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THE DARK SIDE OF CHRISTMAS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, December 19, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).


The angel Gabriel came to Mary one day when she was alone and said,

"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God"
    (Luke 1:35).

The baby Jesus was placed in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Spirit of God. She was heavy with child as Joseph took her to Bethlehem, where they would be registered and taxed by the Roman government. They had no place to stay in Bethlehem. The city was full of people who had also come there to be registered for taxation. Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn because it was already packed with people.

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7).

A group of shepherds were watching their flock of sheep nearby that night.

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people"
    (Luke 2:9-10).

"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger" (Luke 2:15-16).

When eight days had passed, Mary and Joseph took the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised according to Jewish law. He was given the name Jesus, as commanded by the angel Gabriel. Then, forty days later, they went to the Temple again with the baby - to present Him to the Lord. According to the Old Testament book of Numbers (18:15-16), they were to pay a certain amount of money at the Temple and offer a sacrifice. For poor people like Mary and Joseph the sacrifice was a pair of doves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:1-8).

An old man named Simeon met them as they entered the Temple. He had been waiting all his life for the Saviour of Israel, and God had told him that he would see the Messiah before he died. When he saw the baby Jesus, it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that this was the long-awaited Deliverer, the Messiah, the Christ.

Simeon took the baby in his arms. He blessed God and said,

"Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:30-32).

Then Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and the baby,

"And said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

These prophetic words, given by Simeon, went deep into the heart of Jesus' mother, and she repeated them years later to Luke, who wrote them down for us to read in these verses of Scripture.

Simeon's prophecy shows the dark side of Christmas - the unpleasant and negative meaning of Christ's birth. When telling the Christmas story, we must never stop with the angels, the shepherds, or the wise men. We should go deeper - and remember Simeon's prophetic words - filled with foreboding and darkness, words that show the negative side of Christ's birth. Simeon said several things that show us the true meaning of His birth and ministry on earth.

I. First, the fall and rising again of many.

Simeon said,

"Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" (Luke 2:34).

Spurgeon pointed out that this is not one set of people, but two - two classes of persons (ref. C. H. Spurgeon, "Christ - the Fall and Rise of Many," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1976 reprint, volume XV, p. 717). And the two classes are these - people who fall because of Christ, and people who rise because of Christ. I believe Matthew Poole was right when he said that "the fall and rising again is here meant the salvation and damnation of many" (Matthew Poole, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 reprint, volume III, p. 198).

The prophet Isaiah said that "many among them shall stumble, and fall" over Christ, the "stone of stumbling" (Isaiah 8:14-15). The Apostle Peter quotes this passage from Isaiah, calling Christ, "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient" (I Peter 2:8). Those who reject Christ will fall. They will fall into hardness of heart in this life. They will fall into the flames of Hell when they die.

"Behold, this child is set for the fall…of many" (Luke 2:34).

When you hear preaching on Christ, it either sets you up to fall or to rise again.

"To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life" (II Corinthians 2:16).

"The reason is, because they that believe in him shall be saved, [but] they that believe not shall be damned" (Poole, ibid.).

But Simeon also said that Christ "is set for…the rising again of many." Christ was appointed or "set" to raise many to life through the new birth, through regeneration.

"But God…Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)"
    (Ephesians 2:4-5).

You have no power within yourself to "rise again." Jesus was "set for…the rising again of many," who receive Him and are born again to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). That's why Jesus said,

"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

"He that believeth…shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). As Simeon said,

"Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" (Luke 2:34).

But not in Israel only,

"for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin" (Romans 3:9).

All are under the power of sin - and all need to be saved by Christ.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

The real question is this - what will you do with Jesus Christ? If you receive Him, you will be born again. You will be "quickened…together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:5). If you reject Him you will fall and perish everlastingly.

"Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many…" (Luke 2:34).

II. Second, the sign which shall be spoken against.

"And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against"
    (Luke 2:34).

Jesus was born as a "sign." The prophet Isaiah said this centuries before His birth.

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

But Simeon said that Christ would be "a sign which shall be spoken against" (Luke 2:34). Christ was "spoken against" time and again while He ministered on earth. And when they crucified Him the Bible says that they spoke against Him as He hung dying on the Cross. The Bible says,

"And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying…He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth" (Matthew 27:39-44).

And Jesus has been "spoken against" throughout history. All through the Book of Acts the early Christians were persecuted and put in prison for preaching the resurrection of Christ (cf. Acts 4:2-3; Acts 5:17-18; Acts 8:1; Acts 12:1-4; Acts 14:19; etc.).

Every student in a secular college knows full well that Christ is "a sign which shall be spoken against." Students in secular high schools and colleges hear snide remarks against Christ and the Bible on an almost daily basis. And every year, at Christmas and Easter, the secularists at Time and Newsweek have a field day attacking the Son of God. This year is no exception. Newsweek features a cover story subtitled, "How the Story of Christmas Came to Be" (Newsweek, December 12, 2004). The article says, "To many minds…Christmas is a fairy tale" (ibid., p. 51). Then a few liberal scholars are trotted out and quoted to cast doubt on the birth of Jesus. No Bible-believing scholar (though there are many) is called to Christ's defence. The article concludes with the typical arrogance of the humanistic mind, "The Christmas star is just one such light [to God]; there are others" (ibid., p. 58). That is an offence to Jesus Christ, who said,

"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

Syncretism is no option. Political correctness is no option. Pluralism is no option.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).

