“It’s Right in Front of You”
Christmas 1, December 31, 2017
It’s Right in Front of You
Text: Luke 2:22–40
Have you ever been looking for something, and you look, and you look, and then it turns out it was right in front of you? You just didn’t see it. Like when you are looking for the TV remote. Ever go looking everywhere for your glasses and it turns out they are right here? On top of your head?
In the same way, sometimes it is difficult to see a sign of what God’s doing right in front of you. Nothing wrong with the sign; God’s put it right there. And at this joyous time of the year, we can surely guess what the chief sign is. The Sign We Need Is Right There in Front of Us: Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us. The problem is, sometimes we don’t see it, sometimes we forget or ignore what that sign means for us. And for some folks, they do see it, but then they don’t want to.
Simeon, the man in our text, had been given the promise of seeing the Savior/Messiah before he died. Now, I know it’s really easy to look at that right there and think, “Wow, God, why don’t you give me that promise? Wouldn’t it be great to see Jesus just like Simeon?” Well, don’t. Because this wasn’t a blanket kind of promise to God’s people; this was a very specific promise to one individual at one given time. We don’t know why God did this special thing for Simeon. We don’t know why God picked Mary! God has His reasons. We are probably not going to figure that out.
Simeon alone was given this promise of seeing the Christ in the person of Jesus before he died, and God fulfilled His promise. Remember last week’s sermon? God keeps His promises. But the thing to note here is that Simeon recognized it: “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 . . .” (vv 26–28).
Before we get into what Simeon said, did you catch that? The reason Simeon recognized this sign that God was fulfilling in Jesus was because he was “in the Spirit.” Now, what does that mean exactly? I don’t know if we can describe it fully, but I know that in some way, Simeon was connected with the Holy Spirit. He was described in v 25 as “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Is that where you are? Do you have the Holy Spirit? You do! In Jesus Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to be our Comforter, to be our Counselor, to be our Helper—the One who walks with us daily. When you were baptized, God gave you His Holy Spirit. Every time you hear the Word of Jesus Christ proclaimed, the Holy Spirit is active, working in your heart, opening your eyes. At the Lord’s Supper, it’s the Holy Spirit who assures you Christ’s body and blood really do give you forgiveness and eternal life. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus’ promise and gift to us.
Simeon didn’t have the Holy Spirit because he was righteous and devout. But Simeon was righteous and devout because he had the Holy Spirit. Simeon responded to the Holy Spirit’s presence. He listened to God’s Word, listened to what the Holy Spirit revealed to him through the Scriptures, and listened to the Holy Spirit as it moved him to go to the temple that day.
OK? Going back to the text, here’s what he 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” (vv 29–30).
The Spirit revealed His action and work in Jesus Christ to Simeon, which opened his eyes and his heart, allowing him to respond in faithfulness, obedience, and devotion. That’s an important distinction. It’s God’s work and action that always comes before our response. God has revealed this sign of Jesus to us, and His Spirit has worked this faith in us.
But sometimes God’s action doesn’t produce such a positive response. Where Simeon responds with this amazing praise to God, so that even Mary and Joseph go, “wow,” Simeon points out that Jesus is salvation to some but can also be a stumbling block. “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed’” (vv 34–35).
The apostle Paul later saw this as well—that Jesus is the source of salvation, that some would respond like Simeon, while others would not. Here is a verse where he says Jesus is our salvation: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). That’s the Pauls and Simeons, and hopefully us of the world.
But not everybody sees Jesus as their Savior: “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, [while] to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:18, 22–24). Some will believe, and some won’t—even when the same sign from God is right there in front of all of them.
People are always asking for a sign. When Jesus fed more than 5000 people with one little kid’s lunch (5 loaves and two small fish), the next day people were standing there telling Jesus they would believe in him if He would show them a sign. He fed thousands of people the day before with a Happy Meal! People today say the same thing. They will believe if God gives them a sign. And yet those signs are all around us.
When some see this sign from God, Jesus Christ in the flesh, Jesus Christ crucified, Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead, some will respond with disbelief, disgust, skepticism, and scoffing. Now we even have (so-called) celebrities telling us prayer doesn’t work, we need better laws instead. (*sigh*) You and I might not get why some people have these hang-ups after hearing what God has done for them. Maybe it’s in our message. Maybe we’re confusing Law and Gospel or presenting the Gospel in less than a loving way. Maybe we’re not responding with that same conviction Simeon had. Maybe some just won’t bend the knee. But no matter what the cause is, Jesus, being born as a baby in Bethlehem, being nailed to a cross, and rising again, these are stumbling blocks to people.
When we see such a great thing that God has done for us, we come to realize that we can’t save ourselves. It’s God’s work and action that does this. It takes the control out of our hands. It takes the power of salvation out of our abilities. We have to admit that we can’t do it, we can’t save ourselves, and we stand in need of God. We get to a point of dependence on Him, and it hurts a little. It’s not easy to admit that you’re wrong or that you need someone else, especially God.
But Simeon’s point was about this. You don’t have to do this on your own. It’s okay to be dependent on God. That’s how He designed it all along. Even in the Garden of Eden when everything was perfect, it was perfect because Adam and Eve relied on God to provide and take care of them. It’s once they turned in on themselves, thinking that they could find wisdom in their own thoughts and knowledge, that things got all messed up. But the Gospel, the message that Simeon proclaimed, pointed back to God’s salvation and work in Jesus.
It’s easy to get caught up in searching for signs and looking for God to give us explicit instructions in what to do next, what job to take, what girl or guy to date and marry, and how we’re going to get through the next month or week financially. But in all these things God is giving us this assurance that He is here providing for us daily. We need not look to anywhere or anyone else for this. So know this: Know that you do have the Holy Spirit so that you can recognize what God is doing right in front of you. See that the sign you need more than anything has already been given and fulfilled in Jesus. That’s all the sign anybody needs. And its right in front of you.
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 28, Part 1.