Friday, December 25, 2009

What Child is this ?

TEXT : Luke  2:25-35

TITLE  : "What Child is this ?"

DATE PREACHED:  Christmas  2009

Christmas celebrates and commemorates a huge event in our year when we remember the birth of Christ.

What child is this? I want to answer this question with the help of our text , but before I do so I want to share what a friend of mine has written in a recent Christmas letter, so very beautifully:
“Although the world tilts towards the rich and powerful, God seems tilted towards the humble. He did not come in raging royalty or in the rags of riches but He came down, down, down to a single cell not even visible to the human eye. Then like the rest, He enlarged cell by cell inside His mother’s womb. The word “humble” comes to mind but it seems deficient as a description of deity, but Paul does say that He “…made himself nothing…he humbled Himself” (Phil. 2:6, 8). While some in the world cry “God is great” it seems to me that at Christmas time “God is little.” The God who can move empires like pawns on a chessboard entered this world as a baby. No flare no flash, but instead the event that divided our calendar was witnessed by nameless shepherds and a few fortunate animals. God alone arranged the circumstances of His own birth on the planet. He chose neither power nor wealth, rights nor justice. Within a short time He even became a refugee in Africa; the continent today with the most refugees. It seems almost foolish to come to a planet where violence was the clumsy norm and to a race whose habit was to reject their prophets.”

But more profound than my friend’s great prose are these inspired words from Simeon as he holds the infant Jesus in his arms .

What child is this? The whole gospel story tells us that Christ was born ; that He lived the perfect life ; He died for sin ; He rose again from the dead – just as the prophets had said ; He ascended into heaven – and from there He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. But right now let us get back to that first event – his birth, and in particular the words spoken by an obscure man called Simeon. We are told that he was a “righteous and devout man“; he was waiting for “the consolation of Israel”, and we are told that ‘the Holy Spirit was upon him’. We are also told that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ – Yahweh’s Messiah! What a promise! Imagine if God should tell a righteous and devout person , right here in our congregation , waiting for the Lord’s 2nd coming, that they would not die before the Lord had returned !

One day this man named Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple “ and when He saw the baby Jesus whom his parents would have brought according to the custom of the law ( v.27) , Simeon knew in an instant that his earthly journey had come to an end! This piece of Scripture is traditionally known as the “Nunc Dimittis” , and with these words he announces that God’s salvation – Yeshua /Joshua (v.30) had arrived ! What a stunning announcement. Imagine holding Jesus in your arms (v.28) and saying “Lord, my eyes have seen your salvation. My eyes have seen Jesus!
But Simeon says so much more. Look at the wider scope of that announcement! Simeon announces that this baby that he is presently holding in his arms is the Christ who was prepared of God for the salvation of God for all peoples (v.31). He explains in v.32 - “a light of revelation to the gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” From the Jewish point of view the world was divided into 2 kinds of people: Jews and gentiles. So what Simeon is clearly saying here in agreement with the prophets of the Old Testament is that this Saviour which he is presently holding in his arms is the Saviour of the whole world. This is the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1&2. This is God’s ancient solution for those born under the curse of sin. Oh, if only the scribes and the Pharisees would have humbled themselves to sit at Simeon’s feet, listening to his word. If only modern people would stop and listen to Simeon speaking again!

Listen! Christ was born to be “a light of revelation for the gentiles ..." How much we need the light that Jesus gives today. I am genuinely concerned about the spiritual darkness in which we presently find ourselves, as more and more people openly embrace “  Me centered spiritualities”. A German magazine recently carried an article entitled  “Spirituality without God “. We ought to be greatly concerned about the ‘sex driven pursuit of life‘ going beyond the limits that God has set. There is nowadays almost no magazine that will not carry an article on “how to spice up your love life “. And it should grieve us that a prominent church now appears to say that couples living together in non covenantal relationships are an acceptable alternative to marriage. The darkness is increased when we think of what is abnormal by God’s standard and contrary to human nature is now becoming the norm. Magazines now routinely portray same sex relationships as ‘normal‘, when the Scripture clearly teaches that such a way of life actually is a sign of being ‘handed over ‘ (Rom 1 :24,26,28). I mention this because these are not good signs. They are signs of a society that is far from the one true God who is holy and just. That, dear people typically happens in a society in which God is distant and where His truth does not reach into our hearts and minds.
The Gospel of Christ was like a sun-rise to Greece and Rome, and indeed all of the gentile nations – so steeped in mystical religions , in idolatry and in immorality. The light which Christ brought into their world was as great as the change from night to day!

Listen! Christ was indeed "the glory of Israel." Israel was descended from Abraham; they had the covenants; they had the promises; they had the Law of Moses; they had the Temple service. These were all great privileges. But surely, the greatest privilege was this: that the Messiah, the divine Deliverer came out of Israel! This was to be the highest honor of the Jewish nation!
Now Simeon saw this baby as the Mighty Christ – by faith. He saw that this One was the hope of the nations and the glory of Israel. Oh pray that our generation – those people to whom we are responsible to deliver this gospel, will see the light and the glory of Christ!

Now I want you to see another striking thing which Simeon reveals to us concerning Christ. He shows us the RESULTS which would follow when Jesus Christ and His Gospel came into the world.
Christ was to be "a sign that is opposed… “(v.34b). Jesus was born into a world hostile to Him. Not only was He resisted by Satan who tried to kill him; we also know that He was going to be “a man of sorrows - despised and rejected by men." (Isa 53:3). The same was true for His body, the church. People who had nothing in common, united and agreed to hate Christ and His church. They eventually murdered Christ, and they persecuted His church. She was hardly born at Pentecost when persecution broke loose. We see that this gracious Saviour, instead of being gladly and graciously received, was grossly and grievously resented – a sign that is opposed! Thousands remained unbelieving, and many became persecutors. Now you understand why this Spirit filled Simeon said: “Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel …”
He was to be a stone of stumbling to many proud and self-righteous Jews, who would reject Him and therefore ultimately perish in their sins. Many would fall because of Him!
But he was also the Christ who caused the “rising of many in Israel." He became the Saviour of many who, at one time, rejected, blasphemed, and reviled Him, but afterwards repented and believed in Him. Among them was the great apostle Paul.

Simeon finally revealed that Christ was to be the occasion of "the thoughts of many hearts being revealed." The Gospel brings to light the real characters of people. Some are shown to be enemies of God, and others become sons of God through the preaching of the cross.

What do you think of Christ? What child is this? Are we for Him, or are we against Him? Do we love Him, or do we neglect Him? Do we see what Simeon saw when he saw the Christ? Or are we offended by Him?

An Invitation to come to Christ NOW!
Christmas is an annual reminder of God’s love for this world. Why would God give us a Son? Well, Simeon has explained it adequately, hasn’t he? God loves this world. He has a Saviour for the whole world. However, in this world there will be those that receive Him and those that will continue to reject Him, as they always have.
What child is this? This child is Jesus, Lord and Creator of all things both seen and unseen. He is the King of kings and He will soon be invading this earth with His armies. Currently He is offering amnesty in advance of His invasion and should you receive the pardon now before He invades this world, you will be considered His friend. The alternative is to continue to be under the wrath of the King.

So, I remind you then that the gospel is not an invitation to come and make a choice. You have already made your choice. The gospel is a command and not a request. The command is to  “Repent and believe in Christ”, and if you do, you may be able to really celebrate Christmas truly for the first time in your life! May the grace of our Lord be with you! Amen.

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