Sermon title:  CHRIST BORN TO BE “A LIGHT FOR THE NATIONS”

Luke 2:21-35

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, December 1, 2019

 

 

We’re in the Christmas season now,

and so we hear Christmas carols playing

on the radio

and even in some business establishments.

 

These Christmas carols bring the familiar stories

of the birth of Christ

back into our minds

 

the story of the angel speaking to the virgin Mary,

the little town of Bethlehem,

the angels appearing to shepherds watching their flocks,

the Wise Men following the star

and bringing the baby Jesus their gifts

of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

 

But there’s another part of the Christmas story

found in the 2nd Chapter of Luke

that’s less familiar to us.

 

And that’s the account

where Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus

to the Temple in Jerusalem

when he is 40 days old.

 

And there they encounter an old man named Simeon

who was waiting to die,

but who had one thing on his “bucket list.

 

Now, it wasn’t an ordinary “bucket list”—

like we hear of some elderly people today

who do a parachute jump from an airplane,

or take a cruise,

or do something else

that they had always wanted to do.

 

And now they make arrangements

to have that wish, in their old age.

 

No, for Simeon it wasn’t like that.

 

His situation was a supernatural one.

 

Almighty God had spoken to him from heaven,

either through an audible voice,

or in a vision, or in a dream—

we don’t know how it happened—

but God had spoken to Simeon.

 

And he gave that old man an amazing promise:

that Simeon would not die

until he first saw the Messiah,

the Christ Israel had been waiting for, for centuries.

 

Now, aside from that wonderful message from God,

Simeon wasn’t anyone special,

from a human standpoint.

 

As far as we know,

he wasn’t rich or famous.

 

He wasn’t a prominent politician.

 

He wasn’t a priest or religious leader.

 

He was just an old man who loved God,

and who walked faithfully in God’s ways.

 

Out of all the people on earth,

and out of all the Jews in Jerusalem,

the Almighty Creator of the universe

singled him out and spoke this promise to him.

 

And he believed God,

and trusted that he would see the Messiah

before he would die.

 

We don’t know how long he was waiting,

after receiving this promise,

and before he taking the baby Jesus into his arms.

 

But he trusted God

and waited patiently.

 

He knew that the Almighty would keep his promise.

 

And God did.

 

The Holy Spirit was upon him

when he went to the Temple in Jerusalem that day.

 

Christ had been born in nearby Bethlehem

40 days earlier,

but Simeon didn’t know that.

 

Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus

were on their way to the Temple that day,

but Simeon didn’t know that, either.

 

But the Holy Spirit led him to go to there, too.

 

It was a divine appointment.

 

Now, that holy Temple was a big place.

 

It was surrounded by inner and outer courtyards,

and those courtyards were full of people.

 

If you planned to meet up with a friend there,

it would have been difficult to find him or her

due to the crowds.

 

Lots of new mothers would have been there with their babies,

because the Law of Moses required it.

 

And lots of other people, too,

because the Law also spoke of

communion sacrifices

and sin offerings

and various other activities

that always brought crowds to the Temple.

 

Yet, in the midst of that multitude of busy people,

Luke Chapter 2 tells us, as we read in our Responsive Reading,

that God’s Holy Spirit brought Simeon

face-to-face with Mary and Joseph,

and he took the baby Jesus into his arms.

 

Beginning at Luke 2:21 we read,

 

21 On the eighth day,

when it was time to circumcise the child,

he was named Jesus,

the name the angel had given him

before he was conceived.

 

22 When the time came

for the purification rites

required by the Law of Moses,--

--that was when the baby was 40 days old—

Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem

to present him to the Lord

23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord,

“Every firstborn male

is to be consecrated to the Lord”),

24 and to offer a sacrifice

in keeping with what is said

in the Law of the Lord:

“a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon,

who was righteous and devout.

 

He was waiting for the consolation of Israel,

and the Holy Spirit was on him.

 

26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit

that he would not die

before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

 

27 Moved by the Spirit,

he went into the temple courts.

