READ: Luke 2:13-39
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the Shepherds said to one another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:13-16)
Hark the Herald Angels sing, glory to the newborn king, peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. I immediately think of this classic hymn when I read this scripture from the book of Luke. The angels of Heaven were so filled with an abundance of joy, they could not help but cry out in song. The angels had long been awaiting the day that the Savior would come to Earth to reconcile humanity from their sins. From the original sins of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, we see God’s prophecy, that one will come from the womb of a woman to crush the head of the serpent. “And I will put enmity between thee and thy woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) This seed of the woman is Christ, born of Mary, and all His followers. The seed of the serpent is the fallen angel, Lucifer, the angels that fell from heaven with him and all his earthly followers. The Apostle Paul refers to this prophecy in his letter to the church in Rome. “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 16:20a)
The shepherds could feel excitement of the angels, as the angels rejoiced and praised God. The shepherds were so filled with awe by the angels and the message they brought, they left with “haste” to find this baby that would be lying a manger.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:17-20)
The shepherds became the very first to spread the Gospel of Christ. This gospel news would be familiar to many of those whom the shepherds told about this Christ child. The prophets of the Old Testament had long been speaking of the Messiah who would come. In fact, the wisemen that came from the East, were likely from Babylon and had been watching for generations for a special, particular star to follow since the prophet Daniel, during the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar over 500 years before Christ would be born. The Israelites were waiting for their Messiah, and now He had arrived.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)
The angel Gabriel gave Mary the name she was to name her baby at the same time he told her she was going to have a baby. “And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” (Luke 1:31-32)
Gabriel knew His name because he already knew Him. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)Jesus has been there since the before the beginning of creation. He is the Word that spoke creation into being. Once you began to realize how long the angels of heaven had been awaiting this moment, you can almost feel the excitement the angels and the shepherds felt that very special night.
While Joseph and Mary and were at the Temple when the baby Jesus was eight days old for the circumcision and naming of the baby and to make a sacrifice unto the Lord for the birth of the baby, a man named Simeon came and made another prophecy about the Christ child given him by the Holy Spirit. “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2: 25-32)
Simeon, assumably an old man, was a just and devout man of God. He had been awaiting this moment for a long time. The Holy Spirit had previously come upon him and told him he would not die until he got see this Christ child. When Joseph and Mary came into to the Temple with Jesus, Simeon’s heart leapt for joy within him. Simeon declared with great excitement that he could now die in peace because he had seen the one that will bring the light (salvation) to non-Israelites everywhere and bring glory to the people of Israel. Jesus would reconcile all. ‘God and sinners reconciled’
“And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35)
Can you imagine how Joseph and Mary felt as all these amazing things were happening around them and this baby? Scared? Happy? Amazed? Terrified? So many feelings and thoughts must have been swirling around in their minds. Notice here in verse 34, Simeon says this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. Many will fall from not putting their faith in Jesus and many will rise again with Him in the last day for believing in Him. And then in verse 35, Simeon says, a sword shall pierce thy soul also. A prophecy of the sword that would pierce Jesus side on the cross and a symbolic reference the sorrow Mary would feel when Jesus is crucified. Do you think Mary truly understood these prophecies at this moment in time? Probably not completely. But, I am sure she pondered these things in her heart her whole life.
“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she was coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38)
After Simeon made his prophecy of the Christ child, another came. A widow woman this time. Anna had been a widow for eighty-four years and had not left the Temple during that time. She spent all her time in prayer and fasting. When she saw the child, she immediately began to give thanks to God, for the redemption of humanity had come. Anna continued to tell all the people she could about the Messiah and the forgiveness He brings.
“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.” (Luke 2:39)
It is in Nazareth that Jesus the boy would grow up, a Hebrew son of a Carpenter. And it was there in Galilee, that Jesus would begin His Earthly ministry thirty years later.
When we celebrate Christmas this year, I encourage you to ponder these things in your heart, just like Mary did. The true meaning of the season can get lost in all the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas. Let’s share the light and joy and peace on earth to all our loved ones this Christmas. The best gift of all is God’s Gift to us, the fulfillment of prophecy, our savior Jesus.