Understandably, when it comes to Christmas, we think about the beginning of life - the birth of the Messiah. Indeed this is what we see resonate with the majority of those who both prophesied his coming (Isaiah 9) and those who actually experienced it (Luke 2). And for those who celebrate this blessed event the emphasis is naturally on the birth. This birth which gives us such hope and causes us to rejoice. And well it should for he is the “the way and the truth and the life (John14:6).
And yet, any astute student of scripture will note that the message is not just about birth but also about death. Rightly we connect the birth of Jesus with his death some thirty years later as the two comprise the bulk of the gospel message. He came to die and while this casts something of a dark cloud over the celebrations it in fact gives us a deep sense of gratitude to God for such love and mercy.
But it is not even that death to which I want to draw your attention here, though it should always be undergirding our thinking. It is an old man and his impending demise which I would like you to consider. His name is Simeon and we learn about him in Luke 2:25-35, shortly after Jesus’ birth. The text records that he was “righteous and devout”, was waiting for “comfort to come to Israel”, and that “the Holy Spirit was on him” (vs.25). In other words, this was an individual whose heart was right before God and in whose old age was anxious for the appearance of Messiah. Oh that we would have such a perspective in our day!
But it gets better. The Holy Spirit leads him to go to the temple where Jesus and his parents would be since as devout jews they would follow custom. It is here where Simeon “took him (Jesus) in his arms and praised God”. What an electrifying moment we have here. After the hundreds of years of silence from God and anticipation of his fulfillment of prophecy, this devout believer holds the promised one in his arms.
If that were you, what would you do? I have no idea myself and it’s a bit pointless to speculate, but we do have recorded what Simeon did. He immediately and without hesitation praises God with words expressing the depth of his gratitude to God; “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (vs.29-32)
While there is much to glean from his words, and I would encourage you to do some thinking on them, the one nugget I would like to leave with you is the way in which Simeon is ready to depart this life. He has seen God’s salvation in the birth of the Saviour (vs30) and now is fully prepared to enter the next - “you may now dismiss your servant in peace”. For Simeon he has experienced not only the fulfilment of God’s promise but has actually and physically witnessed and held the Father’s promised blessing. he’s ready to go!
As you continue in your seasonal festivities, take time to ponder your life. . . and your future death. Are you, like Simeon able to say, “you may now dismiss your servant in peace”? Perhaps you’re not truly a believer in Jesus Christ and you do not have peace. Make that peace with him today. It may be that you are a Christian but, like so many others, are clinging to the things of this world too tightly. Perhaps you are not living in a manner that is pleasing to you God and don’t have true peace in your soul. Make that peace today. Each of us, as we celebrate the birth of the Saviour should be able to echo the words that Simeon expresses because through Jesus Christ we are truly at peace.