The Christmas Gospel contains many promises from God. Before we close our Bibles to this portion of God’s Word, let us look at the promises God made to Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and to Simeon. Then we will ask, “Is there a promise there for me?”
The skilled craftsman, Joseph, was visibly upset when an angel of the Lord visited him in his carpenter’s shop one afternoon and delivered this promise: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name of Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20).
Mary got the shock of her life when the angel Gabriel greeted her with these words: “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name of Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
The shepherds were awakened from a night’s rest when an angel of the Lord appeared to them with this message: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:26).
And now, as believers in Christ we boldly ask, “Is there a promise for us?” God’s Word tells us yes. There is.
Let us spend a little time with Simeon, the promise this devout man received, and how God fulfilled it.
Simeon was a devout man, waiting for the Messiah to come. The promise that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah brought him to the temple day after day. Then came that day when he walked in the temple court and met Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. They brought the baby to be circumcised on the eighth day, according to the law. Simeon took the child in his arms and prayed, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.”
What a picture! A saintly man was holding the baby Jesus in his arms and saying, “Now, Father, your promise has been fulfilled in my life.”
When I was five years old, the baby got my attention. At eighty, Jesus is still the central figure in the picture, but Simeon’s words – “Lord, now you can let your servant depart in peace” – make a lot of sense.
As we leave the Christmas story for another year, these words ring in our ears: “Do not be afraid.” These were the words spoken to Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and us if we trust Him. God is calling us to be the most courageous people in the world, for he lives in us to strengthen us. Peter said it well, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? Nevertheless, even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened. Instead set Christ aside as Lord in your heart.” Paul adds these words: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
I pray that the messages from God’s Word in this Christmas season will give us courage to go forth in the name of Christ to stand for what is right. We hear the argument: What is right? What is right for you might not be right for another person. Right is right.
These words have no place in the life of a committed Christian. Our Father, in His Word, has taught us the absolutes. One of these great truths is that the Lord Jesus, who once was held in the arms of Simeon, now offers to hold us in his arms where we are safe forevermore.
How do I know these promises are true? In faith I trust Him. But if I need something more practical than this, and that is the kind of a world we seem to live in, look at what God had done for you in retrospect. I look back at what God has promised, and there it is. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will work through the Word of God to create faith in a person’s heart. I know this to be true when I look back and see the hundreds of people who claim Jesus as Savior and Lord. He kept his promise.
God never told us we would not have crushing blows in our lives. However, He did assure us that he could use these blows to bring us great blessings. How often my wife and I have wished that ten years ago she did not have a stroke. It would be wonderful to have her running around as once she did. How marvelous it was to watch her perceptive mind at work, whereas now it is sometimes slow to comprehend what is going on in her life. Nevertheless, God’s promises are sure. He has blessed us, and we have a more mature view of his grace.
Yes, they are two beautiful pictures: Simeon holding the baby Jesus in his arms, and now the crucified and risen Lord Jesus holding those who trust him in his arms. As the hymn declares, “Resting in Jesus, we are safe ever more.”