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Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Listen, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Luke 2:34-35

We have heard the account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. We have heard the good news that He is the LORD God born into this world a true man that He might be our Savior from sin and everlasting punishment. We know and have heard of His holy life in our stead, and of His innocent sufferings and death for our sins. But how do we respond to Jesus?

There are many who feel that they can remain indifferent to Jesus and His coming into this world, but this is far from the truth! Whenever anyone hears of Jesus and His coming into this world to be our Savior, this message has an effect. Either one is moved toward repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior, or he becomes more and more hardened in his sin and unbelief (cf. Isa. 55:10-11).

How do you respond to Jesus? This is a question of great importance for each of us to consider; for, as Simeon told Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus was destined “to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). And, Jesus Himself said that He would cause division on the earth, even within families (cf. Luke 12:51-53).

Among His own people, there was great division. Some, like Simeon and Anna, being raised up from spiritual death, believed that Jesus was the promised Christ and trusted in Him for salvation (Luke 2:25-38). But others fell and rejected Jesus, hated Him and even crucified Him, causing Simeon’s words to Mary (v. 35) to come true. Cf. Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16; 53:3ff.; 1 Pet. 2:6-8.

How do you respond to Jesus? He cannot be ignored!

He came into this world for you, and His Word has been preached to you! Are you, by the grace of God, moved to humbly acknowledge and confess your sins to the Lord and to trust in Jesus’ holy life and innocent sufferings and death for your pardon and forgiveness? Or do you turn away from the crucified and risen Christ Jesus and continue on in your sin and unbelief?

The Bible tells us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). God grant that you acknowledge your sins and look in faith to Jesus Christ, your Savior!

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2).

O Dearest Jesus, grant that we not turn from You or hide from You and continue on in our sinful ways; but move us to acknowledge You as our God and Savior, to have godly sorrow over our sins, and to sincerely repent, that we may trust in You and Your cross for our salvation. Amen.

[Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 (Read Luke 2:22-40)

Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing that full atonement has been made for your sins? Do you have the assurance that God has fulfilled His promises to send the Messiah and Savior and that He now forgives and accepts you as His own dear child for Jesus’ sake?

Simeon was an old believer who had been waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises, for the coming of God’s promised Messiah and Savior. And God had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen with his own eyes the Lord’s Christ.

And directed by the Holy Spirit to come into the temple at Jerusalem precisely when Mary and Joseph came to the temple with the Christ Child to do what was required by the Law of God (Lev. 12:1-8; Ex. 13:2,11ff.; Num. 3:13; 3:40ff.; 8:17; 18:14-16), Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and said: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

He had now seen the promised Christ Child — God the Son in human flesh — and held Him in his arms. And Simeon was now ready to die in peace and face God’s judgment because he knew that His God and Savior had come and that, for the sake of the holy life this Child would live in his stead, and for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death this Child would accomplish, atonement would be made for all his sins. Simeon was assured that through faith in Christ Jesus he was forgiven and accepted by God. He was ready to die in peace, for in Christ Jesus he had God’s promised Savior from sin and its eternal punishment!

What about you? Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing your sins are paid for and forgiven for Christ’s sake?

For such confidence, we look to the pages of Holy Scripture; for there we too see our Savior and the salvation God has provided for us. There we see Christ’s holy life for us under God’s law, and there we see His bitter sufferings and death for us upon the cross and His glorious resurrection.

“But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

In the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, our Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of His people Israel. There we hear God’s gracious offer of pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. There we learn that, through faith in Christ Jesus, we are not condemned but have forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

When we look at Christ through the Holy Scriptures and hold Him in our arms by faith, we too can be ready, as Simeon was, to depart this life in peace! “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and so we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). God grant us such faith in Christ Jesus our Savior!

Lord Jesus Christ, let our eyes look to You through the pages of Holy Scripture, that we too may trust in You and always be ready to depart this life in peace. Revive the weak in faith and strengthen all of us, that we may stand fast in our Savior until He returns to grant unto us and all believers everlasting life. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “Who then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Tell us so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say concerning yourself?” 23 John said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why do you baptize then, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but One stands among you, whom you do not know. 27 This is He who comes after me, who is preferred before me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:19-23

Who was John the Baptist? He confessed that he was not the Christ, he was not Elijah, nor was he the Prophet promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15ff.

Who was he? “John said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” just as the prophet Isaiah said’” (Cf. Isa. 40:3).

John was the messenger of God sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6). He prepared people for the coming of the Lord Jesus by calling upon all to repent of their sins and turn to the LORD God for forgiveness and life through faith in the Messiah who was about to appear and be offered up a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29).

Who are we as Christ’s Church in this world? What are we and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be in this world? We are not the Christ, but we are a voice “crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” Through our called ministers, we continue to call upon all to repent of their sinful and rebellious ways and to look in faith to Christ Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Soon He will appear in the clouds with all His holy angels and every eye will see Him (cf. Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:29ff.)! Until then, we continue to be God’s voice, His witness, calling on all people to repent and believe on the LORD Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 1:8). In Jesus’ shed blood, there is forgiveness and life everlasting for all who repent and turn to Him in faith for salvation!

