Every Christmas people sing songs about angels singing and the Savior who was born that miraculous day. Amidst the red Santa hats, green holly, and white snow, churches and Christians remind the world about the true reason for the season: Christ is born. But what was the purpose of Christmas? In other words, why did Jesus come?
Luke records the story about how baby Jesus was brought to the temple after eight days. In the events that followed, we learn the purpose of Christmas.
Simeon Sees the Messiah
25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word;
— Luke 2:25-29 (NASB)
Simeon longed to for the arrival of the Messiah to restore and save God’s people. It is not clear from this text whether Simeon was a priest or other religious leader, only that he was “righteous and devout.” However, there was something he longed for in his life, something greater than himself, a hope beyond his present situation—Simeon longed for Messiah!
Today, many are searching for something out there beyond themselves. Unlike Simeon, they may not know what it is, but they know they want it. Over the past decade, people have become more spiritual, looking for a sense of hope, peace, and purpose in some spiritual realm. Most do not realize that what they search for is Messiah.
God the Spirit promised Simeon that he would not die until he saw Messiah with his own two eyes. Simeon was not told how long that would be or when Messiah would come, nor who it will be. All he knew was that he would live to see Messiah—the timing was up in the air from Simeon’s perspective. Messiah might have come the next day, next year, or even a century later. Simeon had no idea. This promise must have filled him with a sense of hope and joy!
How joyous would you be if you were told, “You will receive all you hope for—at some point in the future. I’m not telling you when, but trust me, it’s coming!” That’s about how clear the message was to Simeon, yet he was overjoyed.
Joseph and Mary bring the newborn child to the temple after eight days. Simeon looks over, sees the child, and immediately knows that child is the Messiah. It was a common practice to bring a baby into the temple. Many children must have passed by Simeon that day and every day he was there. This day, though, the Holy Spirit was in Simeon, revealing to him the identity of this child in Mary’s arms. Jesus was the promised Messiah! That would be like a hospital maternity nurse looking at a newborn and declaring, “That’s the new King of England!” How does she know? How did Simeon know? God told him!
That day Simeon had an encounter with Christ and the Holy Spirit brought him to a point of faith in Jesus. It is our responsibility—and it should be our joy—to help others have an encounter with Jesus by sharing the good news with them. When we do, some will come to faith and some will not; that is up to God. But only when that encounter takes place can the person be saved.
Knowing that God had fulfilled his promise, Simeon was now “released.” This shows tremendous faith on the part of Simeon. To look at a newborn baby and know without a doubt that child was God’s promised Savior is an act of deep conviction. As far as we know, Simeon had never before seen baby Jesus, yet he knew that this child was the Christ. What faith he had!
Jesus Brings Salvation
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
— Luke 2:30-32 (NASB)
Not only does Simeon praise God for keeping his promise that he would see Messiah before he died, Simeon also declared the mission, or purpose, of Messiah’s arrival: to save people. Simeon states that Jesus is the salvation given by God—individuals will be saved through this Christ child. He may not have known how this would occur, but was certain it would happen.
Furthermore, Simeon recognizes that Jesus was part of God’s sovereign plan to save people when he states, “Which You have prepared.” He knew that not only was Jesus the Savior, he was the Savior God intended. Also, Simeon knew that God intended Jesus to arrive at the moment he did. It was all part of God’s big plan! This is why Paul could declare, in harmony with Simeon, that Jesus came and died “at the right time” (Rom 5:6).
Finally, he declared that Jesus will save people from all over the world, regardless of race or nationality. All who believe in him will be saved, no matter the color of their skin or the country in which they were born. Whether Chinese, German, Mexican, Iranian, Russian, Kenyan, or American, all who confess Jesus as their Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead will be saved (cf. Rom 10:9). Simeon knew that God is an impartial God (cf. Rom 2:11).
Many today view one or more races as inferior in some way; there are many racists out there. God is not one of them—he loves all races! God is the perfection and basis of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s cry that we not see people for the color of their skin, but the content of their character. When God looks at people, he does not see a white woman or a black man, he sees individuals who have accepted or rejected his son, Jesus. Whatever race you may be, if you believe in Jesus, you are my brother or sister in Christ!
Jesus was Born to Die
Simeon’s declaration of praise reveals the purpose of Christmas: salvation. Jesus came to save individuals by dying on the cross to pay for man’s sin. He came to pay the penalty of death that no human could ever pay. Put simply, Jesus was born to die in place of all who believe in him. By that death, he would save his people.
But not only die, Jesus would be raised from the tomb on the third day and thus defeat death. By this, he grants new life to all those who put their faith in him alone for their salvation.
Christmas is a wonderful, joyous holiday. It is a time of celebration! Christmas celebrates, though, not just the birth of Jesus, but the arrival of the Savior!