For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Songs of Christmas: Conclusion

As much as most folks look forward to Christmas and to all the activity, most also tend to dread the days that follow.  We spend so much time and energy on the various celebrations, that once it’s over, there is a kind an attitude of “Christmas is over, now what.” So many people struggle with the post-holiday let down. 

I did a little search on Post-Christmas Blues and I found hundreds upon hundreds of articles and blog entries dealing with the subject. Maybe you’ve never suffered the post-holiday disappointment that so many others feel.  Personally, I’ve never had a bad case of it, but I do admit that there is something a little depressing about taking down all the decorations and staring at the blank walls again.

Anyway, one way that we can address the issue is simply to remind ourselves that the events we celebrate at Christmas don’t represent the ending of anything, but only the beginning.  Christmas isn’t over, because the coming of the Christ child is only the beginning of what it was that God was doing at that moment in history.  And the reason for His doing it was intended to have lasting, even eternal, effects.

So on this day after Christmas, I want to focus on the continuing story with one last look at the songs of Christmas recorded in Luke’s gospel.  I’ve already posted about the songs Zechariah, and Mary, and the angels.  Now I want to consider what happened after the angels left and the shepherds went back to their fields.  Luke tells us that once that time had been completed, Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord in the Temple. When they arrive they meet a man in the temple who has one last song to offer regarding this child who was born.  Even though the Christmas story proper may be over, this last song is a reminder that what God is doing is only beginning.  The story is continuing.  In a way it answers the question, so what do we do now?  Here, then is Simeon’s Song:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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. And he came in 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 said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:25-32, ESV)

Simeon is a devout man of God.  He is a man that God has clearly spoken to.  And though he wasn’t there the night Jesus was born, he is very much a part of this Christmas story.  He has been waiting a long time for this.  And he has some things to say in the praise he offers to God that help us to be reminded of what this all means; what this child is about.  The song says, “What child is this?”  Well, Simeon tells us.

I. He says of Jesus that HE IS A CHILD OF PROVIDENCE.  His address to his Lord shows that Simeon recognizes that all of this has happened in accordance with the will and way of the Sovereign Lord of the universe. From the beginning of his praise God, he recognizes the hand of God at work.  This is His doing.  This is part of His plan. Indeed Scripture is clear that the sending of His Son was the plan from the very beginning. And what God had ordained, His providential hand guided and directed the events of history to carry out. 

Have you ever stopped and thought about all the would be coincidences that come together in the Christ event.  It just so happens that Caesar has called for a census that will require Joseph to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem which is where the Messiah is to be born; and right at the time Mary is expecting. It just happens that Rome is in charge of the world at the time, which brings into being the punishment of crucifixion which Jesus will endure; a punishment perfectly described in Psalm 22 before it ever existed.  The Empire has brought about peace and safety for travel making the spread of the gospel message at this time more effective than at any other time in history up to that point.  It almost seems like somebody planned it that way, doesn’t.

And of course, Somebody did. Jesus’ birth is no accident.  The timing of it is no accident.  The events surrounding it are no accident.  And all that will follow in the life of this newborn child is no accident.  In fact, all that has happened down to this very day is no accident, because our Sovereign God is still at work bringing about His plans and His purposes for His glory in all things. 

Simeon knows this to be true because He knows His Scriptures.  He knows God has been planning all this.  Furthermore, God has promised Him directly that He would see at least the beginning of God’s fulfillment of this plan.  Which leads to the second thing seen in this song about Jesus.

II. HE IS A CHILD OF PROMISE.  Simeon sings that his life is now complete.  He is now free to depart this life in peace, he says.  Why?  Because he has seen the answer to God’s promise. He knows His Scripture.  He knows the prophecies concerning the coming Christ.  He knows that God has promised to send His Messiah.  God promised, and God is always faithful to His promises.

As 17th century Puritan Timothy Cruso said: “Promises, though they be for a time seemingly delayed, cannot be finally frustrated. . . . the heart of God is not turned though His face be hid.  He said, “The being of God may as well fail as the promise of God.”

God would cease to be God if He were not faithful to His word.  Simeon knows that.  He has seen the fulfillment of it.  This child, this Christ of Christmas is the proof of it.  And that proof carries beyond just this holiday.  Furthermore, Simeon recognizes the truth that this Sovereign God, in his providential plan, had promised not only to send this child, but to send Him for a reason.

