Media saturates our minds with images and messages of the “magic of Christmas“. We’re told this time of year is a time of family gatherings, love, selflessness, and cheerfulness. I admit, these are wonderful things. In fact, I love the Christmas season. I love the festive songs, decorations, gatherings and giving. The merriment of Christmas can be intoxicating. We are intended to believe all is right with the world as it is the most wonderful time of the year. However, if we’re too consumed or even blinded by the common expressions and foci of Christmas, namely commercialism and materialism, we will not understand the desperation of Christmas. Former pastor and author, John Piper said, “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we desperately feel the need for a Savior.”1
Before we are meant to understand and feel the true joy of Christmas, we must first understand its underlying message – we’re guilty and hopeless. Genesis 3 tells us sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. In Romans 5:12, the Apostle Paul lays claim to Moses’ account regarding the entrance of sin into the world and its ultimate effect – death, which I believe is both physical and spiritual. Due to Adam’s sin, mankind has inherited a sinful nature (Ps. 51:5), is dead in trespasses and sin, following the prince of the power of the air and by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). The indictment – mankind is guilty of sinning against his creator, which also results in sins against himself and others. The desperation – mankind is utterly hopeless in himself of living as God intended nor can he remove God’s warranted wrath, which the Bible describes as eternal conscious torment in hell (Is. 66:24; Mk. 9:42-48). This is the truth we need to understand and seriously consider before we can appreciate the significance of Jesus’ infancy narrative of Luke 2.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked instances of Jesus’ infancy narrative involves a man named Simeon. In Luke 2:22-34, Luke makes mention of Simeon during Jesus’ time of purification and dedication according to the Law of Moses. Simeon is mentioned as righteous, devout and one whom the Holy Spirit was upon. He is also noted as one who was waiting for the consolation of Israel and he would not see death until he’d seen the Lord’s Christ. As God’s covenant people, Israel often experienced the chastisement and judgment of the LORD for violating the covenant made at Sinai (Ex. 20-23). The LORD told Israel that if they obeyed his word, there would be blessings. If they disobeyed his words, there would be curses (Lev. 26; Deut. 27-28). If Israel disobeyed the terms of the covenant, God promised to punish them by bringing disease upon them, famine, drought and ultimately taking them out of the promised land, scattering them, allowing them to be oppressed by foreign nations. Essentially, the LORD would reverse the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (land, people and blessing). However, through the prophets, the LORD repeatedly promised to forgive His peoples’ sins, restore and comfort His people as an act of grace and mercy and to have His name glorified not only by Israel, but by all the nations.
One of the clearest promises made to God’s covenant people is found in Isaiah’s prophecy in the fortieth chapter –
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
In these verses, through the prophet, the LORD is speaking comfort to His people though they’re on the cusp of experiencing His judgment through the Babylonian invasion. Though Judah has been and would be the object of His discipline, He is now proclaiming comfort to His people. Judah’s warfare will end eventually and her sins will be pardoned. What a comforting promise from God! Surely being at peace with God is comforting rather than being the object of His chastisement and discipline. But how will this comfort come? Verses 3-5 gives us the answer. The LORD himself will bring comfort to His people. Matthew 3:1-3, Mark 1:2-3 and Luke 3:4-6 reveal that the voice crying out in the wilderness is John the Baptist, who will prepare God’s people to receive their Lord and King, Jesus. Jesus is the object of God’s comfort to His people. He is the consolation of Israel that Simeon was looking for. Jesus came to bring peace and comfort between God and man of all nations. In Jesus, salvation will reach the ends of the earth (Is. 49:6). As Simeon held his Savior in his arms, he said –
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Jesus is the one appointed to bring salvation to all peoples! Jesus is God’s Servant, the True Israel of God who lived in perfect obedience to the Father and died for the sins of those who trust in Him for forgiveness. His resurrection is his vindication and the assurance of eternal life for all who come to Him with repentance in faith. If you’re in Christ, may you delight and be consoled by the truth that Christmas is chiefly about Christ coming to destroy the works of the devil, absolve our indictment, relieve our desperation and reconcile us to God.