 

When the parents brought in the child Jesus

to do for him what the custom of the Law required,

28 Simeon took him in his arms

and praised God, saying:

 

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

   you may now dismiss your servant in peace.

 

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31 which you have prepared

in the sight of all nations:

32   a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

       and the glory of your people Israel.”

 

33 The child’s father and mother marveled

at what was said about him.

 

34 Then Simeon blessed them

and said to Mary, his mother:

 

“This child is destined to cause

the falling and rising of many in Israel,

and to be a sign that will be spoken against,

35 so that the thoughts of many hearts

will be revealed.

 

And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 

Simeon’s final words

related to the pain Mary would suffer years later

when she had to watch her son die on the cross.

 

It would be like a ‘sword piercing her soul.’

 

And Simeon also prophesied through the Holy Spirit

that the baby Jesus

would grow up to cause

 

“the falling and rising of many in Israel.”

 

Many would ‘fall’ from favor with God

by rejecting the Messiah.

 

Christ would become among the Jews

a sign that will be spoken against.”

 

But other Jews would ‘rise’

by receiving God’s grace

and becoming Messianic Jews—followers of Christ.

 

Yes, Jesus would be

“the glory of your people Israel”—

the Messianic King in the line of David

who would rule over the house of Israel forever.

 

But, for most of us here this morning,

the most significant words Simeon spoke

were when he said to God,

 

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31 which you have prepared

in the sight of all nations:

32   a light for revelation to the Gentiles . . .”

 

Most all of us come from Gentile ancestry—

non-Jewish ancestry.

 

If you look back before the arrival of Christ,

our ancestors worshiped ‘gods’ of wood and stone.

 

Our ancestors were wandering in spiritual darkness,

for at least a couple thousand years.

 

Only the tiny nation of Israel worshiped the true God.

 

How did it get that way?

 

How did we have a situation

where only a small group of people

knew about Almighty God, our Creator,

while the rest of mankind was swept up

in superstitious false religious beliefs

and evil, destructive religious practices??

 

Well, after the worldwide flood of Noah’s day,

Noah’s sons and their wives

would have told their own children

about how God sent that flood

to destroy an unredeemably wicked world.

 

But what did those children go on to teach their own offspring??

Was each generation faithful

in passing on the knowledge of the true God?

 

Apparently not, because, after a few generations

mankind angered God again

by building the tower of Babel.

 

Instead of obeying the command God gave

to Noah’s family after the flood

to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,”

--instead of doing that, they all settled at one location

and began erecting a skyscraper there.

 

God interrupted their building project

by confusing their languages—

--which sent each family group off

in a different direction.

 

But how many of those family groups

passed on the true faith to their offspring?

 

It wasn’t long before the different national groups

descended from those families

began to invent their own forms of spirituality

and to worship idols.

 

Satan the devil and his demons

were actively involved

in misleading people

into false worship

and counterfeit spirituality.

 

At 1 Corinthians 10:20 the Apostle Paul wrote that

 

“the things which the Gentiles sacrifice,

they sacrifice to demons,

and not to God,

and I don't desire

that you would have fellowship with demons.

 

Satan rebelled against God

and led other angels in rebellion.

 

Satan and his demons have been judged

and are awaiting eternal punishment.

 

But, in the meantime,

Satan’s goal is to turn people away from the true God

and to take them down with him,

to destruction.

2 Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan “the god of this world.”

 

And he misled the whole world of mankind.

 

The end result was that all the nations of the earth

were caught up in idolatry and false religion,

instead of worshiping the one living and true God.

 

Eventually, God intervened

by revealing himself to Abraham,

then to Abraham’s son Isaac,

and to Isaac’s son Jacob,

whose name God changed to “Israel.”

 

And when Israel’s descendants

were living as slaves in Egypt,

God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh

to “Let my people go!”

 

Moses led the descendants of Israel

out of slavery and into the Promised Land.

 

And God gave that new nation

a set of Laws through Moses

that told them how to worship the true God.

