What follows is an excerpt from Christmas Stories, a collection of first-person narratives that will help you recapture the wonder of Christmas.
I wasn’t in Bethlehem. I didn’t see the angels. And I didn’t visit the inn. But I did hold Jesus in my arms eight days after he was born.
I was just an ordinary person living in Jerusalem, except for one thing. Some years earlier, God had revealed to me that I would see the Messiah before I died.
Don’t ask me to explain that. All I can tell you is that after it was revealed to me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not die until I had seen the deliverer for whom the whole world had been waiting.
By the way, it is an interesting experience knowing that you will live to see a future event. There were times when I was quite ill and people wondered if I would recover. But I was never in doubt. God had promised that I would see His Christ. So I was immortal until He came!
I sometimes wondered how I would know Him when I saw Him, but somehow deep down inside, I just knew that I would.
The Day It Happened
Well now, let me tell you about the day it happened. It seemed like my whole life was a preparation for that day.
The strange thing is that it was a day like any other.
I was going about my usual business, when I felt this inner compulsion to go to the temple. God did not usually speak to me this way, but it was like a voice in my head saying to me, “Simeon, go to the temple.”
My first thought was: I’ll go on my way home after work, but I knew that would be disobedience. All I can say is that I knew that I had to leave what I was doing and go to the temple right away. And I’m so glad I did!
The temple court was a constant hive of activity – traders selling animals, priests offering sacrifices, people confessing their sins, and parents presenting their firstborn sons to the Lord.
When I arrived, a young couple was standing before the priest with their baby. The priest had no idea who He was. But as I watched, I knew that He was the One.
Don’t ask me how I knew it. I cannot tell you except to say that the Holy Spirit of God revealed this to me. I was never more sure of anything in all my life. This child was the one the whole world had been waiting for.
Nobody worked it out on their own. Angels told the shepherds, the wise men were led by a star, and the Holy Spirit revealed it to me.
The evidence that Jesus is the Christ is there for all who seek Him, but it is God who opens your eyes to the truth.
The Words that Were Given to Me
I walked up to the family and stood with the little crowd that had gathered around to watch what was going on.
And that was when it happened. I knew God was giving me words that had to be spoken at that moment. So I tapped Joseph on the arm. I told him that God had given me something to say, and asked if I could hold the child.
He seemed rather surprised, me a stranger and not even a priest, but he agreed, and I found myself holding the child in my arms.
Then the words came. I was speaking but I knew that the words I spoke were given to me. I can only say that I spoke from God as I was carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Holding the child in my arms, I declared “Sovereign Lord, my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all people. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
I was about to hand the baby back to Mary, but then more words came to me. Like a wind blowing into your body, these words forced their weight upon me, and I had to speak them out: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.” The words seemed strange to me. I could understand “rising” but why “falling”?
The words kept coming. “He will be a sign that is spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” I could hardly believe the words I was speaking. How could this promised child be spoken against?
I looked at Mary. There was a beauty in her eyes that radiated from the depth of her soul. And as I looked at her, I heard myself say, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
We all stood rooted to the spot. What could this possibly mean?
The Words that Were Given to Anna
Just then, an old lady arrived. Her name was Anna, and she was known to be a woman of prayer. She gave herself to worship and fasting, and people who went to the temple regularly knew that you could count on finding her there!
I had just spoken about the pain that would come to Mary’s soul, when Anna walked up, and began praising God. It was the strangest thing. I was still trying to take in how Jesus could be spoken against, and how Mary’s soul would be torn in two, and right then God gave Anna words of praise and thanksgiving that came pouring out of her.
If the child would be spoken against, and Mary’s soul would be pierced, why was God giving Anna words of thanksgiving?
I think she had grasped what I now understand. Jesus would deliver us at the cost of indescribable pain. “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”
You Won’t Have to Wait
That reminds me of the last thing I wanted to tell you: When I held him in my arms, I knew that I could die in peace.
People had all kinds of hopes and dreams about what the Lord’s Christ would do, but there was no doubt in my mind which was the biggest.
Father, thank you that Jesus delivered us from our sins through his suffering on the cross. You sent him into the world for the falling or rising of every person. Help us to take hold of him by faith and be lifted up!
This is an excerpt of the book Christmas Stories. Read the Christmas stories from the perspective of 5 different biblical characters, including the angel Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and even Herod! Taken together, these first-person narratives will help draw you and your loved ones into the story of our Savior’s birth.
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