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

“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

Our forefather Simeon lived 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 had not beheld the beautiful glory of the Son until his mother and father brought him into the temple to be circumcised (Luke 2:27). 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.

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 he 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).

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). We need to pray for further enlightening as Christians (Eph. 3:14-21; 2 Cor. 3:18).

At Christmas, ponder 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?  (Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Tim. 3:16). 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? Wont’ you take a moment right now to pray that you will 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