Advent Devotion for December 31
Candle Lighter says: “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.”
Response: “I have seen your salvation.”
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:22-40
22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
SOME THOUGHTS: From my perspective, this passage is one of the most poignant and touching in Scripture. Simeon had served the Lord throughout his life as a priest. The Holy Spirit was upon him. What finer thing could be said about anyone? The fact that he was looking for the Messiah tells us much about his knowledge of the Scriptures and the leaning of his heart. In this case, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Put yourself in his place. He didn’t know if the Messiah would be a mature man, a boy, or perhaps even a baby. God’s hand was on Simeon and led him to the Temple on a particular day. That particular day was exactly forty days after Jesus had been born. And according to Jewish law, that was the day for the rite of purification and presenting the child at the Temple to redeem the firstborn. At every point along the way, Mary and Joseph were devout Jews following every aspect of the law. Jesus was raised within the law, which would be congruent with His fulfilling the law. Can you imagine Simeon’s joy as he began to realize the identity of the five-week old baby boy in the arms of this young couple? The words he uttered surprised Jesus’ parents. They were prophetic words regarding their newborn. He would be the glory of Israel, revealing God to all nations and at the same time, cause many to reject God’s plan of redeeming and restoring creation. He would cause people to confront the truth in their own hearts in relation to God. Will they bow to God or stand in defiance of the Lordship of Christ in their lives? In a similar way, we are all in Simeon’s position. I’ll frame the question this way, (v.25) Are we righteous and devout and eagerly waiting for the Messiah to (come-return) and rescue (Israel-this fallen world)? We too can die in peace when we have seen your salvation in our own lives, a salvation freely offered to all who would come.
MUSIC: Lord, Now Let Your Servant Depart in Peace —in Russia by Robert Shaw Festival Singers (The solo you hear is the setting of Simeon’s response v.29-32. Even if you don’t understand Russian you’ll be able to follow the text! Do NOT miss this. It is the most exquisite, beautiful recording in this whole Advent study. Be very quiet and listen to the low basses all the way to the end! Find a quiet place and close your eyes as you listen. Let your heart sing with the soloist.) (YouTube)
PRAYER: “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised. I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
Jesus is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Amen.