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. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 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.”
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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:21-35)
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. (Isaiah 53:11)
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. (John 10:17)
Easter begins at Christmas. Joy to the world! For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. Away in a manger. Silent night. This is where it begins.
And yet we know the rest of the story. This baby was born for one primary purpose: to die.
Surely, Mary and Joseph would have been a bit worried, as all first-time parents are, that their newborn would be healthy. They probably experienced relief that he survived his unorthodox birth and lived to his eighth day when they could present him in the temple. And, though they had not been told exactly what it meant, they believed the angel’s words -- that this baby would somehow save his people from their sins.
The angel did not tell them that he would cause trouble. And so it must have come as some shock to hear the words of the old man Simeon. Their son, their only son, whom they loved, would bring pain. People would stumble over him. People would speak terrible things against him.
As Jesus grew, he understood this, hinting to his friends that his destiny would not be a pleasant one. But they failed to understand. Eventually, he stated it explicitly. He would be condemned and murdered, but he would return.
One of his closest friends shouted, “Never!” But Jesus was resolute. This Christmas baby was born to be subjected to brutality and humiliation. He would lay down his life, so that he could bring life to us all.
Joy to the world, indeed.
Sovereign Lord, I am mystified by the Incarnation of your Son. Who would have thought of this? God taking on flesh, emptying himself? The Creator of all entering into his own creation, becoming one of us? This is astonishing. The incredible lengths to which you have gone in order to save us all from Satan’s power, providing a means of reconciliation for those who were alienated and estranged from you. It is too marvelous for words. Only you could have conceived this. Only you would have willingly offered the life of your Son in exchange for ours, transferring our sin to him, imputing his righteousness to us. Knowing he would be betrayed, rejected and murdered by the people he came to save, he still came. May I always be thankful for your glorious gift and recall the awful price you paid to make it possible to bestow. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.