Your Salvation Is Just a Baby!
The Christmas story we read in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel is full of surprises—angels showing up out of the blue and startling people who we’re surprised are even in the story (like the ruffian shepherds and lowly Mary—and God himself as a baby in a manger!).
Surprising, the whole thing!
But halfway through chapter 2, suddenly we meet a man who doesn’t really seem surprised at all by the arrival of Jesus!
How to Celebrate Christmas
If all the surprises up to this point make us sit up and take notice of this savior, the story of Simeon comes in as a lesson on how we are to respond to this savior.
The story of Simeon is here to teach us something many of us still struggle with: how to celebrate the savior’s birth. Simeon is the first person we meet in Luke’s Gospel who knows how to celebrate Christmas because he had waited for it his whole life!
In a nutshell, here’s how he did it: he embraced Christ.
Take a look:
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)
Embrace Your Need…
Simeon was “a righteous and devout” man—but what we see about Simeon’s righteousness was that it came not from what he was doing for God but from the fact that he knew he needed God to do something for him.
The shepherds needed a savior and they didn’t know it. The difference with righteous Simeon isn’t that he didn’t need a savior—it’s that he already knew he needed one.
This is what prepared Simeon to embrace the birth of Christ—to literally hold on to Jesus—and it’s the only way we can rightly embrace the birth of Christ: if we are prepared to face our need for this savior. To see the savior, we need to look honestly at our sin.
Embrace Your Savior…
Ironically, it’s because Simeon knew “the bad news,” that he and all Israel needed God’s help, that he responds with wonder and joy to seeing a little baby carried into the temple! As it became clear to him who Jesus was, he realized that the one he desperately needed and the one he had trusted God to send—he was now holding in his arms. Embracing his need prepared him to celebrate his savior!
And what’s the result? This surprise: now he’s ready to die.
“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.” (vv. 39–42)
In some ways, his response makes sense: God had promised that Simeon wouldn’t die before he saw Christ; now he sees Christ, and he’s ready to go.
But at the same time, it’s a little strange, isn’t it? Wasn’t there anything else on Simeon’s bucket list?
“Well, he’s an old man.” Hm. Maybe. He comes across as elderly, but actually we’re never told he’s old. What we are told is that Simeon gets just a glimpse of what God is doing through this baby—and he’s ready to die.
For Simeon, embracing the Christ who’d come to save him wasn’t a means of improving his circumstances. Salvation to Simeon was about having peace with God that enabled him to face death with joy. Christ was the peace-giving guarantee that death for Simeon would bring him face to face with a saving God.
In other words, through the incarnation God had set himself up to face death—and judgment—on behalf of Simeon and anyone else who’d trust in him. This is the Jesus who would one day say “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Not Grown Up Yet!
Holding Jesus in his arms, Simeon saw a salvation that was as certain as it would ever be—but not nearly as good as it was going to get. This baby, this person who was salvation, had yet to accomplish that salvation.
Even though when we receive Christ we welcome him not as a baby but as the one who now has lived, died and risen again for our salvation—still, in a sense, God’s salvation comes to us even today “as a baby.” We are still supposed to long for our full-grown salvation. God has not yet accomplished in us everything he’s guaranteed for us through Christ.
We have, a “baby” salvation, so to speak. Your Christmas festivities this year and then the return to “regular” life—the highs and lows of following Christ—is not the be-all and end-all of Christianity.
Christianity is not cyclical—it has a direction. It’s about waiting for THAT day—not a day when we’ll embrace the newborn Christ, but a day when we will be welcomed and embraced by the risen lord of the universe, absolutely astounding, totally satisfying, awe-inspiring, setting every troubled mind right, freeing every burdened heart, ushering us into an eternity of wonder! Like an old hymn says:
“Oh resurrection body, young, radiant, vibrant, free; with powers un-thought, un-dreamed of, how rich your joys shall be. Through endless years to marvel, design, create, explore—in resurrection wonder to worship, serve, adore.”
Therefore We Do Not Lose Heart
So don’t be discouraged, those of you who feel like sometimes “salvation” seems sort of half-baked, like things are still not totally right, either in your own sinful heart or in the wicked, tragic world around you.
Let’s help each other remember, let’s be reminded by Simeon: our salvation is still in its infancy! This is just the beginning! This is just the newborn stage—the first faint indications of a strong, solid, joyful life on the other side of death or Christ’s return.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
So we can face death and all the deadly struggles of this world with joy, because the salvation that HAS come in Christ guarantees the salvation that WILL come when we get to be with Christ. Like Simeon, our bucket list should be weighted toward what lies beyond death, not before it. There is joy to be found in embracing Christ not just for what he does for us now but for what he holds in store for us: seeing him.
Christmas is just a reminder of the beginning, friends. Let’s not forget the end! Thank you for your friendship with us in Christ. Merry Christmas!
~Your brothers and sisters at BHOF