Posts Tagged ‘Christmas 1C’

The Song of Simeon

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Christmas 1-C
December 30, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

…and when [Mary and Joseph] brought in the child Jesus [into the temple], to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, [Simeon] took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Are you ready to go?

What I mean is, are you ready to leave? No, I don’t mean right now, right at this very moment; it would be nice if you would stick around till the end of the service.

But, at the end of the service, will you be ready to leave? And by that, I mean, will you be ready to leave in peace — satisfied and content — ready for whatever comes next?

What makes us ready to leave — to leave any situation?

For example, this year is coming to a close. Are you ready to put 2018 behind you and move on to whatever 2019 may bring? (That sounds so weird…2019)

But what makes us ready to leave, even to the point of leaving this life? That day could happen any time, you know, any day, any hour. And if that were to happen, would you be ready? If the Lord were to decide to call you home today, are you ready to go? And if not, why not? And if you’re not sure, what would make the difference? What would change your mind?

Today in our Gospel reading, we meet a man who was ready to go. He was ready for whatever might happen next. And we find out in this text why he was ready, what made that difference. The man’s name was Simeon, and I think we can learn something from him today about what it means to “Depart in Peace.”

Let me set the scene for you. It’s eight days after the birth of Jesus. We’re in Jerusalem. We’re going to the temple. Why? Because eight days after the birth of a firstborn son, the father and mother were supposed to go to the temple and offer up a sacrifice to the Lord. It’s in the Law of Moses.

God commands the Israelites: The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me. (Exodus 22:29b-30)

 

Because, in the Passover, the firstborn sons of Israel were spared from death in Egypt, those boys were to be dedicated to the Lord and his service. Theoretically, they were supposed to serve in the temple. But the Lord God set apart the whole tribe of Levi to take the place of the boys from the other tribes.

Back to the temple. there are several families bringing young boys into the temple. Only, today, on this occasion, there is a firstborn son from the tribe of Judah, the tribe of kings, coming into the temple, this Son will also go on to be the Priest Supreme and the Lamb of God, making the ultimate sacrifice for all people. Can you picture it?

Over there. Mary and Joseph are carrying Jesus into the temple now. Do you see him? No? Again, there are many families bringing young boys into the temple today. How can we tell which couple carrying a baby into the temple is the one I’m talking about? There was nothing special, no special effects, no angels singing, no halos, and no beams of light to distinguish this Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus from all the other families there that day. That’s the point. And that’s how it would have appeared to Simeon, too, had the Lord not made it known to him through special revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Our Gospel lesson tells us, “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. 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. And [that day] 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, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God.”

It says Simeon was waiting for “the consolation of Israel”. He was waiting for the comfort the Lord had promised to his people. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”the prophet Isaiah had spoken centuries before, and Simeon was waiting and wanting to see the fulfillment of thatpromise. Now, here it comes. The consolation, the comfort, the Christ child, is being carried in right before his very eyes.

The consolation comes in the person of this little baby. The Holy Spirit reveals to Simeon that he is seeing the Lord’s Christ. This is the Messiah — the Christ –the promised deliverer-king, who will bring God’s kingdom of comfort and consolation. God’s Promise fulfilled. The Lord had told Simeon he would not die before the arrival of the Messiah. Now the Christ has come. And Simeon thanks God for fulfilling this special promise to him, and so now Simeon –presumably an old man — now Simeon is ready to die, if that is what God has in store for him.

Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms and utters this beautiful song of praise:

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Now here’s what it means to be ready to “Depart in Peace.” It’s to know and to experience the salvation that the Lord has prepared and promised — that same salvation that the Lord has prepared and promised for you and me in the waters of Holy Baptism.

That’s what Simeon experienced when he saw the baby Jesus with his own eyes and held Him in his own arms. Because of his hope in God’s promise, the hope of salvation come in the person of Baby Jesus, now Simeon knew that he was at peace and ready for whatever might come next, even his own death. Now he could “Depart in Peace.” Those same promises wee given to us in Baptism.

How would that consolation, that salvation, that peace, come about? That’s where our text goes next.

We read that Mary and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said about their baby. And Simeon blesses them and says to Mary his mother: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 

This is the first time in the short life of the Baby Jesus that the Cross is referenced. The consolation will come through conflict. The salvation will come through suffering and sorrow. And peace will come through a Cross. And Simeon tells the mother, Mary that she will experience sorrow, like a sword piercing her soul, when one day she will see her son suffering shame and humiliation and death on a cross. But that is how the salvation will come. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the son of Mary, true God and true man, He will suffer and die for the sins of all men, winning our forgiveness for eternity.  And with His sacrificial death on the Cross comes the consolation, and the salvation, and the peace we all need so very much.