III. HE IS A CHILD OF PURPOSE.  Simeon was waiting for the “consolation of Israel.”  What Luke means by that is that he was looking forward to the inauguration of the Messianic age.  He was looking forward to the redemption of his people, and knew that would only come through God’s Messiah. 

God didn’t take on flesh simply to make a spectacular statement.  He didn’t come simply so we could blow our budgets on gifts we don’t even need once a year; so that we could decorate and celebrate and all that.  Not that there is anything wrong with Christmas celebrations.  That’s all fine and good. But in the midst of our celebrating let’s remember the purpose, the reason he came.  Jesus Himself summarized it quite plainly in Luke 19:10, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. 

That simple little verse is the gospel message in a nutshell.  It reminds us that we are indeed lost.  The state of man apart from God is one of complete depravity and lostness. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.  Because we are lost, because we are bound by sin and enslaved by the enemy of God, the Son of Man came.  He was born as a babe in order to one day die as a sacrifice; to give his life in atonement, as a substitute in our place.

No wonder Simeon was so overjoyed.  He looked on this child and he saw the salvation God was bringing.  He may not have known the details, and every indication is that he didn’t live long enough in this world to see any of it come to be; but he knew this was a child of purpose.  He knew this child was born of God to save the children of God. And because of that, Simeon recognizes one last thing about the infant Jesus.

IV. HE IS A CHILD OF PREEMINENCE.  He is a child of superiority, of incomparability, of supremacy.   Whatever synonym you want to use, this child who is born is above and beyond everything else in all of creation. He is first. Not only is Jesus part of the plan, he is the plan and the promise, and everything is focused on Him.  Everything was created by Him and for Him.  He is not only the Son of God, but God the Son, the eternal one, the focal point of all of life and all of history and all of the future.  As I tell our church again and again, it’s all about Him; all about Christ; all about God.

Now, you ask, how did you get that from the words of Simeon’s song?  I’m glad you asked.  The first word of this sentence in Greek is not the word Lord that most English translations start with.  It’s the word “Now.”  Now, Lord.  The “now” is emphatic.  Now, finally, this is the moment.  The moment for what?  The coming of the Messiah?  Yes, but look at the rest of the sentence. Now, Sovereign Lord, let your servant depart in piece; Now dismiss your servant.  That’s a Semitic phrase which means, “let me die.”  Now, Lord, finally, I can die in piece?  Why?  Because He has seen the salvation He has been promised.  He has seen the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose.  And that fulfillment is greater than anything else in all of creation, even his own life.

In light of the glory of salvation in Christ, nothing else matter, not even life in this world.  Jesus is preeminent. He is greater and grander and more glorious than anything else in all the universe.  Which is why Paul could say in Philippians 3, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ(Php 3:7-8).  He is our treasure.  He is our hope.  He is the light of revelation and the glory of Israel.  He is the glory of the church.  Who or what do we have but Christ?  Nothing apart from Him.

Christmas is over.  The celebrations have ended.  The decoration will come down.  The presents will begin to wear out.  The food is either consumed or goes bad.  So now what?  The answer to that question is found in another:  who is this child?  Who do you say that He is?  Who is Christ to you?
Do you know Him as the child of providence, sent by the Sovereign had of God; the child of promise, sent to fulfill the plan of God; the child of purpose, sent to bring Salvation to the people of God; and the child of preeminence, sent to take first place in your life?  Is Christ preeminent in your life?  Is He your all in all?  Is He the central focus of all things, so that even life and death in this world takes a back seat to simply knowing Him?  Is Christ your all sufficient treasure? The celebration of Christ’s coming doesn’t have to end.  It doesn’t have to be only about one day each year.  Let each day mark a celebration of His salvation and His plans and promises and God works in and through you.


Tracy said...

So grateful that I can answer yes, that I do know Christ. It's only by God's grace and mercy, only by the faith He's given me to be able to believe in Him. So grateful that even though my emotions sometimes come and go, and sometimes stuff happens that I struggle with, that God's Spirit keeps me coming back to God and His plans for me.

Mike said...

4 primary points partitioned by P's for the pens of the people who like to partake on paper . ;-)

Mike said...

4 primary points partitioned by P's for people whose pens partake in perfect penmanship of pastor's ponderings. ;-)

Scott said...

Some habits are hard to break, Mike. Thanks for the "alliterary" insights.