it happened, but perhaps awkwardly Simeon moved his way toward Joseph and Mary, and said something like, "Ahem, excuse me. I know this sounds really weird, but can I hold your baby for just a moment?"
And he took that baby in his arms, maybe raising Jesus up slightly, and uttered this incredible poem that we have before us. In verse 29, he says, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." In other words, "Lord, I can die a happy man. You've kept your promise to me."
If my chronology is correct, and I am correct in assuming the age of Simeon somewhere older, maybe in his eighties, as Anna who is also described in this chapter, that would mean that Simeon would have been just a wee lad, a little boy when the Romans first came in and occupied Jerusalem. In 63 BC, General Pompey surrounded the city destroying much of it, killing many of its inhabitants. Simeon as a child survived, but he never forgot that. And though that was a crushing blow to the Jewish people, he lived with hope that one day things are going to change, that God is going to send his Messiah that life is going to get better than it is now, that God is going to keep his promises.
You know, anybody can make a promise; God's great at keeping them. And one thing Christmas does is celebrate the faithfulness of God. That's been really my testimony over the years. I can say through all of the storms in life God has been faithful. Whenever you lean on everlasting arms, you won't fall on your face in despair, and Simeon will testify to that. Notice what he says of this baby. Holding him up, he says, "My eyes have seen your salvation"---stop right there. Simeon calls this baby "God's salvation." If he were speaking Greek, he would have used the word sótérion. That's the word in the Greek text.
But I believe he was speaking Hebrew, and it's translated into Greek, because that was the lingua franca of the time. But he was speaking Hebrew. He was a Hebrew man in the Hebrew temple, and that was the language of worship, which means he would have held Jesus up and said, "My eyes have seen your Yeshua." That's the name of Jesus---Yeshua. "You will call his name [Yeshua] Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Now, think about this: "My eyes have seen your salvation." Salvation is not something you do, it's someone you know. Salvation is a person.
It's not something you do, it's someone you know. Jesus never said, "My example in life, my exemplary lifestyle is the way, the truth, and the life"; he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus never said, "Follow my teachings"; he said "Follow me." He personally is God's salvation. Peter later on will say, "There is no other name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved," except for the name of Jesus Christ. So this little baby, God wrapped in human flesh, is God's gift to you. Have you received and opened that gift?
Because in taking communion you are saying, "I have personalized that." Look at verse 32 for a moment. Simeon goes on and says, "A light [he is a light] to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." Who are Gentiles? Gentiles are anybody that's not Israel. So Jew and Gentile, for anyone in the world, this baby is salvation for. Have you ever heard people say, "You know, Christianity is a Western religion." First of all, they don't know their history nor their geography.
We're talking about something that happened in the Middle East a long time ago; in the Middle East, not a Western religion. If anything, it's an Eastern religion. But it's not a religion; it's a relationship with Jesus Christ. And it's not for one group of people, it's for all groups of people---all 24,000 people groups right now on the earth this salvation is for. For everyone---"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." That's the gospel. Jesus will tell his disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature, every person."
He's the light. Jesus Christ is God's flashlight to get people out of their darkness into his light. I read an article the other day in a newspaper about a diver in Hawaii, off the shores of Oahu, named Ron Tubbs. His line, his diving line broke, and he was taken by current out to sea, miles out to sea, and nightfall came. It became dark and the Coast Guard didn't know where he was. Luckily, Ron had this little flashlight with him, and he was able to shine it up in the sky, and the Coast Guard saw him. And they said, "If he didn't shine that flashlight, he would have been dead because of the darkness and the sea long ago."
The only flashlight God will recognize is that of his Son. And I hope he's shining in your life. Now, let's look and finish off with---before we take the elements---with his prediction. Look at verse 33. "Joseph and his mother," that's Mary, "marveled," they were blown away, "at those things which were spoken of him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that will be spoken against." I'll give it to you in another translation: "This child will be rejected by many, and will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to others."
Now, imagine you bringing your baby for dedication, and the preacher takes your baby and says something like this: "This baby is going to be the most hated person as well as the most loved person who ever lived." You're thinking, "Give me my baby back right now!" But that's exactly what he is saying: "This child will be hated. This child will be loved." Don't you find that true today that Jesus Christ is still the most hated as well as the most loved individual of all time. Just mention the name of Jesus in the public forum and watch the reaction.
