At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (NLT)
We have all looked at newborn babies and wondered how they were going to work out. After all, no one stays a baby. The good and great, the evil and despised, all started as babies. There was the story told of an old man in an out of the way Irish village who was asked by a tourist whether any great people had been born in the village. The reply came back, “Nope, only babies”. No baby is great, though some may achieve greatness.
Jesus was certainly no ordinary baby. Here in the temple, a devout man named Simeon realized that this at last was the one who was to deliver God’s people. God’s Spirit revealed this: Jesus was just a normal baby and didn’t have some sort of Messianic aura around him. Simeon sees Jesus as the one who will bring rescue and eternal life to not only Jews who believe in this Messiah but to all nations. Jesus’ parents were understandably taken aback at such predictions. All parents think their children are special, but this was taking it one step further!
But there is a shadow to all this celebration. Not all will embrace Jesus. Some will spurn him and yet others will not rest till they kill him. Mary his mother will know pain as she watches her treasured son misunderstood and finally tortured to death. So in our celebrations of Christmas, let’s not forget this baby packs a punch. He brings salvation but also can stir up a whole lot of opposition. No one in their right mind could despise the baby Jesus. But then as now, there are many who want nothing to with the grown up Jesus. If we are to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to embrace not only the manger but also the cross.