Preached: December 30, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word of God through which the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see Jesus is Luke 2, the words the Spirit gave Simeon to speak on seeing the Christ Child.
Lord, now release your servant in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20 NIV84). That's how the account of the first Christmas ends. We know it well from our Christmas Eve services. But what happened next?
It wasn't the coming of the wise men. As we continue reading in Luke 2, we find out that on the eighth day that baby was circumcised as the Old Testament law required and was given the name Jesus. (The eighth day of Christmas, by the way, is New Year's Day. What a way for us to begin each year by remembering the name of Jesus!)
The next event we're told of happened on the fortieth day. The young family traveled to Jerusalem, a six mile walk from Bethlehem. Each firstborn son was to be presented to the Lord at the temple. This consecration and redemption goes all the way back to when the Lord put to death the firstborn of the Egyptians but spared the firstborn of the Israelites, passing over the houses that had the blood of the lamb on the door.
Do you see, dear friends, how from the very beginning of his earthly life the Son of God willing put himself under the law to keep it perfectly for us? Even as a baby he let himself be treated as any other Jewish baby. He is the righteous Substitute for all sinners, both young and old.
While at the temple on that day, a man comes up to Mary and Joseph. He takes the baby in his arms and says the words of the text, words we still sing today after Holy Communion. His name was Simeon. We don't know whether he was young or old, but he was waiting for the consolation of Israel
Simeon had seen his salvation. He had held his Savior in his arms. And we too, dear Christians, have seen our salvation. That's the theme today. What peace he brings! What light he gives!
“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29, 30). How Simeon had been waiting and longing for the coming of the Savior! You know how hard it is to wait for something good, whether it's payday or vacation or grandparents' coming or the opening gifts. How much more when it's the Savior bringing genuine consolation and true comfort! Simeon eagerly desired to see the Savior the Lord had promised throughout the centuries In fact, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he saw him.
How that must have heightened his anticipation! The Savior whom Adam and Eve; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Moses and Aaron; David and Solomon; and all the prophets had waited for -- the Savior was coming during his lifetime. He holds that Savior in his hands and sees him with his own eyes. He's released from all that tension of waiting, set free. For even though Christ's death and resurrection were still decades away, by faith Simeon knows that it will all be fulfilled. He believes that this baby is the mighty God, the promised Messiah, the Prince of peace, his Savior from sin and death. What peace! What overwhelming peace!
And Simeon's opening words vividly picture that peace, especially when you look at the original. The word translated “servant” is the word for a slave. And the word translated “depart” is the same word used when a slave is released and set free. Picture the peace a former slave enjoys when he's set free.
That's what this little child did for Simeon and that's what he does for you and me, dear friends. What peace he brings because he sets us free!
You see, we began life in warfare against God. We were his enemies. We were slaves to Satan fighting for him. But recall that first promise of the Savior. Speaking to Satan the Lord God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers” (Genesis 3:15 NIV84). The Lord would change us from Satan's subjects into Satan's enemies. That's what that word “enmity” means. Rather than God's enemy and Satan's slave, we would become Satan's enemy and instead have peace with God through the Champion who would crush Satan's power, the coming Savior, born of woman. What peace he brings!
Sometimes, despite what the Bible clearly says, people question whether we're born at total war against God. But we don't have to look far to see the evidence of our inherited sinfulness. Contrast yourself with Simeon. Look at his eagerness, desire, longing, and anticipation to see Jesus. But we grow bored with hearing the Gospel again and again. We find joy and delight in so many other things that seem more exciting to us. Hearing his word becomes a chore. Learning it becomes just another thing to try to fit into a busy life if we can. Do you think those attitudes come from the Holy Spirit or from our inborn sinful nature? Our own hearts testify against us that by nature we were God's enemies, slaves to sin and Satan.
But here is the Christ-child. See your salvation. He sets you free. He releases you. You are no longer a slave to sin. For he has paid for every one of your sins, giving himself as the sacrifice that atones for you. Depart in peace and live reconciled to God. For Jesus brings you peace.
Here is the Christ-child. See your salvation. You are no longer a slave to guilt. For his resurrection proclaims your forgiveness. He brings you peace.
Here is the Christ-child. See your salvation. You are no longer a slave to Satan. For Jesus has crushed his head, parading through hell in victory when he descended there. He brings you peace.
Here is the Christ-child. See your salvation. You are no longer a slave to the troubles, pains, and failures of this earthly existence. For your ascended Savior reigns over all for the good of you his people, ruling with the power of God's right hand. He brings you peace.
Here is the Christ-child. See your salvation. You are no longer a slave to death. For as the Conqueror of death he will raise all the dead when he comes in glory on the Last Day and give eternal life to all who believe in him. He brings you peace.
And notice how Jesus brings this peace home to you, dear Christian, in a most special way. We don't hold the Christ-child in our arm as Simeon did. But what a miracle that we hold his body and blood in our mouth in the Lord's Supper! That is the same body Simeon held and just as real. We not only see our salvation, we taste it. What peace he brings!
But you and I, dear friends, would never know this peace or enjoy it, if God had kept it hidden. But notice what Simeon says, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). What a light this child is!
From the beginning the Lord God did not keep his plan of salvation hidden. In the days of Adam and in the days of Noah the entire world knew his promise. Did parents fail to teach it to their children or did children, like Cain, reject the Lord's salvation? Or was it a bit of both? But even after many forgot his promise, the Lord sent prophets throughout the Old Testament and had his word of promise written down. It was no secret.
After Jesus rose, he sent out his apostles to preach the Good News to all creation, to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, making disciples by baptizing and teaching. And these apostles recorded their testimony as the Holy Spirit gave the words to write, so that we too may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing have life in his name. The Lord did not hide his plan of salvation. He has made it known for all to believe.
So into our inborn darkness, into our natural unbelief and inherited blindness, Jesus shines as the genuine Light. He is the Light that reveals God's saving plan to us Gentiles. Through the Gospel in baptism and his word, he has shattered our darkness.
And he is the Light that is the glory of his people Israel. For you see, this is why God called Abraham to leave his home and promised him a son, twenty centuries before Jesus' birth. This is why he used Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt and gave them his law at Mt. Sinai, fifteen centuries before Jesus' birth. This is why he brought David to Israel's throne and established his kingdom, ten centuries before Jesus' birth. That's why he brought a remnant back from exile in Babylon, five centuries before Jesus' birth. All this was to send his Son at just the right time to be born a Jewish baby, to live, die, and rise from the dead as the Savior for all mankind. That's the glorious purpose for which God had made Israel a nation. What a tragedy that so many who call themselves Israel today reject Jesus! What a tragedy that many others walk in darkness! What a tragedy when those who have seen his light fall away and return to the darkness!
But you, dear Christian, you know Jesus. You trust him. You believe in him. His light shines on you through his word and sacraments. Without them we would forever be in darkness. But by the Gospel God has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Jesus shines in your heart. You have seen your salvation. Don't return to the darkness. Don't return to that slavery. Don't return to warfare against God. Rather walk in the light. Follow Jesus. Live for him. Gladly hear and learn his word, eagerly waiting for his return, even as Simeon eagerly waited to see him. For he is your salvation, your peace, your light. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.