Beholding the Glory of Christ at Christmas—What Did Simeon See?

I have a favorite hill in my little town of Round Hill, Virginia, which I enjoy ascending at a particular time of morning in the summer months. The light has already dawned by the time I start climbing to the summit. The light helps me on my way up the hill, but I don’t see the full glory of the sun until it comes up over the mount.

This is descriptive of our forefather’s Simeon’s place in redemptive history. He was living at the first light of the dawn of the last days. The light had dawned with the coming of Jesus in his incarnation, but Simeon did not behold the beautiful glory of the Son until his mother and father brought him into the temple. Although Simeon had believed God’s promises and had lived righteously in the strength of them, he had yet to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus as he would.

“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.” – ESV Luke 2:25-32

Simeon was a righteous and devout man, full of faith, who eagerly anticipated the fulfillment of God’s promises. He went by the Spirit’s guidance into the temple one morning, and on that special day beheld the unfathomable love of God the Father, the wonderful Savior of the world, the light to the Gentiles, the glory of Israel, and the embodiment and realization of all of God’s promises (Luke 2:25–32). Simeon beheld the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). He rejoiced, saying, “My eyes have seen your salvation!” (Luke 2:30).

But What Did Simeon See?

Simeon saw a child who would have looked like any other—nothing extraordinary to outward appearances. There was no glow, no halo around baby Jesus’ holy head. He was clothed in our humanity, in the likeness of sinful flesh, born in the likeness of men, and the glory that he had enjoyed as the eternal Son before the foundation of the world was cloaked (Isa. 53:2; John 17:5; Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7). As Charles Wesley superbly wrote:

“Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, Hail! the Incarnate Deity!”

But Simeon saw something special because the Holy Spirit showed it to him by giving him eyes of faith (as emphasized in Luke 2:25, 26, 27). We are told specifically that Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple” (2:27). Simeon then received into his arms his blessed Savior-King (2:28), the very revelation of God’s salvation to sinners.

It is similar with us today. The Holy Spirit is still leading believers to behold the glory of Jesus. In order to behold who Christ is, and what this means for us, the Holy Spirit must make our dead hearts alive (Eph. 2:1–5). We need to be enabled to behold him with eyes of faith, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the power and grace of God (Eph. 1:17–19; 2 Cor. 4:6).

Do You See Him, Too?

This Christmas, ponder deeply the significance of the birth of Jesus. What do you see when you look thoughtfully into the manger? Do you see just a child, merely a baby, or do you see the living God in human flesh to live and die for sinners, to be raised for our vindication and righteous declaration before a holy God, to ascend to God’s right hand as the King of kings and Lord of lords? If you see this, then it is God who has worked in your life, and you are an heir of all his wonderful “Yes” promises in Christ! (2 Cor. 1:20). Can you rejoice that even though your physical eyes may be dimmed by sin’s doubts, and you may grow weary as a pilgrim on the way, your eyes of faith can still see and can still be strengthened as you gaze upon your glorious King? Do you pray to see this more clearly? (Eph. 1:18).

As God’s people living between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ, we are taught to look on and behold the glory of Jesus Christ. We are taught that as we behold this glory, we are transformed by the Spirit from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18). One of the rich benefits of living on this side of the resurrection, as recipients of God’s Spirit, is that we can behold the image of God in the face of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–3; 2 Cor. 4:6). The Old Testament saints beheld Christ’s glory in shadow and type (Luke 24:24–27; John 5:39), but we behold the true image of God as he is fully revealed in the time of fulfillment. Have you received him? Have you embraced this glorious King as he is held out to you in the gospel? Do you have “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6)? Embrace him now. Take up the blessed Jesus in your arms of faith and receive him as your beloved King!

