Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd Peperkorn
Christmas 1 (Dec. 30, 2012)
TITLE: “The Song of Simeon”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter 2. Let us pray:
O God, our Maker and Redeemer, You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature. Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
I’ve always liked this reading after Christmas. It is the picture of a man who is waiting to die. Now don’t think of this as morbid. Simeon was given a promise by God that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s anointed one. So like so many others we heard about this past Advent, Simeon was waiting. He was waiting for the “consolation of Israel,” our text says. In fact, this whole Song of Simeon is packed with rich, Gospel words. So let’s take a look at them. In fact, open your hymnal up to page 165 so that you can follow along.
This translation has us starting with “let go in peace.” When I was growing up, it was “Depart in peace.” We still sing it that way in Divine Service 3. Really none of those quite get it. The word means release. It’s also the word we often translate as “forgive.” God’s forgiveness is tied up with our desire to let go of this fallen world and embrace the resurrection of the dead. Like Simeon, we need not fear anything, not even death itself. Why? Because God has released us from the bonds of sin and death in this little babe of Bethlehem.
Next we see the word “salvation”. Now that is a good church word, isn’t it? But what does it mean? Salvation. Literally, it means healing. Can you see the word “salve” in “salvation”? Salvation, save, heal, they are all one and the same idea. God has prepared the healing of the nations in the sight of the whole world. The babe, our Lord Jesus Christ, He is presented here before the whole world as the medicine of immortality. He is salvation, for only in Him can we receive the healing that we need.
The next word is “revelation”. Jesus is the light of the world that the darkness cannot understand. He is the one that enlightens us. He is the only one that can give true understanding. We by nature are, well, we’re in the dark. We don’t get it. We don’t understand how God can both love the world and be so intolerant of sin. We don’t understand death, and everything that flows from it. There is so much we don’t get. There is so much we don’t understand. But in Christ we have revelation. We hear in the book of Hebrews, “In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his son.” What this means is that everything we need to know about God we can find in Jesus. He is the light. I don’t look in the sunset or the tsunami. I look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For that is enough.
The last one is the word “glory”. If ever there was a misunderstood church word, this is it. When I think of glory, I usually think of the wonder and amazement and hero-worship that goes along with winning a football game. Or maybe a war. Glory and pride seem to go together in our world. Glory and might or power also seem to go together.
But here, glory doesn’t mean that. It really means the gracious presence of God with His people. God’s glory in the Old Testament was in the cloud on Mt. Sinai, in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. God’s glory meant that if you wanted to know where to find God, you don’t look in your heart, you looked right there, in the Temple. That’s where He promised to be.
And that’s where He is in our reading. Jesus is God in the flesh. Mary is, in a sense, the Temple preparing for the Temple not made with hands. In her womb the very glory of God dwelt.
And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this word in the Christmas story, is it? We also heard the angels sing it to the shepherds. Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth. God’s glory here is His holy and gracious presence with His people.
But notice who is on the receiving end of the glory in our text. Israel. Or the Church, if you will. We are the ones who receive the glory, the victory, the gracious presence of God. We sing “glory be to the Father” and then He turns around and gives the glory right back to us in His own body and blood.
This old man, Simeon, must have had quite the twinkle in his eye when he beheld our Lord in his lap. Heaven and earth could not contain His majesty and glory, yet here he is. The mystery of the word made flesh is right before his very eyes. Depart, salvation, revelation, glory. It’s all right there:
Depart in the peace of the forgiveness of sins.
Salvation or healing in the person of Jesus.
Revelation or understanding that can only come from God. And
Glory where God gives us the credit for all of his great work.
This, beloved, is why there is so much joy to be found in these words of Simeon. And we sing them every single week. These words, as our Epistle puts it, dwell in us richly. In these words we give thanks to God for all He has given to us in His Son.
It is an almost uniquely Lutheran tradition to sing the Song of Simeon at the end of our Holy Communion liturgy. But it is a really, really good one. For Simeon confesses for the whole church everything that we receive by eating his body and drinking his blood.
So come, receive the Christ-child this day, and sing with saints and angels, with Simeon and Anna and Mary and Joseph and all of heaven and earth. Christ our Lord has come to us even now. Rejoice and be glad!
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.