Monday, December 28, 2009

First Sunday in Christmas

First Sunday in Christmas
Luke 2:22-40
Bror Erickson

[22] And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
[23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") [24] and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." [25] 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. [26] 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. [27] And 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, [28] he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
[29] "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
[30] for my eyes have seen your salvation
[31] that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
[32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel."
[33] And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. [34] And Simeon blessed them and said 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
[35] (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
[36] And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, [37] and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. [38] And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
[39] And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. [40] And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:22-40 (ESV)

Lord now you are letting your servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation. Simeon sings the “Nunc Dimitis” for the first time, the wonderful post communion canticle. This is where we get it from. After beholding the Lord’s Salvation, the Lord’s Christ, and picking him up, a tiny baby of flesh and blood, here about forty days old, for that is what the Law required.
(In fact Swedish Lutherans celebrate this day forty days after Christmas as Candle Mass Day. But celebrating the events of a man’s life in the course of a year, which is basically what we do with the liturgical year, is celebrate the events of Christ’s life as our “Heilsgeschichte” the history of our salvation, leads to a little overlap, condensing and twisting, so we have this account within the first week of Christmas, which doesn’t last 2 weeks, but a mere 12 days. Epiphany follows close on the heels and this will take us through Christ’s ministry, starting when he was about 30. These 12 days are dedicated to his youth.)
Simeon sings after seeing the Lord’s Salvation, the Lord’s Christ. He sees him, holds him in his hands. Now the promise of God, his word has been fulfilled, that Simeon would see the Christ before he dies. Simeon’s life is as full as it possibly can be. He doesn’t know when death will happen, but he knows he is ready. He has seen his salvation, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel. And so He is, a light of revelation to Gentiles revealing to us gentiles the salvation of God, and in whom we as His people, the new Israel, children of Abraham and people of God by faith glory in him. We glory in Him for He is our salvation prepared in the presence of ALL PEOPLE, for all people. This is something worth celebrating something worth singing about. And so we do.
It is funny, though. Here is Simeon, one of the few who is ever mentioned as being righteous in all of scripture. Scripture is contrary to popular belief not filled with the deeds of righteous people, but actually records more sins of sinners than it does great deeds of the righteous. Gross and hideous sins quite frankly. I met a man once who was so offended by the fact that Abraham pimped out his half sister wife twice, that he had a hard time seeing the guy as a prophet at all, or the Bible as really being the word of God, though he did like that morals that it taught. Though had he not been raised with the Ten Commandments he probably would not have found anything Abraham did as morally objectionable. Ah, the hypocrisy of it all. These guys are never declared righteous because of their moral back bone, which brings us back to Simeon, one of the few to be called righteous in all of scripture. If anyone should have known the peace of God, he should have. And yet he is waiting for the consolation of Israel. Righteous and devout he may be, but he knows that that won’t cut it. His soul is not at peace.
We can take a lesson from that. If looking inside your soul you find yourself at peace you have done a masterful job of deceiving yourself and the truth is not in you, more than that you make God out to be a liar, for he says you are a sinner worthy of condemnation. It is for this reason that the Christian life, all of it is one of repentance. We always have something to repent for. We cannot afford to be at peace with ourselves. Our very righteousness tells us we are sinners. If Simeon being righteous was not at peace, can we be at peace? But we can be at peace with God. Or I should say we are at peace with God.
We are at peace with God because we have beheld His Salvation. The same salvation that Simeon beheld, Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Christ, the God who became man for us men and our salvation. We behold Him, not only dying on a cross, but rising from the grave on the third day, conquering death, the wages of our sin. We behold Him, I say, because he is living, and we live in Him. We behold Him when he comes to us in scripture, in these very gospels, the historical accounts of his life. And they are historical, and factual with better attestation than anything else we have from that period of history most of which goes unchallenged if it doesn’t record the Life of Jesus Christ. But more than that we behold him as he comes to us and forgives our sins with his body and blood that he shed for us on the cross, when in Holy Communion we like Simeon pick up the flesh and blood of Jesus, the salvation of God. So we too conclude the Lord’s Supper singing Lord now let your servant depart in peace according to thy word. For there we have received forgiveness, our souls have been put at peace with God. In Him and in Forgiveness we find rest, we find salvation; we find the peace we could not find in ourselves. Therefore we are ready to depart as his servants, to serve in peace here in time and there in eternity. For whether we live or die, as His servants we do all to the glory of God.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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