Red Letter Year: 6/21

Luke 2:21-35

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”


Luke further indicates the poverty of the Holy Family here. They offer the alternative sacrifice for a firstborn, the one available to those who cannot afford to make the standard offering. While at the Temple they receive much more than they give, not from anyone officially associated with the Temple, but by old man who hung around the Temple everyday, waiting for God to fulfill what the Spirit had spoken to him, that he would see the Messiah. He sees Jesus and knows his wait is over. Simeon speaks what God gives him over the baby and then to Mary. Simeon wasn’t a pastor or a priest, but the prophetic words he shares minister to Mary, Joseph, and even Jesus through retellings, in a powerful, sustained way. Simeon actually gets three words here. The first is for himself; the Spirit told him he would see the Messiah before he died. To facilitate this, Simeon took to hanging out in the Temple, watching closely as each male baby was brought in for circumcision. Pretty effective strategy, if a long and perhaps tiring one. Simeon couldn’t just sit back and wait for the Messiah to walk by in front of him. He had to act on what the Spirit told him. The other two prophetic words are the ones recorded here, first about Jesus, then directed to Mary. These required Simeon to act as well – to share these words with the intended recipients.

Simeon operated on the same premise we follow at the church I pastor, Vineyard North in Wake Forest, NC. The Holy Spirit speaks to us. Often about ourselves. These almost always require responsive action of some kind. The Spirit doesn’t tell us things so we’ll sit around and wait for them. The Spirit speaks to encourage us to pursue those things the Spirit puts on our hearts. The Spirit speaking to us is wonderful and amazing and usually a call to work. The Spirit also gives us prophetic words for each other. The work there is as simple as it is hard – share with them what you hear from the Spirit. Do we sometimes get it wrong? Yes. Do we sometimes misinterpret what we get? Of course. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Normally what the Spirit gives us for ourselves and each other comes through clearly and has the ability to help move our lives in significant ways. The other one person in our church was explaining to someone from another church how we pray for each other, listen for the Spirit, and share what we get. The other person wanted to know what sort of ‘words’ we get. So my congregant gave a hypothetical, “if a group of us were praying for you, one person might get a picture of __________, another might feel a sensation of ________, and a third might have the word __________ come to mind. We would share those with you and see if they made sense and if they fit together, and if so, we would pray more about that specific thing it meant for you.” Nice hypothetical, except the three examples this person ‘invented’ wound up being actual words for this person. God is cool.

If you aren’t part of a church that does this sort of thing, it can sound weird. But here it is right here in the New Testament. Simeon wasn’t a prophet, or a priest, or a scholar, or even a Pentecostal (though he foreshadows what happens in the second chapter of Luke’s follow up book). He was just a regular guy who listened to God and did what God said. We should do the same.

The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 6/20

Luke 2:1-20

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.


Luke’s birth narrative is quite different from Matthew’s (Mark and John do not give birth accounts). In Matthew, wise men from the East follow a star, meet with Herod, give gifts to Jesus’ family and then return without seeing Herod again. Herod murders the baby boys around Bethlehem, while Joseph takes his family to safety in Egypt. The tension in Matthew is between Herod’s illegitimate rule of Israel and the one who has been born King of the Jews and honored as such by the Magi. Luke does not mention Herod, he goes all the way up the political ladder to Augustus. At the same time, Matthew does not tell us that Joseph and Mary had no housing in Bethlehem. Luke situates his account with the highest possible human authority and places the Savior, Christ the Lord in the most humble, transient state possible. Luke is also the only one who tells us about the angel and angel choir announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.

Can you see the themes from Mary’s and Zechariah’s prophecies at work here? Caesar Augustus and a baby wrapped in rags. Angels and shepherds. Luke is telling us, the angels are telling us, that the reversal has already begun. Augustus sends a message to Quirinius, but the angels bypass him and deliver their history-altering message to the lowly. It is appropriate because this Savior has come to dwell with the lowly, the homeless, the hungry. Peace comes to humans because the Prince of Peace brings it all the way down to those our corruption crushes at the bottom. Glory to God indeed.

The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.