One of my favorite people in the Christmas story from St. Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2, is Simeon. We read that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would see the long-awaited Messiah before he died. In the Christmas story, we see that Simeon comes to Mary and Joseph, and takes their little baby from them.
I am sure they were shocked. Who knows the number of parents that brought their first-born baby boys into the temple on the day that Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to God. How could Simeon pick the baby Jesus out of the crowd? In verse 30, Simeon says, “For my eyes have seen your salvation.” What was it that Simeon’s old eyes saw? He is seeing a little baby. On the outside, there was nothing special about this baby. Just a little baby boy with five small toes on each foot and five little fingers on each hand, probably with a small mop of hair on His head. I even imagine a small mop of red hair. But when Simeon looks at the baby Jesus he obviously sees much more than just a little baby. “My eyes have seen your salvation.”
That word “see” is important. It means to perceive, to know, to understand. The Holy Spirit of God that moved Simeon to go to the temple at the very moment when Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were arriving helped him see more than just a little baby.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Simeon sees that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies: that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Immanuel, the God who is with us, and the “wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” foretold centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah. Simeon miraculously sees with his own eyes what God’s people waited centuries to see, and what Simeon himself waited an entire lifetime to see. Simeon sees that God is a wonderful and loving God Who keeps His promises.
Simeon sees even more. He sees the wonderful miracles that Jesus will be doing. He sees that Jesus will heal the blind, the lame, the sick, and the lepers. Simeon sees that Jesus will even raise the dead to life. Simeon hears the wonderful news that Jesus will be bringing. Good News of God’s love and forgiveness to the poor, the prisoners, and the outcasts of society. Simeon sees the love that Jesus will show to people like Zacchaeus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, a Roman centurion, prostitutes, a woman caught in adultery, and to you and me.
Simeon sees still more. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Simeon sees the cross and the grave, and His resurrection on the first Easter. Simeon sees that Jesus is the Suffering Servant Who would die for our sins, as anticipated by the prophets. He sees in the baby Jesus that one day He would be despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with grief, as Isaiah foretold centuries earlier. Simeon sees that Jesus will be hated. In Luke 2:31, Simeon sees that Jesus is “the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” Simeon sees that the baby Jesus will also be a Savior for those from every tribe and nation, language and people who also long for God.
Simeon also saw a world not unlike ours. A world full of war and terror, of death, of great poverty, where children kill and are killed. Simeon saw a world desperate with hurt and pain and immorality. He sees the terrible human tragedies that come from violence, illness, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes.
As Simeon sees the baby Jesus, he is ready to meet God, His maker, and can die in peace. Why? Because Simeon not only sees, but also believes. He believes Jesus is the Savior. Simeon believes that Jesus is the Messiah. He believes that this little baby Jesus is the Son of God.
This Christmas, we have much to learn from Simeon. As we look at the commercialism, the tinsel, the shopping, the traffic, the frenetic pace, the soon-to-come high credit card bills, can you look at the baby Jesus laying in the crèche at our church this Christmas and say, with Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” Can we say today with Simeon, “I can die in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” You don’t have to be holding the baby Jesus in your arms to say that. You just have to hold Jesus in your heart by faith. You just have to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. And, as Simeon teaches us, you are never too old, or too young, to see God’s salvation. So, this year, let’s celebrate the Giver of Salvation: the Christ of Christmas. The true Christ of Christmas is God’s salvation for you.
Merry Christmas, Everyone.