The Christmas narratives in Matthew and Luke tell us about a good number of people besides Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s parents), the shepherds, the wise men from the east, king Herod, and angels are all important and memorable figures. They are so memorable that all of these figures, except Herod, are now figurines that you can buy at your local Hobby Lobby!
There are other figures in the Christmas narratives that are not as memorable; such as Simeon. I have never seen a figurine of Simeon, artwork depicting Simeon, nor have I ever seen Simeon in a Christmas play. Nevertheless, Simeon serves as a wonderful example of faith; of one who hopes in God and rejoices in God’s saving plan for the nations.
Simeon – A Man of Supernatural Faith
Luke 2:25 tells us, “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.” This is all of the background information that Luke gives us about Simeon. Luke tells us 3 things about Simeon. First, Luke tells us that he was righteous and devout. Simeon possessed true faith. This faith was evidenced by obedience and love for God. He actively sought to live a righteous life – fighting sin, loving the truth, and delighting in the things of God.
Second, Luke tells us Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Simeon believed the promises of God. You don’t wait for something unless you believe it is true. This is why I described his righteousness and devotion as faith. Simeon’s faith in God and his promises was the foundation for his entire life. What promise was Simeon believing and waiting for? The promise of Israel’s King, Savior, and Messiah.
Third, Luke tells us “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” This shows us that Simeon’s faith, evidenced by righteousness and devotion was all a result of supernatural grace and power. How did Simeon hope in God and wait for him to fulfill his promises? He did so by the power of the Holy Spirit. Supernatural grace and power produced supernatural living. Supernatural grace had also given Simeon supernatural eyes and ears: “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.”
Simeon’s life is a reminder that waiting on God to fulfill his promises is not a state of stagnation but of supernatural faith and empowerment. Sometimes, perhaps more than we think, God wants us to wait on him and to wait for the Holy Spirit to act. Waiting on God by faith fights self-reliance and recognizes that God’s supernatural plans and purposes are right and good.
Self-reliance is a great deception. It is rooted in the false belief that what is material is all there is. Many in Simeon’s day were not content to wait on God to fulfill his promise. They had plans to overthrow their Roman oppressors and to take Israel back by their own hands. All they saw was the material – the nation and land of Israel. Simeon saw a greater reality. He saw beyond land and nation to see God’s eternal purposes in Christ. He saw that what God had planned could only be accomplished by God himself. Waiting by faith is the fruit of supernatural grace and power.
God’s Eternal Purposes In Christ
Simeon’s waiting by faith is rewarded. Luke 2:27-29 tells us, “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;”
What a reward! To see and hold Jesus the Messiah. His faith’s reward is so great, Simeon can say, “Now I can die in peace.” Jesus is so great and glorious that to behold him is life’s greatest reward. Do you see Jesus as the greatest reward this Christmas? Like Simeon do you see beyond the materialistic things of this world to see Jesus the Christ, and more importantly, do you believe in and live for Jesus?
Or, like many in Simeon’s day, is your heart hijacked by a false hope; a hope that hopes only in the material things, material purposes, and material outcomes of the world? Is your hope in money? Is your hope in health? Is your hope in success? Is your hope in your personal and political freedoms? Is your hope in safety and security?
Simeon possessed a Christmas hope for a reality far greater than the material blessings of this world. Simeon believed in the promises of God. These promises had nothing to do with the political nation of Israel or the land. Instead, these promises were for the whole world: Luke 2:30-32, “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.”
Simeon did not wait in vain. He did not believe in vain. He did not pray and worship in vain. Simeon saw God’s world-wide purposes and plans as he beheld Jesus. Likewise, we behold Jesus and God’s world-wide purposes and plans in the Bible. The Spirit of God uses the Bible to give us supernatural grace and power to believe, like Simeon. The Spirit’s goal in giving us this faith-enabling grace is the same as it was with Simeon: that we hope in Jesus, that we wait for Jesus, and that we give our lives to God’s world-wide purposes and plans.
A Christmas Prayer
You could use Simeon’s life as a template for a Christmas prayer. It could go something like this:
“God of grace, please give me your Holy Spirit in abundance so that I will possess supernatural faith like Simeon. Like the Jews in Simeon’s day, I confess that I am tempted to look to the material rewards of this life. Open my eyes to see Jesus as the greatest reward and my only hope. I am tempted to labor for material and worldly purposes and plans, which results in me being self-reliant and fleshly. Open my eyes to see and cause my heart to be captured by your plans and your purposes so that I will labor for them by faith. As Simeon waited, so I will wait for you and hope in you. For with you there is steadfast love, and with you there is redemption. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.”