A Child is Celebrated
A birth is always to be celebrated. When I was in the hospital with my dad a couple weeks ago, I found myself smiling whenever I heard the lullaby being played over the hospital speakers because I knew a baby had just been born. God has brought a new life into the world.
As Christians, we recognize that a birth is something to celebrate because we know that God has done this marvelous thing. Yet, because every person is an image-bearer, even unbelievers know that a birth is to be celebrated. Every culture in the world celebrates birth. In fact, celebrating births has become big business in our cultures. There are birth announcements and photo shoots and showers, along with endless material things which are there for the purchasing, all to help celebrate a new birth.
This morning we are going to thing about how we should be celebrating the most significant birth of all—the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday, as well as Tuesday night, we looked at Luke’s record of Jesus’ birth…the Christmas event which forms the foundation for our annual Christmas holiday of this past week. The birth of Jesus was a significant event…one of the most significant events in human history.
This morning we will look at events which occurred shortly after Jesus’ birth and are, as you can see above me, recorded in Luke 2:21–38. Most of these things happened 40 days after his birth. We will round out our special Christmas series focusing on the birth of Jesus this year with these events. While they do not directly deal with Jesus’ birth, they are a profound testimony as to the significance of that event as we see this infant child celebrated in various ways.
Now I almost left verse 21 out of the message. Verse 21 deals with the Jewish practice under the Law of circumcising a male child on the 8th day. Notice the verse says…<read Luke 2:21>. The official naming of a baby was part of the circumcision ceremony and the emphasis here is that Jesus was named precisely as the angel had instructed. I almost jumped over this verse as it really doesn’t pertain to the rest of the sermon, but I hate to skip parts of the inspired text. The naming of Jesus was important.
Anyway, the main event that we will be looking at comes in the remaining verses for this morning, an event that occurs 40 days after Jesus’ birth. We read this background in Luke 2:22–24…<read>.
Joseph and Mary brought the baby to the temple after his birth in Bethlehem. They were following the Law which stated that an offering was to be given to God to purify a woman after giving birth and that a firstborn son was to be presented to God.
Now when Joseph and Mary walk into the temple area, carrying the baby Jesus, they were not expecting any kind of a reception.
Yesterday, when the church held a baby shower for Katie there was reason to expect that she would receive a good reception. Katie has grown up in the church, so she has been known by most of you for many years. Furthermore, the shower had been advertised in the bulletin and many of you ladies had signed up to attend. So, when there was a good group yesterday for the shower, it was not at all a surprise.
Such was not the case for Joseph and Mary when they brought Jesus into the temple. As a very poor, very young couple, they had no reason to expect any kind of reception when they arrived at the temple. It is unlikely that anyone that they knew from remote Nazareth would be there. They had no reason to expect that there would be any special attention paid to them. Yet, we will see that God had a very special celebration planned.
Yet, as we see Jesus celebrated in our verses today, we too need to recognize that we are to do the same today and every day because of who He is. This is the main lesson that we can take away from these verses; We each are to celebrate Jesus as our Savior.
Are you celebrating Jesus as your Savior? That is the question that you will need to face today as we look at these verses. Are you personally celebrating Him? We each are to celebrate Jesus as our Savior.
Transition from introduction to body:
As Jesus arrives in the temple, we can see three significant reasons why we are to celebrate the child, Jesus.
The first of those is that,…
I. We celebrate the Child’s coming
Let’s read Luke 2:25–32.
As they arrive in the temple to fulfill their religious duties, Joseph and Mary encountered a “righteous and devout” man by the name of Simeon. Simeon was living a life that clearly demonstrated his love for God, but he is not a priest…or by our way of thinking, he is not a minister or clergy…he is just an ordinary layman like most everyone sitting here this morning. Of course, there is one special difference Simeon had from the rest of us; Simeon had been given special revelation from God regarding the coming of the Christ.
We often refer to Jesus Christ as a single name, but we should recognize that in this passage Christ is a reference to the title given to the promised Messiah of Israel. It meant the Anointed One or the Messiah. In Luke 2:25 the Christ is referred to as the “consolation of Israel.” Later on when we get to Luke 2:38, He is the “redemption of Jerusalem.”All righteous Israelites lived in the anticipation that God would send the Messiah to deliver Israel. Righteous Israelites expected God to fulfill all of His promises to send a Redeemer who would free them from bondage and establish an everlasting Kingdom with the Christ on the throne. Simeon lived in the hope of the coming of the Christ, but he had special insight as to when the Christ would come. God had told him that the Christ would come before he died and that he would personally see Israel’s Messiah.
Simeon sees the baby Jesus and instantly knows this is the One he has been waiting for. The Holy Spirit had promised that he would see the Messiah. Now, providentially, God had arranged that he was in the temple, even in the right section of the temple, to see Joseph and Mary walk in with their Baby and the Holy Spirit indicated to him that this Baby was the One he had been waiting for all along. He walks over, takes the Baby in his arms and praises God with the words we just read…the words at the top of our bulletins today “For my eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Can you imagine Joseph’s and Mary’s surprise when this man…quite likely a rather elderly man, although we are not told that…this man walks over and takes the baby in his arms and praises God for allowing Him to see this baby.
