Christmas 1 Proper B1                     
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Sermon Luke 2:25-40 Sermon                                          
December 28, 2008

Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
24 "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night"
40 "The First Noel"
47 "Away In A Manger"
31 "Angels From The Realms Of Glory"

Text (vs. 25-26):  "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ."

            There's a chewing gum commercial that was playing on television some time ago, which perhaps some of you have seen.  The commercial features a group of astronomers, one of them being probably in his early 60's.  They were gathering in an observatory to see a comet, which appears only once every 70 years.   As he's gazing into the night sky, the 60ish man makes the comment, "When I see this comet, I can die a happy man."

            But wouldn't you know it, the man's gum loses its flavor.  And so, he glances away just for a second, to get a new piece of gum.  And while he is looking away, the comet goes by, and he misses it. He missed a once in a lifetime event.  Of course he wouldn't have missed seeing the comet had he been chewing the right kind of chewing gum that wouldn't have lost its flavor. 

            As the group is walking away, the man is looking very dejected.  One of his cohorts tries to console him by saying, "Oh well, people are living a lot longer these days."

            This morning, our text introduces us to two new faces in the Christmas story.  Here we meet Simeon and Anna, two people at the temple in Jerusalem.

            But before we talk about these two people, the question needs to be answered, "What were Joseph and Mary and Jesus doing at the temple in the first place?"

            To answer this, we read from Leviticus 12 some selected verses:  "...A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.  On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.  Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding.  She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over....When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.  He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.  These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or girl.  If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.  In this way the priest will make atonement for her and she will be clean."

            So there you have the whole regulation.  The proper amount of time had passed.  Jesus had been circumcised on the 8th day.  Mary's bleeding following childbirth had stopped, and now they were going to the temple for the rite of purification, according to the Old Testament ceremonial law.   Not only did this waiting time fulfill the law of God, but it was also advantageous for the health of the mother.

            It's right here that we begin to see Jesus keeping the law of God perfectly for us.  Jesus did everything required by the ceremonial law of God so it would be finished with His death, and the New Testament believers would no longer have to be concerned about the various sacrifices and other worship regulations prescribed in the Old Testament.  Everything concerning all facets of God's moral and ceremonial law was kept perfectly by Jesus from the very beginning.  Mary and Joseph as God fearing parents saw that everything they had to do as parents according to God's law would be followed as well.

            So here we have Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus at the temple, just as God's ceremonial law had prescribed.  And it is here that they are met by two people, two "temple regulars," Simeon and Anna.

            The Bible tells us that Anna was up in years, about 84 years old.  She was a devout person, and basically she spent all the time she could in the temple, worshipping and serving God.  When she saw Jesus, she told all the people she could about seeing the Messiah, the promised Saviour of the Old Testament.  Anna sought to be the best witness to Christ that she could be.

            And then there was Simeon.  The Lord had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Lord's Christ, or the Lord's Anointed--that is, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  Simeon's basic line of thought was, "When I see the Christ, I can die a happy man."

            Simeon was a righteous and very devout man.  He would have known that many of his fellow Israelites had lost faith in the coming Saviour.   He had been a long time promised, and people had grown lackadaisical about it. People doubted that the Saviour was going to come.  But Simeon held on to the promise of God, knowing that whatever God promised was true.  And so God speaks to him with a special promise:  that during his lifetime on earth, he would indeed see the Lord's Anointed with his own eyes.

            So Simeon and Anna were in the temple that day when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in.  But what if they hadn't been?  What if Simeon had decided to go fishing that day, or just didn't happen to wake up in time?  What if Anna was having company that day, or hosting a bridge club luncheon?  What if they hadn't been there that day?  Would Simeon have been like that man watching for the comet, and just missed out?  Would he have been sad and dejected because Christ was there and he missed it?  Would Anna have been as effective of a witness to Christ had she not seen Him with her own eyes?

            These are a lot of "what if's" that we don't have to worry about however, because they indeed were there.  But had they been absent, they would have missed out on a lot.

