" 'Now Lord, you are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; 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.' And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - and a sword will pierce even your own soul - to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:29-34
Warm, unforgettable memories break over the shores of my heart with waves of nostalgia at this time of year. The bright lights of New York City have always been an amazing sight to me, but they put an additional, serious strain on the eastern power grid at Christmas. To a ten year old boy they are truly awe-inspiring. In 1960, it seemed every store, and major avenue competed for a prize for shedding the most light on Christmas. The Avenue of the Americas was guarded by rows of trumpeting angels, the skating rink of Rockefeller Center was ablaze with garlands of lights, but no display could hold a candle to Macy's. Their famous, flagship store windows were displayed with one Christmas scene after another. All around the block, each one of their presentations was more impressive than the other. They depicted Bible stories, and Christmas around the world. From Currier and Ives to the North Pole, each window was a huge Christmas card of creativity and light. The scenes still leap from my mind fifty years later. No one knows how to light it up like New York City.
The Christmas story is all about light. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, they were looking for a priest who would set him apart for the service God had sent Him to perform. Simeon's life had been spent waiting for this moment. He knew immediately that he held the Light of the World in his arms. Many people witnessed the priest conduct the ceremony, and the parental act of obedience. They only saw a child being placed in the hands of an old man. It might have given them a warm feeling, to see someone so old holding an infant in their hands, but there was more going on than mere sentimentality. With eyes blinded by the darkness of sin, they saw a child, but Simeon saw The Light.
Simeon took the child from Mary and Joseph, turned his thoughts to the prophecy of Isaiah, and said, "A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES." His parents were amazed to hear these words. With all they had experienced, they could not have been easily surprised. Still to hear Simeon pronounce that Jesus was a fulfillment of messianic prophecy, gave them pause. The Messiah was not going to be a Savior for the Jews, but be a light of revelation for the people of the whole world.
Simeon did not pronounce all sweetness and light over the Child. His words are understood by us more today than they were by Mary and Joseph. He told them that their Child would be person of great significance, but "a sign to be opposed." The cradle and the cross are inseparable in the Christmas story, and those who oppose one must reject the other.
The contemporary culture of commercialism is not opposed to making a buck off the birth of Jesus, but it is growing increasingly opposed to the purpose for which He was born. Simeon's prayer of dedication reminds Christ followers, He was sent by God to be The Light of the world. People who have grown accustomed to being in the dark, rarely appreciate a sudden flash of light. It blinds their eyes, and shoots pain to the brain. This might explain why they are opposed to the greeting, "Merry Christmas!" The opposition to Jesus is not limited to Christmas greetings, and nativity scenes on the town square.
For centuries, ancient armies of evil have been mobilized to stop The Light from revealing the "thoughts from many hearts." Satan is not opposed to the Christmas season. He hates the Christmas Story, and The Light of The World. He hates it when The Light of Jesus exposes the consequences of sin for what it is, separation from God. When Jesus enters into a person's heart, His light overwhelms the forces of darkness, and guides blinded people to see the grace of God. This is the reason for all the opposition. When Satan sees The Light, he is threatened, and turns up his opposition to any "sign" that Jesus is the reason for the season. Hold up The Sign anyway!
The little song we learned as "Sunbeams" is running through my mind, and humming in my heart. "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Won't let Satan, whoooosh, blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine...." Sing it with me. Everybody on the chorus..."Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!" Now, that is a Christmas carol that can point people to a very...