Christmas – A Beginning

Hos 14:9 ~
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is discerning, let him know them.
For the ways of the LORD are right,
And the righteous will walk in them
but transgressors will stumble in them.

Simeon saw the young couple among the jostling crowd. They entered the temple’s outer courtyard—no different than hundreds of other young families who ascended the temple mount every day. Yet something about them compelled him to notice.

They thread their way toward the priests. The young father carried a pair of turtledoves in a well-crafted wooden cage. The young mother carried their infant son; he would be almost six weeks old.

The Voice whispered to Simeon’s heart, ‘This is what you have waited for! This is the One who was promised!’

Simeon’s own steps faltered in his excitement. His heart beat with the words of the prophet Joel, Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not make Your inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should the peoples say, ‘Where is their God? He changed directions, angled his route to meet them between the porch and the altar. Isaiah’s words resounded in his ears. ‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God.

A cacophony of sound added to the tumult. The lowings and bleatings from the herds of calves and lambs and the fluttering of hundreds of wings contended with the chanting Levites and the hawking of the moneychangers.

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Hosea’s words rang clearly to Simeon as he waited on the course the young couple’s steps would take.

The Almighty had promised him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ—the King who would make the way of salvation. Now the time had come. The promise was fulfilled.

The couple stood before him. Simeon opened his arms wide to them. “May I hold your child?”

They stopped. Father and mother glanced up to meet Simeon’s gaze then they turned to each other. The woman smiled at her husband and nodded then lifted the bundle into Simeon’s arms.

Simeon cradled the child to his chest. He felt his warmth, the pulse of life as the boy stirred. He spoke aloud. “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word…”

Simeon moved the bundle and studied the child’s face. His voice rose clear and strong among the dissonances of the Gentile Courtyard, “…for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Father and mother glanced to each other, their eyes wide open. Turtledoves fluttered and cooed in their wooden cage.

Simeon heard the Voice.

It spoke clearly, spoke a word which Simeon knew he must give to the young, gentle mother who stood before him. A message that, in his heart, echoed like the words of Isaiah spoken hundreds of years before. Isaiah’s words throbbed through Simeon’s mind:
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground. He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

How alike the words of Isaiah were to the words the Voice now gave him to speak.

Simeon’s heart ached for the child in his arms—distressed that eternal joy could only come through stark suffering, grieved that the crowds in the temple courtyard were oblivious to the presence of the One who would fulfilled their sacrifices.

He fixed his gaze on the mother’s wide eyes. She must have read the change of emotions on his face, for her eyes filled with solemn determination.

Simeon lifted the bundle to return the child to her arms and spoke the words the Voice had given him. “You are highly favored of the Lord. Behold, this Child is outstretched for the fall and rise of many in Israel,” he released the infant to her arms, “and appointed for a sign that will be opposed, refused, denied—”

She lifted her eyes to look at Simeon. He spoke quietly, but the words gripped her heart even as Simeon’s glance now included the young father. “A sword will pierce even your own soul. Opposition to Him will reveal the inmost thoughts of many hearts.”

“Simeon, have you found him?” Anna limped forward, breathless. “Have you found the Redeemer of Jerusalem?” She stopped in front of them and leaned heavily on her walking stick.

Simeon nodded.

Anna’s gaze moved to the young mother. “May I look at him?”

The mother turned the bundle toward the old widow. Gnarled fingers gently lifted the swaddling cloth that covered the infant’s face.

Anna inhaled deeply then lifted her voice. “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, Maker and Provider of all things, for He has remembered His promises and brought to us His salvation.”

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