************ Sermon on Luke 2:32 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 2005
"A Light for Revelation and for Glory"
Candle Light Service
I Christmas is for Young and Old
We have a saying here in America. We say, "Christmas is for children." We say this because boys and girls get so excited about Christmas. They can hardly wait for Christmas. It is a special, exciting time of the year for them.
I look at our Bible passage tonight and I see that Christmas is also for old people – like Simeon and Anna, for instance. In fact, there are way more grownups and old people in the Christmas story than there are girls and boys. When it comes right down to it, how many children do we read about in the Christmas story? Were any of the following children: Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, the inn keeper, the shepherds, the wisemen, Simeon, Anna, King Herod, the chief priests? Do you know what children I read about in the Christmas story? There is Jesus, John the Baptist, and the baby boys of Bethlehem who were killed by King Herod; everyone else is a grownup. So, it isn't really correct to say Christmas is for children. Because Christmas is for grownups and old people too.
Simeon is old – maybe 80 years old – but he is not living in the past, as so many old people do. Instead, Simeon is looking to the future. The Holy Spirit has revealed to him that he will not die before he has seen the Lord's Christ, the Messiah (Lk 2:26). So, he is looking for the Christ; he is keeping watch for the Messiah.
And Anna, she too is old (Lk 2:36-37). In fact, she is described as very old – you can understand the Greek to say she was over 100 years old. Like Simeon, she too is looking to the future.
At the other end of the Christmas story is Zechariah and Elizabeth. Luke makes a big point of stressing their age as well.
Church growth consultants tell us that the most effective outreach of the church is with children. In fact, a very high percentage of adult converts attended Sunday School as a child. Exposure to Christ and the church as a child prepares you for conversion as an adult. However, when I look at Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna in the Christmas story I see you are never too old to come to Christ.
So, Christmas is also for grownups and old people. That's the first conclusion I want to hold before you tonight.
II The End of the Age
A There is also another reason why the Christmas story is filled with old people like Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna. They indicate to us the end of one age and the start of another.
I want you to notice what all four of these old people have in common. They are all pictured as devout and godly saints. Luke tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth "observed all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly" (Lk 1:6). Simeon and Anna are both exemplary Old Testament saints who kept the law and looked forward to the hope of the prophets. Simeon, for instance, is described as righteous and devout, waiting for "the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25). And, Anna is pictured as a devout Temple goer who worshiped night and day, fasting and praying, and was "looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38).
B We need to realize that these four Old Testament saints stand at the turning point of history. I think of what Jesus Himself said:
(Luke 16:16) The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached ...Luke is the only gospel writer who records this saying so it must have special significance for him.
In all the Old Testament the word and rule of God was proclaimed through the law and the prophets. But now, with the arrival of Jesus, the word and rule of God is proclaimed in a new way. Jesus Himself is the Word. Jesus Himself is the King. In Jesus, the Kingdom has now come.
Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna stand at this turning point of history. Behind them is the law and the prophets. In front of them is Jesus.
C Do you see what is happening? It is the end of one age and the start of another. And, Luke shows us this by telling us about devout, God-fearing individuals – the best representatives of the age of the law and the prophets – who are old and even at the point of death. They are passing away just like the age of the law and the prophets.
Not only is Luke showing us the end of one age and the start of another, but he is also telling us there is no conflict between the two. There is no conflict between the law and the prophets on the one hand and the Messiah on the other hand. In fact, we see that devout representatives of the old era – Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna – are very receptive to the new era. They are looking for and waiting for the new age and rejoice that it is now upon them. As true Old Testament saints they welcome Jesus with open arms.
In our Bible reading we see the same principle at work in Joseph and Mary! They too are pictured as devout, God-fearing saints. Four times in our passage Luke draws attention to how Joseph and Mary did everything according to Old Testament law. In verse 23 they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord "as it is written in the Law of the Lord." According to verse 24 they offer a sacrifice "in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord." In verse 27 they brought Jesus to the Temple to do for Him "what the custom of the Law required." And, in verse 39, they leave Jerusalem only after they have done everything "required by the Law of the Lord." Like Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna they are devout and godly saints. Like Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna they observe the law and the prophets. Like Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna they observe the old while welcoming the new.
Luke is making a very important point here. He is telling us that with Jesus comes a new age and a new message. He is telling us that the age of the law and the prophets is passing away. He is telling us that Jesus fulfills rather than abolishes the law and the prophets. He is telling us that the true people of God welcome Jesus.
III The New Era's Light
A So, what is different about the new age? Simeon says it best in the song he sings while holding the baby Jesus. He says,
(Luke 2:30-32) ... my eyes have seen your salvation, (31) which you have prepared in the sight of all people, (32) a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.God has done something "in the sight of all people." He has sent the "Light."
Each week during advent we have lit another candle. Today we finally lit the center candle on our advent wreath. We've been reminded, again and again, that Jesus is the light of the world. That Jesus brings light into darkness. That Jesus shines.
Remember Zechariah's song? Zechariah could sing about the "rising sun" which "will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Lk 1:79).
Simeon can sing about the same light.
B Let's start off with the darkness. Our darkness. The darkness of sin. You don't need light on a bright sunny day. You need light when it is dark and gray and dismal. Light makes a difference only with darkness. To say Jesus is our light is to say we live in darkness.
