Christmas, for Simeon, meant the beginning of the Cross (2:33-35).
I continue to marvel at the infancy narratives and the way the Christmas characters are depicted. Joseph bore the cross by adopting Jesus and marrying Mary (a woman with a stained reputation); Mary bore the cross by accepting the work of God and the status it would bring her in her culture. Elisabeth knows her son is nothing compared to Mary’s, and it de-elevates her. Simeon, too, knows that this little boy in his arms will be opposed (“spoken against”) and will force asunder Israel as a people. This is all “Cross stuff” before the Cross.
And he is empowered to tell Mary that she, too, will experience the sword — she’ll know pain in her own heart.
From the very beginning, the story of Jesus is told in light of the Cross — the story of Jesus is not understood apart from the Cross, it is a cruci-form story.
There’ve been lots of attempts to tell the story of Jesus in the last twenty years in a new way: we have the religious genius, the prophet and not much more, the social revolutionary, the rabbi, and the like. None of which is totally false; none of which is sufficient. The fabric of the Gospels is ripped into shreds if one removes the cruci-form nature of the story of Jesus.
There is no other way to tell the story of Jesus: from front to end that life was shaped by its end, an end that was not the final word. The final word was life, the resurrection.