Beloved, rejoice that the glory of God in Christ has appeared! This salvation has been clearly revealed to all (Titus 2:11–14). We still await the full revelation of this glory, but let’s get in practice for it. John Owen wrote in his magnificent treatise Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,

“If our future blessedness shall consist in being where he is, and beholding of his glory, what better preparation can there be for it than in a constant previous contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the Gospel, unto this very end, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory?” (Works of John Owen, 1:275).

The Scriptures tell us to practice beholding this glory by eagerly anticipating Christ’s appearing and sober-mindedly being watchful for it (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 4:7). We are to love his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8), just as Simeon, our forefather in the faith, did. Do you eagerly await him? This provides real food for your faith and clarity for your heart and mind. Seek to behold him through the Scriptures.

Simeon received a special promise: that the final chapter of God’s redemption would dawn with the coming of the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:26). And once he laid eyes on the glorious Savior, clothed in his own flesh—the eternal Son permanently united to his human nature—Simeon’s heart soared in exultation, joy, and praise. His soul was flooded with the peace that only God in Christ can give! (Rom. 5:1–11). He was ready to die. Are you ready to die? Can you say today, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21)?

What a glorious privilege it is for us, too, as those who live in the last days, on this side of the resurrection, at the end of the ages, at the close of history, and at the end of the world as we know it, to live anticipating the fact that we will see Jesus Christ face-to-face—not as an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, but as the King adorned with power, majesty, and glory (Isa. 6:1ff.; 33:17; John 12:41; Rev. 4:9–11; 5:9–14). The apostle John says that we will very soon “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2–3), which is an answer to the Lord Jesus’ prayer for his own on the night of his death (John 17:24). We will behold the King in his full majesty, glory, and beauty!

“Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17; cf. Ps. 45). Hallelujah!

Are you eagerly awaiting his appearing? Like Simeon, our forefather, are you waiting for the full revelation of the comfort and consolation that God will bring in the salvation and restoration of all things at the return of Jesus Christ? (Luke 2:25–26; Titus 2:13)? Are you full of joy that is “inexpressible and full of glory” because of this (1 Peter 1:8)? Are you being led regularly by the Holy Spirit to behold him in God’s Word?

As God’s people, recipients of his Spirit and his promises, let us behold Jesus in his holy Word, looking daily at his graciousness, compassion, gentleness, judgment, and zeal for holiness, as he is displayed and revealed to us in his person, promises, offices, and grace! Behold, God’s salvation—and the only hope for sinners! Let this encourage us to be eager in our anticipation of his return on our pilgrimage in the present age.

Let us await the awesome moment when we shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Previously we could have beheld Christ only in the flesh, but on that day we will behold him face-to-face with eyes of incorruptible and eternal glory, and we will be changed! (1 Cor. 15:50–53). What a reason that is to serve him! Our eyes, too, by faith, have seen the Lord’s salvation, but we haven’t seen anything yet! Nothing can compare with what we will see (Rom. 8:18–21; 1 Cor. 2:9; 13:12; 2 Cor. 4:18). That is our great hope—live joyfully in it.

Do You See What Simeon Sees?

Have you beheld the Savior of the world as your only hope? Have you beheld the Savior to make you strong in grace? Have you beheld the Savior to encourage you on your pilgrimage and strengthen your faith? Have you beheld the Savior; do you anticipate seeing him better? Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

On my favorite hill, I can enjoy the light and see the beauty and glory of the sun, but I cannot dwell there. I cannot live there. Time goes on, the sun rises and sets, and it is night again. But one day, the night will be over and the full day will be here (Rom. 13:12; Rev. 22:5).

One day soon, I won’t run to see glory and capture moments of the beauty and glory; rather, it will consume me (2 Cor. 5:4). Let that cause your hearts to soar with exultation and the praise of God this Christmas; let your souls be filled with God’s sweet peace as you, too, say with Simeon:

“My eyes have seen your salvation!”

Take a moment right now to pray that you see Him who is “Fullness of Grace and Deity” more clearly? (Eph. 1:18; John 1:16; Col. 2:9).

In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Biggs