Parents always enjoy people getting excited about their babies. I have a good time every time we have a new baby make his or her first debut in the service and we have the parents introduce us to the child. It is clear the pride and joy in the parents as they give us the name of their child... and at least part of that comes from the fact that the parents know that we as a church are excited to see this child come into our church family.
Simeon expresses joy because He has seen the Child but it goes beyond just seeing the child. He also expresses joy because of who he know this child is…the One who will bring salvation; the Child who was promised to the nation has come and he is celebrating that fact. In fact, Simeon says in verse 32 that the benefit of Jesus’ coming is going to stretch far beyond the Jewish nation so as to also shine as Light to the Gentiles.
How about you? Are you celebrating that the Child has come? We all know that Jesus was born just over 2000 years ago. We all know the story of His birth: how He was born in a cattle stall in Bethlehem and laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn for His parents to stay. We know how His birth was announced by a choir of angels to a group of lowly shepherds. But now it has been over two millennia since Jesus grew up and walked on the face of the earth. Do we really celebrate the fact that He has come now?
It is one thing to wait with eager anticipation for a coming event. I am sure that there were many children who waited with earnest excitement for the time to open Christmas presents to arrive. In some of your houses they probably sat watching the clock if a certain time had to come before the gifts could be opened. In other houses, there were likely children waiting by the window for the arrival of Grandpa and Grandma. Maybe some of you used the anticipation to your advantage like my parents used to do…the dishes had to be done before we could open Christmas presents. That was the one time of year in which by brother and I could not wait to help with the dishes!
The was much anticipation for the event to arrive…and undoubtedly great celebration when it did. But now…4 days later…those very same kids are probably much less excited about that moment in time. The gifts are now opened and known…no longer a suspenseful surprise waiting. The toys have been played with and are not quite as new. The celebration is much less pronounced.
Are we that way with Jesus? We can somewhat understand that Simeon and the rest of the Jews would have been excited because they had been waiting, but for us the celebration has grown cold? We need to remind ourselves that the coming of Jesus was an outstanding demonstration of God’s faithfulness to His promises. God did what He said He would do. He would send a Savior…and that is what He did. We are celebrating God’s faithful when we celebrate the coming of the child…a celebration that we are to repeat with great joy every week as we gather to worship our faithful God in the name of this Child!
Remember, We each are to celebrate Jesus as our Savior. The first specific reason that we see in our passage that we should celebrate Jesus is because He has come. WE celebrate the Child’s coming. .
II. We celebrate the Child’s sacrifice
I would think that as much as Mary found herself tingling with joy over Simeon’s words of praise to God, I expect she would have had a shiver go up her spine at the next words that Simeon gave. Let’s read Luke 2:33–35…<read>.
What a shock. Just while Joseph and Mary were standing there marveling that their baby was going to provide the long awaited salvation for mankind, they hear these words of hardship and pain.
While Simeon does not go into any real detail, it is clear from what he does say that Jesus is going to suffer…and that suffering will be very painful for Mary to endure—it will be like a sword which pierces her own soul, an image extreme emotional pain. Many scholars suggest that the reason that only Mary is included in this part of Simeon’s prophecy is because Joseph will be deceased by the time of Jesus’ public ministry. This may well be. What is clearly given here already is a hint of Jesus’ sacrifice—the cross to come. The salvation to come will be purchased at a heavy cost.
Watching a child suffer and die is one of the most painful things a mother can endure, I am sure. I have a very limited comprehension of this truth, but I don’t doubt it. God has graciously ordained that both of our children to this point in life have not suffered any severe affliction, but I still know how hard it was for their mother to watch when they were sick or when a friend did something or said something that hurt them. I watched the paint that these minor things causes her and can only imagine how much more severe that pain is as the circumstances that your child goes through because harder. Some of you, I know, have experienced much more in this regard.
Mary is told that she will experience the most severe pain a mother can experience…the strong rejection of her son with strong allusion that she will see His death.
Still, what I want us to notice in these verses is that the focus is really upon what will be accomplished through the painful process alluded to…the impact upon Mary is really given almost as an aside to Simeon’s main point. The sacrifice of Jesus will become the dividing line for the nation…frankly, we can even say for all people. It will be the event upon which people rise or fall. The most internal intents of the human heart will be revealed by His sacrifice. He will be a sign…this means that He will point to the action of God; that is what that word “sign means in verse 34….and because of this He will be opposed by those who are rebelling against God. But this is something that is to be celebrated. God is at work. God is saving His people. The sacrifice will be a part of God’s glorious work.
Folks, we dare not forget that every week when we gather we are gathering to celebrate the sacrifice of this Child. We cannot properly magnify Jesus Christ without remembering that He gave Himself for us on the cross. Last week we sang that Christmas song, Born to Die, which celebrates this very point; Jesus was born so that He could die for our sins. Our worship is only possible because of this truth.