 

And, so, for centuries, they were the only nation on earth

that knew God’s laws.

 

Psalm 147:19 says,

 

19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,

his laws and decrees to Israel.

 

20 He has done this for no other nation;

they do not know his laws.

 

All this explains the dark spiritual condition

of our Gentile ancestors.

 

They didn’t know the true God,

but instead they worshiped idols of wood and stone.

 

Simeon prophesied that this was about to change.

 

He thanked God for the Christ child

and said,

 

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31 which you have prepared

in the sight of all nations:

32   a light for revelation to the Gentiles . . .”

 

Simeon evidently knew and understood

the Old Testament prophecies

that the Messiah would come, not just for the Jews,

but also for the Gentile nations throughout the earth.

 

The words of Isaiah, Chapter 49, for example,

make plain that the Christ would be

light for the Gentiles,”

and would be their Savior,

so that God’s

“salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

 

Beginning at Isaiah 49:1,

which was written hundreds of years before Christ,

the prophet speaks prophetically of the Messiah,

and says,

 

Listen to me, you islands;

hear this, you distant nations:

 

And then Verse 6 of Isaiah 49 tells us God says to the Christ,

 

"It is too small a thing

for you to be my servant

to restore the tribes of Jacob

and bring back those of Israel I have kept.

 

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,

that my salvation may reach

to the ends of the earth."

 

So, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be

a light for the Gentiles,”

so that his salvation would reach

to the ends of the earth."

 

That meant that the Gospel of Christ

would reach our Gentile ancestors,

whether they were in Portugal, or in England, or France,

or Africa or Asia.

 

And the Gospel of Christ would enlighten our ancestors,

so that they would stop worshiping idols of wood and stone

and would learn the truth found in the Bible.

 

Our Lord Jesus gave the command

to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel

when he spoke the Great Commission

at Matthew 28:19.

There Christ said,

 

19 Go ye therefore,

and make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them into the name of the Father

and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

20 teaching them to observe

all things whatsoever I commanded you:

and lo, I am with you always,

even unto the end of the world.”

 

Christ’s teachings and Christ’s presence

would bring light to our Gentile ancestors

and turn them from the darkness of pagan religions.

 

Isaiah Chapter 9 connects the enlightenment of the Gentiles

with the birth of the Christ child.

 

At Isaiah 9:1 it speaks of

 

1 . . . Galilee of the Gentiles:

2 The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death,

a light has dawned.”

 

And then a few verses later at Isaiah 9:6 it says

this would happen because,

 

6 For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given,

and the government will be upon His shoulders.

And He will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

It would be the Christ child

who would grow up and bring light to the Gentiles.

 

And then Jesus’ disciples carried the light of Christ

into the whole world.

 

Our Lord stressed ‘light to the Gentiles’

when he first called the Apostle Paul

to be his follower.

 

At Acts 26:16, the risen Christ said to Paul,

 

“ I have appeared to you

to appoint you as a servant and as a witness

of what you have seen and will see of me.

 

17 I will rescue you from your own people

and from the Gentiles.

 

I am sending you to them

18 to open their eyes

and turn them from darkness to light,

and from the power of Satan to God,

so that they may receive forgiveness of sins

and a place among those

who are sanctified by faith in me.

 

And that’s what we, too, are called to do today.

 

Our ancestors may not have been of the race of Israel,

but God has made us Christian believers

into a new race—a special people—

called by God

to spread the light of Christ

in this dark world today.

 

Peter wrote to ALL Christians at 1 Peter 2:9,

 

But you are a chosen race,

a royal priesthood, a holy nation,

a people for his own possession,

that you may proclaim

the excellencies of him

who called you out

of darkness into his marvelous light.

 

That’s us.

 

 

Our Gentile ancestors lived in spiritual darkness,

worshiping false gods,

idols made of wood and stone.

 

But God called usout

of darkness into his marvelous light.”

 

And it’s part of the Christmas story.

 

That old man Simeon

who took the baby Jesus into his arms

was the link

between the Christmas story and our salvation.