When Jesus was presented at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses, there was a righteous man there named Simeon. He had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke says, “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26 ESV).
Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple” and when he saw Jesus, he took him up in his arms and blessed God, saying, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; from my eyes have seen your salvation that you prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (vs. 29-32).
This blessing is profound because the man recognized Jesus right away, he makes sure that people know it was according to God’s word, and he mentions that God’s salvation was prepared in the presence of all peoples. God did not hide Jesus or do this in secret. John’s entire gospel account is rooted in the fact that God made these things clear to everyone and did nothing to hide His son. Christ came for everyone but few will obey. God’s salvation is for everyone who will repent and believe in Christ. His is our salvation.
When we think about the birth of Jesus this time of year most people focus on the joy that Jesus brought. And it certainly is good to focus on the joy of his birth and our salvation. This season is filled with decoration, family time, presents, and talk of our Lord and Savior. There was a lot of talk when Christ was born because people had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. The Jewish people were well aware of prophecies that pointed to a Messiah.
What took the world by surprise, however, was the edict by King Herod to have al the male children in Bethlehem killed: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16 ESV).
This dark time in Israel added to the people’s pain, desperation, and need for consolation. They had endured so much at the hands of evil people and were waiting for a savior to come. Jesus was not born in a vacuum. He was born during a very dark time and even was himself at risk. His parents fled to Egypt for a long time. When they returned Joseph was too afraid to go to Judea and was warned in a dream to divert to Galilee. It should give us comfort to know that God hears the cries of his people, to understand that Christ came to bring salvation to a suffering world. There are plenty of people today who are desperate for the Savior to rescue them. We should remember the people who are suffering as we celebrate the birth of Christ.
Matthew recorded the birth of Jesus. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, assuring him that he shouldn’t fear to take Mary as his wife. The angel said, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 ESV). This is literally the best news for mankind! God is the author of life. Sin leads to death. Since we all sin, we need a savior who can save us from our own sins.
That God loved us enough to send his son to take away our sins is a miracle. Sin is destructive. It always harms people, breaks up relationships, and can even lead to self-harm. Being freed from all of our sins is a gift unlike any other. Eternal salvation is something we can’t really comprehend. To worship God for the rest of eternity is the best gift we can ever be given.
As we celebrate Christmas, it’s a reminder of how blessed we are that we serve a God who rescued us from our sins. It’s a time to reflect and share in our blessings with others. Because God loves us, we should take time to share gifts with others who are less fortunate. Many people will spend Christmas alone. We need to remember and bless them in the name of Jesus.
We all know the verse: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). God didn’t just give His son on the cross, but he gave him in birth too. The depth of love that God has for us is difficult for us to grasp.
When the birth of Christ was announced, it was great news for the Jewish people who had been waiting for the Messiah to come. We especially see this with a man named Simeon, “and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). Simeon was told that he wouldn’t die until he was able to see the baby Jesus. When he did, he took him in his arms and blessed him.
Jesus’ life was rooted in justice and righteousness, and his love flowed from that foundation. Love required him to radically defend the innocent and vulnerable, to heal the sick and care for the poor and downtrodden. This is what love looks like. Love is a fierce defender. Ultimate love saves. As we look towards the birth of Jesus, we most definitely need to focus on his love!
As we draw closer to Christmas, Christians around the world are celebrating Christ’s birth and are anticipating his return. Last week we talked about the start of Advent, which comes from a Latin word meaning “coming.” We begin Advent by anticipating Christ’s second coming and work our way backwards to his birth (first coming). Peace is the theme for this week, and it’s a timely one as we look at what is happening all over. Many Christians are being persecuted and multiple countries are actively engaged in warfare.
During Isaiah’s time, the Israelites were being pursued by the Assyrians and the North (10 northern tribes) fell in 722 B.C. Through Isaiah, God was warning those in the south that the same thing was going to happen to them if they didn’t repent. But mixed in with stern warnings to repent were messages of hope and peace, of what should be in the future. God didn’t create us to tear each other apart and destroy. He created us to be kind, compassionate, and merciful.
Isaiah 40 is an anticipation of a time when the Messiah would come and restore peace: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1, 2 ESV).
Isaiah 40 ends with the infamous passage that he gives power to the faint, and increases the strength of those with no might. . . “but they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (vs. 31). This was Jesus’ ministry when he came. He strengthened the weak, healed the injured, and restored peace. Like Israel, we await a time when perfect peace is restored.
Christmas is a time when people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, Messiah. He is the savior of mankind, and certainly is worth celebrating. But we can’t forget that the reason there was such a high anticipation for the Savior to come is because people were living in desperation, having been ravished by Assyrian and Babylonian captors and seeing the daily oppression that was their new reality. It wasn’t just sin that mankind needed saved from. It was oppression and a lack of justice.
Isaiah 59 foretells a time when the Christ will come: “‘And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 59:20 ESV). Before the Light came, there was darkness. The people were despondent from living in utter darkness for so long.
Isaiah painted the grim reality: “We hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. . . We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (Isaiah 59:9-11).
If we truly are going to get into the Christmas spirit, we need to remember the oppressed. We need to reach out to those who are destitute and feed and clothe them. Jesus can’t be reduced to a Christmas tree and lawn ornaments. The reason we celebrate a savior is because people needed a savior. They needed a protector and defender. They needed a savior who was willing to lay his life down for others. Always remember the reason for the season.
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