Dear LORD Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit and embolden us to be Your voice in this world, calling on all to repent and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting! Amen.

[Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets of long ago, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, 72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, 73 the oath which He swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, 78 through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise from on high has visited us; 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:67-79

In these prophetic words, Zachariah the priest, being filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the salvation God was providing in His only-begotten Son and of the ministry of his son, John the Baptist.

Jesus, Son of God and descended from David through the Virgin Mary, came into the world as promised from the very beginning. In Jesus, God Himself visited and redeemed His people.

Jesus bore upon the cross the punishment for the sins of the whole world and made atonement for God’s people and for all of mankind. He suffered, died and rose again that He might set us free from the curse and condemnation of our sins to live for Him and serve Him evermore!

John the Baptist, the son born to Zechariah in his old age, would be the prophet of the Highest, going before the Lord Jesus Christ — Jehovah God Himself in human flesh — to prepare His ways.

And how was John to prepare the people for the coming of their Lord? He was to give them knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. He was to teach them of God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of God’s Son, the Dayspring from on high who would visit them. He was to call upon all to repent of their evil ways and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world for mercy and forgiveness. In this way, he would give light to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death and guide their feet into the way of peace with the Lord their God.

People today are still sitting in spiritual darkness and the shadow of death. They do not know the LORD God and His mercy in Christ Jesus and are headed for an eternity of suffering and punishment apart from Him and His lovingkindness. Thus, the ministry of God’s Church today, as it prepares for the second coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven, is to give to people in this world knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins. The Church, through its ministers, is to call people to repentance and faith in the Messiah and Savior; for Jesus, God’s own dear Son, came into this world, redeemed all of mankind by suffering and dying on the cross for all sin and rose again on the third day.

Ministers of Christ proclaim the law of God that people might see their sinfulness and the error of their ways. And they make known the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus that people might trust in Him alone for eternal salvation. In this way, the called servants of Jesus continue to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death and guide their feet into the way of peace.

O gracious and merciful God, bring us all to repent of our sinful and erring ways and grant us mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the Son, Jesus Christ, that Dayspring from on High who has come to visit and redeem us. And, dear Lord Jesus, move us to share with others sitting in darkness and the shadow of death the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins through faith in You and Your innocent sufferings and death in their stead. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts become burdened by excessiveness and drunkenness and anxieties of life, and that Day comes on you unexpectedly. For as a snare it will come on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Therefore watch always and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36 (cf. Luke 21:25-36)

Jesus tells us what will happen before He suddenly appears, coming in clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead. He speaks of what would happen to Jerusalem and what would befall His disciples (Luke 21:5ff.; cf. Matt. 24:1ff.; Mark 13:1ff.); and then he speaks about what will take place immediately before His coming.

“There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men fainting from fear and expectation of what is coming on the inhabited earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27).

He tells us that, “when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near” (v. 28). And He adds the parable of the fig tree: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are sprouting leaves already, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So in like manner, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (v. 29-31).

Jesus said (v. 32-33): “Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” And, indeed, these signs were already fulfilled in the first century after Christ. There were wars and commotions, false Christs and false prophets. Christians were betrayed and persecuted, and Jerusalem was destroyed for its impenitence and unbelief as Jesus had warned (cf. Luke 19:41-44).

And, Jesus warns us to “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts become burdened by excessiveness and drunkenness and anxieties of life, and that Day comes on you unexpectedly. For as a snare it will come on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Therefore watch always and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man” (v. 34-36).

Instead of living in drunkenness and excess, and being wrapped up with the cares of this life, we are to be watching and praying that we not be caught off guard and, like the rest of the world, be found living in sin and impenitence and not ready at Jesus’ return.

Rather, we are to live in continual repentance, confessing our sins and holding fast in faith to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness that we might be found ready to stand before Him when He appears.

The Bible tells us in Acts 3:19-21: “Therefore repent and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the One who previously was preached to you, Jesus Christ, whom the heavens must receive until the time of restoring what God spoke through all His holy prophets since the world began.”

If we are found acknowledging our sins — agreeing with God about our sinfulness — and looking to Jesus and His cross in faith for pardon and forgiveness, we will be ready on that day. Instead of being condemned, we will be given eternal life for Jesus’ sake (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2; Psalm 32:1-6; John 3:14-18). But, if we are found continuing on in our sinful ways, impenitent and unbelieving, that day will find us unprepared and bring upon us God’s wrath and judgment (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10; John 3:18; Mark 16:16).

O gracious and merciful Savior, grant that we continue in daily repentance and faith that we might be found ready on that day when You come to judge the living and the dead. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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