            The one thing that makes this story such a unique part of the Christmas story, is that this is the first occasion where Jesus actually went to someone.  The shepherds came to Jesus when He was born.  The 3 wise men also came to Jesus.  But here, Jesus met two very devout believers in God's house.  They didn't come to Him, but He came to them.

            This is a very important thing for us to remember too.  Jesus comes to us who are gathered here in God's house.  We come here to meet Him.  We come here with hearts that are burdened by sin and strife and the woes of this world.  We come here unclean, needing forgiveness and restoration.  We come here looking for the Saviour and what He can give us.

            Here's where Jesus comes to us.  Through the Word, Jesus speaks directly to us.  Through the Law, we see our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness.  Through the Gospel, we see our Saviour, and what He has done to forgive us.  

            Through the Sacrament of Baptism, Jesus comes to a person who is very young, and gives that person a saving faith.  Through the Sacrament of the Altar, confirmed believers who can examine themselves and who can recognize the body and blood of the Lord in the elements, receive a physical seal of their forgiveness and strength for their faith.

            Yes, it is here where Jesus comes to us.  We can be assured of that, without a doubt!  As faithful Christians, we need to be faithful in our attendance at God's house.  Just as Jesus met Simeon and Anna in His house, so in the same way, He meets us here too through Word and Sacrament.

            So what if we miss?  If we aren't in God's house meeting Jesus, will we miss something we need?  If we happen to turn away from Him, even for an instant, can we die a happy person?

            In our church, that's one of the things you can be assured of.  Whenever you come to worship here, you can be assured of meeting Him, and hearing what He has to say to you.   And if you happen to be on vacation for a particular Sunday, we can provide you with the names of sister congregations where you can be assured of meeting Jesus just the same as if you were here. 

            Your presence in God's house is important, just as important as it was for Simeon and Anna.  We know what they would have missed by being absent that day.  Simeon certainly wouldn't have died a happy man that's for sure.

            As we look at Simeon and Anna, one thing is worthy of mention.  Anna was a lady in her 80's, the Bible tells us that.   But the Bible is completely silent as to how old Simeon was.  People have usually just assumed that he was old also, thinking that the words: "he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ" is an indication of advanced age.

            Now personally, I think he was at least of more mature years; however technically, since the Bible is silent about it, he could be just about any age.   The description one hymn gives of him being "that aged seer" is no more than pure speculation.  The phrase "he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ" is not necessarily a picture of a dottering old man just barely hanging on to the last threads of life.   For Simeon, seeing the Lord's Christ meant that he could die a happy man, whenever that would be.

            I think the Bible is silent about Simeon's age for a reason, that reason being that we all can identify with him, regardless of our stage of life.  Once we have come to Jesus with our sin, once we have experienced His forgiveness and His promise of salvation, once we have been born again, we can die a happy and peaceful person.  Regardless of whether we are 16 or 60 or whatever, we can have that peace and joy that Simeon had.  Simeon and Anna saw their salvation in that baby boy, scarcely a month old.  That's where we see our salvation too, in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

            At every funeral I've ever performed, I always end the reading of the obituary with the famous words of Simeon.  "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.  A light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

            I read these words as a witness to the person's faith.  That person was able to die happy and at peace, because their faith was firmly grounded in Jesus their Saviour.  Even though they were sinful human beings, they had been washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  They went to heaven, clinging on to nothing but the cross of Christ and the righteousness He gave them.   They passed this life happy and at peace, looking forward to a blessed eternity.

            Our text for today has many facets to it, to be sure.  Today, let's remember to keep close to our Lord Jesus by our regular presence in His house, knowing that here is where we will meet Him face to face, through Word and Sacrament.   Let's come to Him with our burden of sin and receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation.  And with our faith in Jesus our Saviour intact, we can depart this world in peace, because we have experienced His salvation.  We can die a happy person, regardless of how long or short our life on earth happens to be.