St Paul tells us in Romans, chapter 3: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his [then] we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)

So how is it with you, dear brothers and sisters? Are you ready to depart in peace? Can you say with Simeon, “Yes, Lord, I’m ready to go, I’m ready for whatever comes next”?

Now you may not have laid your eyes on the Baby Jesus, being carried into the temple. You have not held that little baby in your arms. But here’s what you do have. You have the same Word of God given to Simeon. Your ears have heard the Word of the Lord. Your eyes have seen, with the eyes of faith, what God has laid before you: the consolation, the salvation, and the path of peace, leading all the way to heaven, through faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. And you have received, and you will receive once again today, the very body and blood of your Savior in His Holy Sacrament. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, Simeon has nothing on you. You are just as blessed. You are just as comforted. And you are just as ready to go.

You know, that is why the church sings Simeon’s song right after receiving the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament and right before the end of our service. It’s because we can identify with what Simeon experienced that day. We have received the same Comforter, the same Savior, and the same Lord as Simeon. And so we sing Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis. “Nunc Dimittis” is simply the Latin words for, “Now depart.”  We sing: “O Lord, now let Your servant depart in heavenly peace, for I have seen the glory of Your redeeming grace: A light to lead the Gentiles unto Your holy hill, the glory of Your people, Your chosen Israel.”

Yes, we too can sing out like Simeon! And we do! With joy and gladness we praise God for the salvation that comes to us, freely and fully, in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now we can face whatever comes at us this week, or in this new year to come. Whether it means, health issues, financial issues, broken relationships, struggles with depression or loneliness — whatever comes our way, we are ready. And even death, if the Lord should decide it’s our time to go; we are ready. Not because of our merits or anything we have done. But because of the Lord’s Christ, our Jesus Christ, the infant Messiah, the man who died on the cross, and the God who rose as our Redeemer and Savior. This is the one who speaks to us His words of peace. This is the one who has the words of eternal life. And this is God’s promise to you, that you have forgiveness and peace –and with them, everlasting life — because of this Baby Jesus.

 

What great hope for the new year! What peace we have that surpasses all human understanding! What a joy it is to know this Savior! What a blessing it brings to you and your family and to this congregation! There is nothing else like it. Nothing else can fill the void and vacuum that we would have apart from Christ.But with Christ, we are ready to face whatever comes our way. For Christ has come into this temple, and the Holy Spirit has revealed Him to us here also. And we are ready to “Depart in Peace.”

And now may that same peace, the peace the surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

A Peaceful Departure

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

First Sunday after Christmas Year (C), December 30, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

““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. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lords Christ. [Luke 2:25, 26]

Merry Christmas dear Christians!  In our gospel reading we remember the presentation of our Savior Jesus Christ; a time when He was  only eight days old.  But even then as a small baby, He was true God and true man; He was already the Word of God in human flesh.  The  same living Word of God who spoke these Words of comfort: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you  the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). In other words, stop fearing that thing which you fear; do not fear it any longer. Your Father has been  pleased to give you the kingdom.

Many Christians today, still fear earthly death; their own death and the death of loved ones. But how can this be, when we who are  baptized confess the certainty of life after death each and every Sunday when we speak about “the resurrection of the body” in the  Apostles’ Creed and “the resurrection of the dead” in the Nicene creed? And still, some of us fear death, and “grieve as [do] the rest of  men, who have no hope”? (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Did you ever stop to think that the fear of death, is like a sermon that we’re preaching to the world; it’s a message that says that we  aren’t any better off than those without Christ; by our fear, we are teaching that God can’t be trusted. Instead of displaying confidence in the certainty of Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake, we are demonstrating instead a life of doubt, uncertainty, and a lack of faith or hope in the peaceful departure our God has promised us. When you live a life of fear and uncertainty because of death, you are proclaiming a false gospel about a false god who can’t be trusted, and not the story of the living God who has already acted to give you eternal life.

And so this morning, let’s consider Simeon, a man that God declared righteous and devout.  Why was he righteous and devout?  Was there something great about him?  Was he a great leader or a man who stood out in the crowd?  No, not at all, in fact we can assume that because scripture mentions nothing about him before he met the baby Jesus, he was simply ordinary; ordinary except for one thing… he was waiting for God to fulfill His promise that a Savior would come to take away his sin and make Him right with God.  And because he had faith to trust God’s promise, God declared him righteous.  You could say that He had faith in God’s faithfulness; he knew that God would do what He said He would do.  But how did Simeon become so faithful?  Friends, the very same way you become and stay faithful… through the word of God that promised him that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had come.

You have the very same promise, and you also have had the promise fulfilled.  In your baptism, God’s Word not only promised you a peaceful departure from this dark world of sin, but it provided the fulfillment of the promise.  Christ has come, and in your baptism you have been clothed with not only the righteousness of Christ but also the promise that He will come again for you!

