Sermon for Sunday Evening, December 24th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Luk 2:22-38 ESV] 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting 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 do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
While Christ was voluntarily humble in his birth, the very same birth was a display of victory.
As the “Humiliation of Christ” is often focused on his death on the cross, so also is his victory in its greatest prominence there on the cross.
But we saw this morning that Christ’s humiliation began at His birth.
And we shall see this evening that his victory was proclaimed from birth.
How was victory proclaimed in the birth of Christ?
1) Victory in The fulfillment of prophecy.
These are the “I told you so’s” of the Bible.
Hundreds of years before Christ was born, prophecies were uttered about his birth.
[Mic 5:2 ESV] 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
[Isa 7:14 ESV] 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
When these prophecies came to be, it was a clear indication that God has power over all things. He can tell the end from the beginning. He has victory over the course of world history. The Christ-child is born!
There is a nearer-term prophecy then in our text. Simeon, this righteous and devote man with the Holy Spirit upon him long before Pentecost has it revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And, the prophecy was fulfilled. Simeon came to the temple at the same time that Joseph and Mary were there with Jesus. And Simeon, in this most remarkable scene takes Jesus up in his arms and blesses God and says “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
That peace of Simeon is a victory over all anxiety, and a victory over sin. He has seen the Christ.
He didn’t get to say “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” but he did get to say “Jesus Christ Is Born Today.” And there is that sense then in which the birth (not yet the death and resurrection, but the birth) of Christ is so powerful as a herald of God’s goodness and grace. His birth is a declaration of victory.
2) Victory in the words of the prophecies.
We see that victory not only in the fulfillment of the prophecy, but in the words of the prophecies themselves. These are words that declare victory in Christ’s birth.
[Isa 9:6-7 ESV] 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Those, my friends, are words of victory.
Jesus Christ, born in “low condition” in a manger, in little old Bethlehem, to common folk, poor in the things of the world, is, at the same time, a beacon of light for what is to come and what is be from then on out. The government will be upon his shoulder. Of its increase there will be no end. And he will bring peace, established and reigning forevermore. That is victory! Victory over sin, death, and the devil from His very birth!
Oh, how the devil and his minions must have trembled with Jesus came into the world. They could no longer reign over the people of God. Over them, Christ has the victory.
3) Victory over nature
Then in Christ’s birth there is also victory over nature.
Nature says God can’t become man. God is infinite, and man is finite, so the two can’t mix. Well, they did mix. Here is Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. And he is born into the world. It has happened. Nothing is impossible for God. He has victory over all nature.
There is also victory over nature in the virgin birth. Nature says a virgin cannot conceive. But God is over and above nature. Nature does what God says. And if he wants to perform a miracle, nature cannot stop him. Christ’s birth is a victory over that supposed limitation of nature. And it is a reminder to us all that He is in control.
4) Victory over Herod
We should briefly mention another victory in the Gospels shortly after Christ’s birth. That is, he gets away from Herod. The earthly kings have no power over the real king, Jesus Christ. Herod seeks to have him put to death by killing all of the infant males in the area. But Jesus has the victory. Though physically unable as an infant to evade capture by Herod’s forces, Christ’s escape to Egypt is in God’s plan. And Herod’s plan is defeated. It is futile to fight against the true king.
5) The Victory promised and already won.
Then, finally, we have “the victory promised and already won.”
This can tricky, because we know that “it is finished” occurred at the cross. The cross of Christ is where is all comes together. Christ sent for us, dies to take the punishment for His people.
But there is yet an element of victory even at Christ’s birth, foreshadowing that total victory on the cross.
So we find Anna giving thanks to God.
What was she giving thanks for? It is “the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Yet Christ had not died yet. He had not yet redeemed his people with his sacrifice on the cross.
And we find Simeon saying: my eyes have seen your salvation. Because he saw Christ, now born in the world, he saw salvation.
The victory is declared in Christ’s birth. And when victory is declared by God, it is “as good as done.”
The messiah has come! It won’t be much longer now! Victory is here. Victory in Christ.
They are not saying “in 30 years we’ll have victory.” The declaration of victory is right then and there.
This same assurance is to be ours as Christians. The victory is won in Jesus Christ. Though we still live in a world of sin, the future that awaits us is without sin, the victory of Christ being fully realized. But until then, we look to Christ, and have that same attitude of Simeon and of Anna.
Salvation has been won. Christ has come to earth. Even more, we now live after Christ’s death and resurrection and we know about these things in the same Bible that teaches us of his birth. Sin still surrounds us, permeates us, but the victory is Christ’s.
Looking back to our text this morning, we read:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
What is the good news there? Perhaps the people understand that the messiah will one day die for their sins. But the good news is that Christ is born!
So the angels could THEN says “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
And likewise the shepherds glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen, as it has been told them.
So at that point – the birth of Christ – we see both Christ’s humility and his victory simultaneously.
Let us adore him.
O come let us adore him.
I might have called this sermon the exaltation of Christ at His birth. That is the flipside of humiliation. Exaltation. And in glory, at the right hand of father, Christ is forever exalted. That is what the term usually refers to in theological literature. But who can doubt that Christ is exalted even here, at his birth, in his victory of coming to earth, fulfilling the prophecies of God, proven his divinity over nature, and thus proclaiming victory for all ages.
Each Sunday we declare “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”
And on this Sunday, we equally declare “Jesus Christ is Born this day.”
Praise be God.