I Just Knew It
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | December 31, 2017
Read Luke 2:22 - 40
It was just one week ago that we gathered in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve and celebrated together during our traditional service of Carols, Communion and Candlelight as the Season of Advent drew to a close.
And almost before we knew it, just like that (snap!), Christmas came and went. Sometimes, it boggles my mind how much time we spend getting ready for that day, only to have it be over in the blink of an eye.
But, if we take the time to separate the significance OF Christmas from the preparation FOR Christmas --we might find that the significance of Christmas lasts far longer than a single point of time on a liturgical or even secular calendar.
When we consider the real reason that Jesus came to earth as that newborn babe, lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes -- when we contemplate the urgent need that existed that resulted in God sending us a Savior -- and as we reflect upon the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6 – 7).
When we think about all of that for just a moment, we will come to realize that the true significance of Christmas is far too important to be relegated to just a few days or even a few weeks each year.
And so, as we look at the New Testament lesson for today, we discover two people who understood just how significant Christmas – the birth of our Savior Jesus the Christ – really was.
These two people who are highlighted in our text were named Simeon and Anna.
According to the Message Paraphrase, Simeon is described as being “a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel.”
The scriptures go on to say that “the Holy Spirit was on him.” And that, “The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died.”
Simeon was a righteous and devout man. Someone who was certainly no stranger to the Temple. In fact, he was probably there more often than most.
He was presumably an elderly man who had lived a full life, dedicated to serving God. And as a result, he had been given a gift by the Holy Spirit: the revelation that he would actually see the Messiah before he died.
Clearly, Simeon must have been someone pretty special to have received such a promise from the Lord. And on this particular day that we have read about in our text, Simeon saw that promise come to fruition.
It is as if I can see him reaching out to hold the baby and hear him saying:
“I just knew it! The minute I saw those young people come in here with that baby, I felt something inside my spirit begin to stir, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this child is the One. The very One that we have been waiting for, for so very long. It is just as you promised Lord, here indeed is the Messiah! I just knew it! I’m good now, I have seen all that I could have ever hoped to see in this life. I am ready to move on now to whatever comes next.”
And even as he said all of this, the scriptures say that Mary and Joseph were amazed at his proclamation.
After all, while most parents think their child is special, to hear it being confirmed by a total stranger must have been astonishing.
What mother or father doesn’t want to believe that their son or daughter is the best and brightest that the world has to offer? But to have this revered elder from the Temple declare their son to be God’s salvation… that was nothing short of amazing.
And yet, his declaration was not all sunshine and blue skies. In fact, looking again to the Message Paraphrase, we read what Simeon said to Mary after blessing her and Joseph:
“This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel, a figure misunderstood and contradicted— the pain of a sword-thrust through you— But the rejection will force honesty, as God reveals who they really are.”
In other words, there would be no neutral ground when it came to Jesus as the Messiah -- either people would joyfully accept Him, or they would totally reject Him.
And that is the same choice that people must make to this day whether to accept Jesus as the Messiah or to reject Him as the Savior of the World.
But Simeon was not the only one in the Temple that day who knew just who Jesus was.
If we move on in the text, we read about Anna; an elderly woman who is described as being a prophetess who became a widow after having been married only seven years. The scriptures say that she never left the Temple area and worshipped there, day and night, with fasting and praying.
Now a prophet or prophetess was not necessarily someone who foretold the future; but was someone whose primary role was to speak for God and to proclaim the truth.
Like Simeon, she is someone who would be described as being righteous and devout. And like Simeon, she, too, was well aware of who this precious child really was.
Can’t you just hear her?
“I just knew it! Thank you, Lord! There He is! The promised hope of redemption for Jerusalem!”
What an honor and a privilege for Anna and Simeon to be able to see the Christ child; only eight days old, but literally carrying the weight of the world’s salvation on His tiny shoulders.
And what an awesome opportunity for Mary and Joseph to be the mother and father of this child who was the fulfillment of the prophecies they had no doubt heard for many years.
If I listen real close, I can hear Mary whispering to Joseph, “I just knew it! Everything that the angel, Gabriel, told me is coming to pass and it is more wonderful than I could have imagined.”
Now after they had completed everything that the Law of the Lord required, meaning the circumcision and naming of the child and the requisite offerings being made at the Temple, the text says that, “…they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.”
And the grace of God was on him…
The grace of God…
God’s amazing grace…
You see, the real significance of Christmas is not found in gifts that wise men brought to lay before the baby Jesus nor can it be found in the gifts that we give to one another. The real significance of Christmas is the gift of grace that God gives to us through His Son and our Savior, Jesus the Christ.
While the calendar may tell us, that Christmas is a day that we celebrate only in December; the gift of God’s grace, that was given to us through the birth of Jesus the Christ, is something that should be celebrated 365 days a year (with an extra day for Leap Year added in, of course).
It is because of God’s grace and His unconditional love for us that He sent Jesus into the world. As that familiar verse of scripture, John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
And while that verse is arguably one of the most often quoted verses of scripture, we do not hear the verse that follows it quoted quite as often. That verse reads, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
You see, by rights, the world deserves to be condemned. Because as we read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” And we really are living in a sin sick world. All you have to do is turn on the TV, scroll through the Internet or pick up the local newspaper to see that sin is running rampant in this world.
But thankfully that same verse of scripture in Romans goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And we find further confirmation of that in Ephesians 2 (4) which reads, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
There it is again, God’s amazing grace…
And if we keep reading in Ephesians 2, we would find these additional words as it relates to God’s gift of grace (vv. 7– 9), “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So that no one can boast…
There is nothing that we can do, in and of ourselves, to earn God’s gift of grace.
Because grace is literally God’s unmerited favor, by definition, it cannot be earned, there is nothing we can do to deserve it. It is why we need a Savior.
It was for that very reason that Christ came to earth as that little baby, born in a manger, circumcised after eight days, prophesied about by Anna and proclaimed to be the Messiah by Simeon.
That same little baby who grew strong in body and wise in spirit and made the ultimate sacrifice for us on a cross at Calvary -- giving His very life for us because He knew we needed a Savior.
And whether it is the Christmas season or any other season, for that matter, we will continue to need a Savior until Jesus returns for His church.
And let me just say, looking at the state of the world around us, if we ever needed a Savior before, we surely need Him now.
And if you know that to be true -- that we are truly in need of a Savior -- then won’t you stand now and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship [I Need Thee Every Hour #578].