But we have a problem; we are told by this world that being assured of a peaceful departure is not that simple.  Not only do we have other religions who resent and ridicule our blessed assurance, but in fact we have people who call themselves Christians who want us to believe that there must be a little something added to the promise besides our belief.  They tell us that we must do more than just trust in God’s promises.

They will point out that we are still very much trapped in our sins, and the proof of that they say lies within our own hearts, which testify against us and about our sinfulness.  They will insist that we follow certain rules and regulations in order to know that God loves us.  Or they will tell us that our own love and service of love must be great in order to finish what God started in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They will even insist that we acquire certain gifts or demonstrate certain acts of faith in order to know the real blessings of God.

But, when others talk like this to us, it is only evidence that it is they who do not understand God’s plan of salvation; they don’t understand what true forgiveness of sin is because they are so caught up in their own idea of what righteousness is.  They don’t understand that it is God’s Word, which calls each of us who are trusting in Christ alone His saints, or people of God.  It’s a shame that they have forgotten who we are, that we are saints already, because to forget this is the same thing as forgetting our baptism and the faithfulness of God to do what He says He will do.

These folks who claim to be our brothers and sisters, really only want to punish us with heavy consciences and guilt because of the sins they commit and think are to many or to big for God to forgive; they love to remind us that our sins are an offense to God because it helps them forget about their own sinfulness.  And instead of turning to God’s faithfulness and love they want to turn us to the same thing that they hope in… our own resourcefulness and strength.

And to this thinking, let me quote Luther’s response to the same faithless logic.  He said that just as “Motherly love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness on (her) child, so the love of God toward us is stronger than the (sinful) dirt that clings to us.  (So, even though) we are sinners, we do not lose our relationship to the Father on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of our sins.”

And that dear friends moves us to the solution of the problem; the very thing that Simeon declared in a song that the church calls the NUNC DIMITTIS.  “O Lord now let Your servant depart in heavenly peace, for I have seen the glory of Your redeeming grace.”

In God’s Holy Word and in the Blessed Sacraments He shows us Jesus; He shows us His glory.  In the infant Son of God holy and lowly, born in a manger in Bethlehem, God shows us His love for us by showing us the solution to our sin; He shows us the God-man crucified, high and lifted up upon a cross in Jerusalem.  You dear saints are more blessed than Simeon; he had only the promise of what this child in His arms would do, but you know the story completely.  He had the promise but you have the fulfillment of the promise.  And even more than that you have yet another promise from the God who does what He says He will do; He has promised you that He will come again to take you to be with Him in paradise.

Whether He comes for you on the last day of all creation or comes to you in your final moments at death is immaterial; He has promised you that He will take you home to be with Him!  And it is to the promise fulfilled and the promise still unrealized that we grab onto to by faith.  You are asked to live a life and tell the story about God’s faithfulness so that others may believe and be saved as well.

What is it that we are supposed to speak and model?  Well what did Simeon say?  Didn’t He say that He had seen God’s saving grace that He had prepared for all the people?  Didn’t he say that this message, this good news was to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of God’s people Israel?

So the message we are to live and speak to the world isn’t one of fear and trembling but faith and rejoicing.  We are to hold on to both the promise and the One who promises in heaven at the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior.  If we fall into sin, He will be there to pick us up again; by His Word, He encourages us to keep on fighting our sin until we are finally given victory over not just our sin but even the devil and our own death.  When we fall into sin we will remember our Savior who though He fell under the burden of the sin of the world that was place upon Him through the cross, He got back up and made His way to Golgotha, where He suffered and died to take away even our sin.  When we feel filthy and unloved because of those same sins, we will remember the life giving and life changing waters of our baptism that washed us clean and made us forever holy.

So you see dear friends, our Christian faith truly is different from all other religions; it is different because it isn’t based on what we will do, but on what Christ has done.  It is different because our faith in God’s faithfulness grows stronger, even in the middle of evil and sin; even in the face of death.  But we also remember that without God’s Holy Spirit ever providing and strengthening His gift of faith through His Holy Word and sacraments, we would be just as lost as any other sinner.

So when others belittle you for your child like faith, and when they try to rob you of the joy of your salvation, turn away from anger and fear, and feel godly sorrow for those who can only trust in their own resourcefulness for hope.  And by faith, turn to and trust in a Faithful God and say, “Through Jesus Christ, I am a child of God.  And as His child all of my works that are done in faith are good.  And even when my good works are lacking, God’s Word promises me that He will not condemn and leave me, but continue to change me until I lack nothing according to His good and perfect will.”

This is the message that many find so hard to accept and receive this Christmas season, but it is the only message that will give to both sinners and the dying, a peaceful departure.  It is a message that you dear saints live out and trust in by faith, and it is marvelous in the sight of God and His church…AMEN!