St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

What Child Is This?

Sermon on Luke 2:25-40

Text: 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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Everyone has their favorite Christmas carol. What is yours? Is it “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or Silent Night”? Perhaps it is “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” or “Angels We Have Heard On High.” A popular carol is “What Child Is This?”. This morning we will use the title of that carol as we study our text. WHAT CHILD IS THIS? We See That 1. He Is The Salvation and 2. He Comes To Bring Peace And Division.

The events of our text took place forty days after Jesus’ birth. He had been circumcised according to Mosaic Law. Now, Mary and Joseph were carrying out the will of God. They were to offer a sacrifice that was required for all firstborn sons. As they came into the temple in Jerusalem, they were again reminded of the specialness of the child in their arms. While they were in the temple a man by the name of Simeon came to them and took the Baby Jesus into his arms. He had been promised by God that he would not die until he saw the Savior. Can you imagine the anticipation he felt every day as he waited for the Messiah? Now he was holding the Savior of the world in his arms. His joy filled him to the point that he sang a song of praise to God for sending a Savior into the world. He said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Verse 29) He knew that he could die in peace because he had seen the promised Messiah with his own eyes.

Simeon goes on to describe this child. “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.” (Verses 30-32) Simeon calls Jesus “salvation.” He was sure that this was the Savior of the world. Jesus came to save everyone from their bondage to sin. He did so by obeying God’s Law perfectly. He placed himself under God’s Law. We see this by the fact that already at the age of eight days, he was circumcised. This was just how God’s law prescribed it to be. He spent his entire life complying with God’s Law. As we are told in Galatians 4:4&5, “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” This verse focuses on our inability to keep God’s law the way that we must. Our inability condemns us. So, God sent his Son, who was over the law. He placed himself under the law because of his love for us. He did so as our Substitute. He took the sins of the world on himself. He was salvation for us all. Simeon recognized him to be the salvation that God had promised.

Simeon also called him “A light for revelation to the Gentiles.” (Verse 32) The people who were not Jews had generally followed false gods. But now that Jesus had come, he would lead them out of their spiritual darkness into the light of the salvation that he brings. We are thankful for this. Most, if not all, of us are Gentiles. God into his love did not just keep the facts of Jesus’ birth to the Jews in Palestine. He has seen to it that you and I saw the light of his salvation and now walk in that light. Jesus is the light for revelation to the Gentiles and we praise God that he is.

Simeon also called him “The glory to your people Israel.” (Verse 32) Israel was greatly blessed. God had chosen them to be the nation from which the Savior would come. We thank God that he preserved the nation of Israel from all her enemies so that the Savior of the world might come from them, as he had promised. God sent his Son to be the Salvation of the world from the line of the Jews.

Simeon’s song called Jesus “Salvation.” (Verse 30) This child that was cradled in his arms was the salvation of the world. Simeon also alluded to the effect that this child would have on the inhabitants of the world. He said that the child would bring peace, but also division.

Simeon and Anna were both longing for the coming of the Messiah. Each day they looked for the coming of the Messiah. Now here was the Messiah right in front of them. The Messiah was cradled in Simeon’s arms. Anna must have witnessed this and heard what Simeon had said. When she saw and heard it, we are told she “gave thanks to God.” (Verse 38) She, too, felt joy at the arrival of the Messiah.

They felt peace. Simeon started his song with the words, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Verse 29) The peace that he is speaking of is the very special peace that only the Christian can have. The rest of the world goes along its merry way as it sins. But, on Judgment Day, they will be held accountable for their sins. They will be filled with terror when they are face-to-face with the holy God. They will have no peace in hell. But the Christian can have true peace with God. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are no longer God’s enemies. We are at peace with God. We can come before God in total confidence because we can point to Jesus’ work of salvation and how it is ours through faith. This peace the unbeliever will never know.

The Christian also has the peace of mind in knowing that all things in their lives are there for their good. God always has our good in mind. He may allow a difficulty to enter our lives, so that we realize that we were placing our trust in something or someone else other than him. He may be, by that difficulty, helping us to cling more tightly to him. With some difficulties in our lives, we may see why God has allowed them to come. With others we may never see why. We can be sure of the fact that God is our loving Father, who only wants all things to be for our good. That is the peace that Christ brought.

But, before we just see that Christ Child as a brightly wrapped Christmas gift, we also would do well to look at Simeon’s words to Mary. He said, “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.” (Verses 34&35) This came true during Jesus’ lifetime as the leaders of the Jewish people refused to accept Jesus as their messiah who had been promised to their forefathers. They showed that their faith had become misguided. The Messiah they sought was one who would free them from Roman rule, or one who would follow all their man-made rules. When Jesus did not live up to their expectations, they put him to death. Their thoughts were revealed in their actions. Their unbelief became very clear.

There were people who did believe and became the core of the church. Their faith was also revealed by their actions as they worked to spread the message of the Savior to the world. While Jesus was a stumbling block to some, to others he was the foundation stone on which their faith was built.

Those two reactions are still in evidence today. There are many today who reject Jesus as their only Savior from sin. They refuse to believe the fact that they are sinners, in need of a savior. They oppose the idea that Jesus saved them from their sins. There are also those who have been brought to believe in Jesus as their Savior. They confess their sins and, through Spirit-given faith, accept the peace which can only come from knowing that their sins are forgiven. This is the division that the Christ would bring, as Simeon had prophesied.

Simeon and Anna were not priests in the temple. They had not gone through extensive, religious training. They were lay people, who were acting on their faith. They were able to answer the question, “What child is this?”. Even though you may not have gone through a specialized, intensive religious training, you can still answer the questions, as well. “What Child Is This?” He is our salvation, who brings peace to sin-tormented souls. We thank God that he has created this faith in our hearts that tells us who Jesus is and what he means to us. May each of us be ever ready to testify who Jesus is. May we always be ready to share with others the answer to the question, “What Child is this?”. Amen.