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You and Simeon Can Die IN PEACE!

December 31, 2017

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First Sunday after Christmas         Trinity Lutheran Church

31 December 2017                            Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Luke 2:22-40

 

There is so much in this text. I can’t preach it all today so I’ll just make a few quick points and call it good. Here goes.

 

Let’s note right off the bat that “righteous and devout” Simeon waits. He’s been waiting for a long time. For what? The promised Messiah! Simeon is “righteous and devout” because he trusts God’s promise to send the Savior, not only of Israel, but of the entire world. He lives in and from that promise. Old man Simeon lives, as St. Paul, summarizes the entire Old Testament, “by faith,” (Romans 1:17). In fact, the Holy Spirit, most likely through a preacher, told this old man that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. So, Simeon waits. He doesn’t have better words than the Lord when it comes to the promise of salvation.

 

Wow! That should lead us all to repentance. To repent of our Old Adam’s mistrust and unbelief. Of our Old Adam having better words than the Lord. God promised the Messiah. So Simeon waits. Waits. Waits. And waits on the Lord keeping His promise. Year after year went by in the temple. Each year the holy days of the temple liturgy passed: Yom Kippur, Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Tabernacles. Every day the morning and evening sacrifices of prayer were offered. Every day Simeon waited and watched. His “soul wait[ed] and in [God’s] Word” he put his hope. Would today be the day?

 

Then in the most unlikely and most unexpected way God keeps His promise. Behold! A ragtag of a couple, Mary and Joseph, show up at the temple. They have a little precious bundle. He is … the … newborn Messiah wrapped in his blue baby blanket and onsie. Forty days old.

 

This is the “fullness of time” as St. Paul preached in the Epistle reading today. The Messiah is born! Born of Mary. He is the Savior of the entire world – the universe! The Holy Spirit conceived Baby Jesus through the sermon the angel Gabriel preached in Mary’s ears. Now the Holy Spirit brings Baby Jesus to Simeon and Simeon to Baby Jesus. After all, the Holy Spirit promised Simeon that he would not die “until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

 

Lo and behold! Here is the Christ! The 40-day old Baby! Immediately Simeon cradles Jesus in his arms and begins a hymn of praise:

 

“Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word

for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou has prepared before the face of all people,

a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

 

Incredible! This is a song of great joy not a sigh of resignation. Simeon is confident. Bold. Vibrant. Simeon speaks to God the way a servant speaks to his master who has promised him freedom. “Master,” he says, “release your servant now in peace, just like you promised you would.” He holds God to His promise. He trusts that this tiny, poor Baby is His Savior. He trusts God’s Word. His eyes “have seen” the very “salvation” promised by the Lord. SALVATION FOR ALL IS FOUND ONLY IN THIS BABY!

 

I’m going to push this a little more today. Simeon’s trust in God’s Word is amazing. Really it is. Think about it. Simeon doesn’t judge things by what his eyes see. All he observes is the same Baby the shepherds saw lying in the manger on the night of His birth or the Magi saw a few days later. Simeon sees a Baby that looks like any other baby boy. No halos hovering over His head. No chorus of angels singing at his side. He only sees a squirming, snot-nosed, dirty diaper-ed infant and His pitiful and pathetic looking parents who were just doing what the Old Testament law required of them.

 

However, the Holy Spirit said, “This Baby is different. He’s the One for which you’ve been waiting for years!” Simeon trusted God’s Word. With the Savior cradled in his arms he could now die in peace. He could die without fear. He had seen God’s promised salvation in the flesh – in the face of this poor and humble Child. Yes, now Simeon can die. God kept His promise! The Savior is here!

 

Now, permit me to make one more quick point. Will you? Sure. As you know I just can’t help myself. Then we’ll call this sermon good, pray, eat the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament, receive the Benediction and head for the south doors. Ready? All right. Good.

 

The church traditionally sings Simeon’s song on two different occasions. We call his song the Nunc Dimittis. That’s the Latin for “Now depart.” It is the traditional hymn of Compline, Prayer at the Close of the Day. That’s on page 253 in the hymnal. Just before you go to sleep at night Compline teaches you to pray like Simeon: “Lord, now let your servant go in peace.” There is a reason to pray Simeon’s song right before you lie down in your bed. It is because going to bed and to sleep at night is dress rehearsal for death just as waking up and rising in the morning is a dress rehearsal for the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. Many of you when you were little children prayed the “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” prayer. Let’s put a Simeon’s Song spin on it: “If I die before I wake I know that God’s own Son will care for me and raise me on the Last Day.” After all, you’re in Good Friday Jesus through faith and He’s in you. Therefore He will command on the Last Day: “Time to wake up! Rise and shine!” Jesus the Lord is your light and your salvation. Whom shall you fear?

 

Now, later in the Western church’s history Simeon’s song was grafted into the Lord’s Supper’s liturgy. And rightly so! It is a perfect fit! It naturally flows from the Lord’s giving us His Body and Blood. In the Lord’s Supper, unlike Simeon who held the 40-day old Baby in his arms, Jesus is physically present as the crucified, risen and ascended Lord – lording His salvation over us with these words: “given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.”   Jesus is more present for you here in the Supper than when His little body was cradled in Simeon’s hands. So, when we sing Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis after Holy Communion, for what are we now ready? For what are we prepared?

 

Like Simeon, we are equipped to depart or die … IN PEACE! The Lord’s peace. Peace with God because of Jesus’ death for you on the cross. His Good Friday death that atoned for all your sin. That put death to death. That conquered the grave and crushed Satan’s head. So, we go the Lord’s Supper as if we were going to our death so that when we go to our death it will be like going to the Lord’s Supper.

 

Now wonder that after we have eaten and drunk Jesus’ Body and Blood with the bread and wine we sing: “Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou has prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

 

When Jesus promises that the Lord’s Supper is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, you can die in peace. Without any fear. Confident in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day just as Jesus promises in His Holy Spirit-ed Word preached to you in the Sacrament.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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