Yes, Christ was "set…for a sign which shall be spoken against" (Luke 2:34). Even today a great many people speak against the only begotten Son of God.

III. Third, the sword which would pierce Mary and her Son.

Remember that Simeon blessed Joseph, Mary and the baby. But then he spoke to Mary alone, "and said unto Mary his mother" the following prophecies (Luke 2:34). So, it is to Mary that he said the words in verse 35,

"Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also"
    (Luke 2:35).

The word "also" is translated from the Greek word "de." This is an important little word. It shows that her heart would experience the piercing of Jesus' side "also." Simeon "tells the virgin her soul should [would] be wounded with the reproaches and indignities which should [would] be offered to this blessed babe, as it proved afterwards, when she heard him reviled, and saw him crucified" (Poole, ibid.).

Mary would be there when Jesus was crucified.

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother…"
    (John 19:25).

She was there when they drove the nails through His hands and feet. She was there when

"one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34).

"Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also"
    (Luke 2:35).

This does not mean that Mary shares in our redemption. It is a simple statement of fact, that she would see the piercing of her Son and it would pierce through her own soul also.

We are not saved by feelings of sorrow over Jesus' death. We are saved when the Word of God "pierces" our hearts (Hebrews 4:12), when we are convicted of our sins and trust Christ by faith.

Listen to the testimony of Watchman Nee, the great Chinese evangelist. He said,

On the evening of 29th April, 1920, I was alone in my room, struggling to decide whether or not to believe in the Lord. At first I was reluctant, but as I tried to pray I saw the magnitude of my sins and the reality and efficacy of Jesus…stretched out on the cross…and the Lord was saying, "I am waiting here to receive you." Realizing the effectiveness of Christ's blood in cleansing my sins, and being overwhelmed by such love, I accepted Him there. Previously, I had laughed at people who accepted Jesus, but that evening the experience became real for me (Watchman Nee, in How They Found Christ in Their Own Words, edited by Bill Freeman, Ministry Publications, 1983, p. 183).

IV. Fourth, the thoughts of many hearts revealed.

Simeon said,

"Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" 
     
(Luke 2:34-35).

I think the parable of the sower is a commentary on these words, "the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Those by the way side are those who hear the gospel, but then the devil comes "and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12). Those on the rock seem to be saved, but they have no root in their hearts, "and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). Those that fell among thorns are the ones who hear the gospel, but their hearts become hardened by burdens and enjoyments and "are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14).

"But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15).

Their hearts have been regenerated, born again, in true conversion. And so, Jesus came,

"that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:35).

The heart of Judas remained unconverted - so he betrayed Christ. The heart of Watchman Nee was converted, and so he remained faithful to the Saviour.

Because of his faith, Nee was imprisoned [by the Communists] in 1952 and remained so for the last twenty years of his life. His last letters from prison revealed his faithfulness to the Lord all the way to the end (Bill Freeman, editor, p. 182).

This, then, is Simeon's prophecy. It presents the dark side of Christmas, the negative part of Jesus' birth. Christ would be set for the fall, as well as the rising, of many. He would be a sign spoken against. A sword would pierce Him also. The thoughts of many hearts would be revealed.

I conclude with these thoughts. Christ will raise you to life if you trust Him. Do not let the evil words people say about Him lead you astray. Think of His bloody death, pierced through, to pay the penalty for your sins. Trust Christ and He

"will take the stony heart out of [your] flesh, and give [you] an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

Let us stand for prayer.

Heavenly Father, I pray that this sermon will be used by Thee to awaken and convert lost sinners. I pray that Thou wilt show them that they must be raised to life by Jesus, that they must receive atonement through His death, and cleansing from sin by His Blood. Reveal to them the thoughts of their hearts. Convict them of sin and draw them to Christ for salvation. We also pray that thou wilt bless the food we are about to eat, and our fellowship time together.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 2:1-7, 21-35.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Silent Night! Holy Night!" (by Josef Mohr, 1792-1848).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE DARK SIDE OF CHRISTMAS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

(Luke 1:35; 2:6-7, 9-10, 15-16; cf. Numbers 18:15-16;
cf. Leviticus 12:1-8; Luke 2:30-32, 34-35)

I.   The fall and rising again of many, Luke 2:34a; Isaiah 8:14-15;
I Peter 2:8; II Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 2:4-5;
Romans 6:4; John 3:7; Mark 16:16; Romans 3:9; 1:16.

II.  The sign which shall be spoken against, Luke 2:34b; Isaiah 7:14;
Matthew 27:39-44 (cf. Acts 4:2-3; 5:17-18; 8:1; 12:1-14;
Acts 14:19); John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Mark 16:16.

III. The sword which would pierce Mary and her Son, Luke 2:35a;
John 19:25, 34; Hebrews 4:12.

IV. The thoughts of many hearts revealed, Luke 2:35b; 8:12-15;
Ezekiel 11:19.