Of course, the celebration of the Child’s sacrifice must have a personal aspect as well; it cannot be only what we do as a church when we gather. We must celebrate His sacrifice by personally accepting it in our own lives...we must accept Jesus as our Savior. This Baby that Simeon was holding grew up living a sinless life which He offered in our place…<insert full gospel as needed>. We cannot celebrate His sacrifice without accepting Him as our own personal Savior.
As we think about celebrating the Child’s sacrifice, we must go beyond our asking Him to be our Savior. We have not really accepted Him as Savior if we have not accepted Him as Lord. We celebrate the Child’s sacrifice by placing our lives at His disposal, living them as He instructs in the rest of this book. Far too many people in this country believe that they can ask Jesus to save them from their sins, receive a get-out-of-hail insurance card that they can tuck away for when they die, and go back and live the rest of their lives for their own pleasure and purposes. Friends, it doesn’t work that way. Jesus gave Himself completely so that we could be completely saved. When He saves us, we owe everything to Him…our full allegiance and our lives.
Don’t sit here today and fool yourself that you are ok if you have not fully given yourself in faith to Jesus. Remember the last phrase of verse 35: “to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Your heart will be revealed by how you celebrate the Jesus’ sacrifice. Have you given yourself to Him in faith?
We each are to celebrate Jesus as our Savior. We celebrate the Child’s sacrifice. That is the second reason that we are given for celebrating Jesus in our verses.
And then thirdly,…
III. We celebrate the Child’s hope
We can see this point as a new person enters the scene. Let’s read Luke 2:36–38…<read>.
Once again we see God’s perfect providential timing at work. The temple is a large complex. There would have frequently been crowds of people. And yet God brings this person along at just the precise moment for her to be able to hear Simeon’s praises.
Unlike with Simeon, there is no doubt that Anna is an elderly lady, we are told that she is 84 years old. Now I know that many of you will tell me that 84 is NOT THAT OLD! After all, Ruth Boyce celebrated her 97th birthday this past week. Still, 84 was quite elderly in those days.
Furthermore, we are told a fair amount about Anna as a person. She was a widow who had only been married for seven years. Since that passing of her husband many decades ago, she had demonstrated her disciplined and devout life, being constantly at worship in the temple. Most significantly, though, she was a “prophetess.” There had not been a prophet in Israel for hundreds of years…that is something that made the coming of John the Baptist so significant. It is noteworthy that God had raised up Anna has a “prophetess” at this time in the nations history.
Anyway, Anna comes along and hears Simeon’s proclamations of praise and immediately adds her voice to the praise. As a prophetess, she too would have been guided by the Holy Spirit to affirm the birth of Jesus. But what I want us to really notice is that she does more than simply echo what Simeon has already said to Joseph and Mary. We are told that Ann “continued to speak of Him—that would be Jesus—to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Remember, I told you earlier that this phrase, “the redemption of Jerusalem” is another way of stating the Messiah. Specifically the phrase pointed to the deliverance for the city and nation that would be brought by the Messiah. Anna is recorded here as telling everyone who will listen, everyone who has been looking for the Messiah, that He has come. The Messiah was the hope of Israel…the Hope has come!
I know that I make this point often…but frankly that is because the Scriptures make this point often…we are to tell others about Christ. One of the primary ways that we celebrate the Child’s hope is to tell others that Jesus is hope—the hope of salvation.
We are surrounded by people who are looking for hope. They may not even know that is what they are looking for. All they know is that they are miserable and empty. They often tried to hide from their emptiness in various ways: acquiring endless toys, chasing lustful relationships, deadening life with drugs or alcohol, distracting life with work…and on and on…ways to hide from emptiness that are ultimately destructive. They not know that they are doing these things because they are looking for hope, but the Bible tells us that is what is really going on. Sin has them in bondage and they have no hope.
But Jesus is hope. We celebrate His hope by telling people of Him! We tell our friends and neighbors who He is. We proclaim with great joy what He has done. We invite them to know Him too. We offer His perfect hope to those who are without any hope.
Friends, do you believe that Jesus was born to die? <ask for response> Do you believe that He satisfied God’s wrath when He died on the cross. Do you believe that He conquered sin and death by rising from the grave? Do you believe that God declares you forgiven when you accept Him in faith? Do you have the hope that He is coming again?
This is essentially what Anna did…she told others of the hope that God had brought to earth. Are you sharing your hope with others?
Transition from body to conclusion:.
The third reason for celebrating Jesus is that we celebrate the Child’s hope
Births are to be celebrated. When Jesus was born there were no birth announcements mailed to family and friends. There were no pictures taken in the mall. But there was celebration, surprising unexpected celebration from people who had insight from God as to who this Child was—the Savior who had been promised to the nation.
The celebration of the birth of Jesus continues to this very day. We each are to celebrate Jesus as our Savior.
From our verses this morning we have seen three reasons why we still celebrate. We celebrate the Child’s coming. We celebrate the Child’s sacrifice. We celebrate the Child’s hope. These are great reasons for us to continue celebrating the coming of this most perfect Child. He came to be our Savior.
We each are to celebrate Jesus as our Savior.