To be in darkness means to be lost and disoriented. We aren't like bats. Bats are creatures of the dark. They spend the daylight hours in dark caves venturing out only at night. The fly about at night guided unerringly by their natural kind of radar. We aren't like moles either. Moles also are creatures of the dark. Their natural habitat is beneath the surface of the earth. Practically sightless, they burrow along underground to make their network of tunnels. Humans, however, are creatures of light. Mankind has always needed torches, lanterns, or electric lights to function at night. In total darkness, we become disoriented and lose our way. Without Christ, my brothers and sisters, we are in darkness. Without Christ we are lost and disoriented.
Humankind has been in darkness ever since the fall into sin. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they plunged the entire human race into darkness and despair. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they made us as lost as someone stumbling around in darkness. A couple of weeks ago Ruth and I were driving to Hanford. Not only was it dark but it also was foggy. It was so foggy that we couldn't see any driveways or side-roads or highway signs. More than once I wondered to myself, "Where am I and where am I going?"
The human race has no idea where it is at or where it is going. It is lost in the darkness or fog of sin.
C When Zechariah and Simeon look at the world they live in they see so much darkness. They see unbelievers, men and women and children, who refuse to acknowledge God. Men, women, and children who either have made a deliberate decision to do without God in their lives or they have chosen to ignore Him. Whatever the case may be, these men and women and children live in sin and in rebellion against God and His ways.
Zechariah and Simeon also look at the darkness in the public institutions of their day. They see the Pharisees and Sadducees and the rest of the Jewish Sanhedrin with their legalism and hypocrisy. They see Pilate and Herod and the cult of worship that surrounds the Roman Emperor. They see the Roman Empire – based upon conquest, subjection, and idol gods. They see false faiths and religions that worship what is made rather than the Almighty Creator.
Zechariah and Simeon see darkness in Israel. The Promised Land is under foreign occupation. The people of God have not heard the voice of prophecy for some 400 years; for 400 years the voice of God has been silent.
Zechariah and Simeon know there is a spiritual world of darkness too. They know about Satan and his host of evil spirits and demons. They know how Satan opposes God and Christ at every turn. They know how Satan rejoice in lies, prejudice, arrogance, wrongs, and every form of sin.
Lastly, Zechariah and Simeon look within their own heart. They see that darkness is there as well. They know that within themselves and you and me there is sin and evil and all sorts of desires that run counter to the will of God.
D In this new era, this new age, the light has come. It is "a light for revelation to the Gentiles." I don't know if we appreciate how new, how startling, how revolutionary, this really is! In the old era – the era of the law and the prophets – most of God's dealings with mankind were through the children of Israel. And, any Gentiles who had contact with God did so through Israel. People like Cornelius, Rahab, and Ruth – Gentiles all – had contact with God only by having contact with Israel. They received the light only when they came to Israel and to Jerusalem and to the Temple. In the Old Testament era only a few outside of Israel ever heard the promise of the Gospel proclaimed.
But in the new era – the era of Christ – God no longer restricts His revelation to and for and through Israel alone. In the new era, the light of the Gospel, the message of salvation, is for Jew and Gentile alike.
E In this new era, this new age, the light has come. It is also "a light for ... glory to your people Israel." What is the glory of Israel? It is the Messiah and the Messianic age. Simeon realizes that the appearance of Jesus, the light, the Messiah, heralds the beginning of a golden and glorious age for Israel. The glory and splendor of David's rule would return to the Promised Land. There would be prosperity for all. There would be no more hunger. God's people would be set free from foreign domination. The rich would no longer oppress the poor. The lame would begin to leap and jump and dance. The blind would see a world of vivid color. The deaf would listen to the songs of birds and the music of harps. The deserts of Israel would be turned into fragrant gardens. Swords and spears would be hammered into plows and hoes. Enemies would become friends. But this light of glory – and here is the surprise of the Gospel – comes only by way of the cross and the grave.
There is one more thing we can say about the glory of Israel. What is the glory of Israel? It is also that the Messiah is Jewish; that salvation is from the Jews; that salvation runs through the people of Israel from Abraham, to David, to Jesus (Jn 4:22; Rom 9:4-5; Heb 7:4).
Simeon mentions that many in Israel stumble and fall over Jesus as the light (Lk 2:34). Some have problems with Him because He spent time with tax collectors and sinners. Some have problems with Him because He included the Gentiles. Some have problems that He, with a human father and mother, claimed to be the Messiah. Some have problems with the cross and the grave and a crucified Messiah. And, there are some outside of Israel who have problems with Jesus because He is a Jew.
So, how does a person come to accept Jesus as the light? As we see with Simeon and Anna, God prepares a person to receive Christ by stirring up a longing for the consolation and redemption that can come only from Christ. Simeon and Anna had this longing and they were granted the privilege of recognizing and receiving Christ.
If we are filled with longing for the presence of light, if we hate the darkness and the deeds of darkness, if we are waiting for consolation and redemption, then we too are able to receive the light of Christ. We can welcome the light of Christ only if we love His appearing and eagerly wait the consummation of His redemption.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page