Those that know him and love him are comforted by that name, but for others it brings such ire, such anger---loved and hated. But I want to draw your attention in closing to verse 35, because it's the first hint of the cross for Mary and Joseph to hear. "Yes," he says to Mary, "(Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." I believe that's a prediction of the day when Mary will stand underneath the cross and see her Son displayed, bleeding, and it's like a dagger that will break her heart.
The shadow of the cross falls upon the baby. If you want to see the crib clearly, you must see the cross. That's why we dare to take communion during December, because it captures really the meaning of his birth---the cross and the crib. About three or four days ago in New Jersey, Trenton, New Jersey, a forty-two-year-old man was stabbed in the back. He didn't know it. He went to sleep one night---well, let me tell you the whole story. He was on his porch, an attacker came. He saw the attacker run away, thinking he had won the fight.
He had a pain in his back, and the reason---you say, "Well, he didn't know there was knife in his back?" He was so inebriated he just went inside and fell asleep. But he had a back pain; he woke up the next day. His brother found him, took him to a hospital, and removed the knife that was causing the pain. True story, it was in the New York Post. Crazy, huh? But Mary the mother of Jesus would have a pain in her heart, a broken heart, an emotional pain, and she felt every twinge of it.
These elements speak of that---that that baby grew up and was crucified. And in seeing him die, Mary's heart was broken. But his death also heals our broken hearts. It heals our hearts. Somebody once said, "Christmas is God coming down the stairs of heaven with a baby in his arms." For Simeon, Christmas was him holding in his own arms that baby, receiving for himself the Lord Jesus. It could be that some of you, like Simeon, have waited for a long time for consolation, for salvation. Maybe you're at a point in your life where everything you've tried falls flat, every experience doesn't satisfy.
You're still living with your past and the burden of your own sin. Salvation has come. God's Consolation has come. His name is Jesus. He didn't come just to be a baby, but to grow up and die on a cross. And that will bring you consolation, and it will bring you salvation. If you don't know the Lord on a personal level this morning, I'm going to ask that you let these elements go by you, and that you don't partake. Because in taking these elements, you're saying, "I'm all in. I buy into this." If you don't, then don't take them. But I have a better solution---give your heart to Christ right now. Don't wait any longer. Don't wait another day, don't wait another second.
Let's bow our hearts. Let's bow our heads. If you don't know the Lord, and you are willing to give him your life and receive forgiveness for your sin, if you're willing to do that, it's simple, because he did all the heavy lifting. You have to receive the gift of salvation. And if you're willing to do that, you say to him right now: Lord, I know that I'm a sinner and I ask that you would forgive me, cleanse me. I'm willing to turn from my sin and turn to you. I believe Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead. I place my trust in him; I depend upon him, and help me to follow him, in Jesus' name, amen.
Some of you just uttered that prayer in your own heart. You whispered that to God, maybe for the first time. You're his child, and we want you to take this communion along with the rest of us freely. And for all of us it is a holy commemoration, and living memory of what he has done for us, and it's our celebration. So, we're going to pass these out. These guys are going to pass them out to you and we're going to ask you to hold on to the wafer and the juice, and just hold on to them until we can all take them together.
As you hold this wafer in your hands, we pray, and we say Lord, just as Simeon said "Lord, now I can die in peace. I've seen your salvation," so we have tasted, we have taken; we have experienced salvation in our lives. We remember what it felt like to have a burden of guilt lifted. And we're so thankful that because of an act done once for all time on Calvary's cross, a body broken, brings new life. Lord, we take this bread in remembrance of your body broken, and are so grateful that your plan for the world included us. We're in your family. And we take this in gratitude, in Jesus' name, amen. Let's take the bread together.
And we hold the cup. The cup represents the blood that was shed, Jesus who lived the perfect life and then died in our place. It was his blood that was shed. We take and we remember that the Bible says "God laid on him the iniquity of us all." Lord, we're so thankful that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses a man, a woman, from all sin. We know our faults and our failures. We bear a constant reminder and a remembrance of them on a daily basis. And for those things, Lord, that we're not in tune with, in touch with, we invite your Holy Spirit to remind us of them now so we can confess them to you and walk away in freedom, cleansed. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus' name. Let's take together.
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.