The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 2:22-40
My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation
First Sunday after Christmas, 30 December 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
(For an Elder to Read)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
The Church Year is filled with days of Our Lord. That is very appropriate, because each year since His birth has been called A.D., Anno Domini, or “the year of Our Lord.” Most Christians are quite familiar with the big “Jesus days,” Christmas and Easter, the Nativity of Our Lord and the Resurrection of Our Lord. Other such days of Our Lord are less familiar because they don’t often fall on Sundays.
For example, consider New Year’s Day, called the Circumcision of Our Lord. The verse before the sermon text reads: And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Another little-known day of Our Lord is the Presentation, which is remembered every February 2nd. The events in today’s Gospel for the First Sunday after Christmas take place forty days after Jesus’ birth. The white color of today’s paraments signals that today is a special day of Our Lord.
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 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law… The time has come for the Son to be born. The time has come, the eighth day, for the Son to shed His blood for the first time at His circumcision. Now, the time has come for the Lord to come to His Temple.
On this, His fortieth day, Our Lord fulfills prophecy and is obedient to the law. But He is a humble Lord. Leviticus 12 says that the mother “shall bring to the priest…a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a lamb for a sin offering…And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons… They are poor. Here are the birds of sacrifice, but there is no Lamb, except Jesus Himself, He whom the Baptizer would call the Lamb of God.
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. 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.
We usually picture Simeon as an old man because he is ready to die and because of the age of the prophetess Anna. There is nothing in the text to evidence that Simeon was elderly. By faith, He holds on to the promises the Lord has revealed by His Word and patiently waits. He waits for the consolation of Israel.
And [Simeon] 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, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
No doubt Mary and Joseph marveled that Simeon, likely a complete stranger picks up the forty-day-old Jesus. Simeon’s psalm sounds like something out of the Old Testament, yet its new testament flavor points to Jesus Great Commission to make disciples of all nations at the end of Matthew and the mission to the Gentiles throughout Luke’s second volume, Acts.
Simeon’s new testament song, or canticle, gradually found its way into the Church’s liturgy. It is often referred to by its Latin title, Nunc Dimittis, literally “Now dismiss.” It is the canticle for a bedtime service called Compline.
In the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions, the dismissal consists of the bidding, “Depart in peace,” hinting at Simeon’s song. It was part of the presiding minister’s concluding prayers in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, circa 345 A. D. The ancient Mozarabic (Spanish) liturgy made use of this canticle after the communion. Although Luther himself made no mention of the Nunc Dimittis, the Lutheran service orders of Nürnberg, Strasbourg, and Sweden included it before 1531. And our Missouri Synod first included it in the Common Service in 1917.
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And we do, too. After the end of the distribution of the Lord’s Body and Blood, we sing Simeon’s words. We marvel at what is said about Jesus and by faith, we hold to it. Consider the deep meaning, following Holy Communion of saying these words yourself: My eyes have seen Your salvation.
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 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 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
Many in Israel fell because of Jesus. His message and person together were a stumbling block to them, and they rejected Him. Many in Israel rose. We are told by historians that one million Jews were Christians by the end of the first century. Jesus, the glory of Israel, is the light which enlightened us who are gentiles. We are part of the all nations. It’s not surprising then that Simeon’s song of joy flows so naturally from our lips.
All people need an enlightening light. Humanity, content in sin’s land of deep darkness needs a light to dispel the darkness, the shadow of death, and the prospect of hell. Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. You have seen the light of salvation with your own eyes by faith. And we let our little Gospel lights shine for all to see, giving thanks to God and speaking of him to all who were waiting for the redemption.
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, 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. 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.
Anna’s passion for service to the Lord is nearly palpable. And her service continues in new ways when she personally encounters the Redeemer. Her eyes have seen the Lord’s salvation. Do you notice what she doesn’t do? She doesn’t just sit there, tolerating the message, nodding her head at the right time, and then going on with her business the rest of the week. Her business is to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Do you sense her urgency? Do you see her excitement? She goes and tells the good news about Jesus. It’s not too late to learn of Jesus, to learn more about Jesus, to learn how to tell others about Jesus. A person is never too old to learn. Socrates was an old man when he began to play musical instruments; Cato was 80 when he began his study of Greek; Plutarch was in the upper 60s when he undertook to learn Latin; Michelangelo worked till the day of his death; when he was 90, he painted himself as an old man with an hourglass and with the inscription: “I am still learning.”
A person is never too old to learn. A Christian should never say, “I don’t need to learn anything more.” Disciples are made by baptizing and teaching. We catechize the baptized in the essentials of the faith, but instruction in the Word is not to stop with Confirmation. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. The Word is your spiritual daily bread. If you go without it, your faith will starve, just as starvation can lead to physical death.
A person is never too old to learn. One of Pastor Cain’s classmates at the Seminary was 65 when he started the four-year program. He was 69 when he received his first call. There are vacancies across the LCMS today, including Prince of Peace, Buffalo. How can we encourage our men, young and old, to consider the pastoral ministry? How can we communicate the great need for Lutheran school teachers, missionaries, parish nurses, and musicians like organists?
Members of Immanuel are invited to attend the Tell the Good News About Jesus Convocation in Casper the last weekend in January. Throughout this next year, we will share some of what is learned to help mothers, fathers, teenagers, and people in all vocations to more easily and confidently tell the good news about Jesus, just like faithful Anna of old.
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
This is how St. Luke summarizes Jesus’ early years from forty days to age 12. On of the benefits of the Church Year and the lectionary, the series of Bible readings that goes along with it, is the continuous focus on Christ. We prepare with Israel for His first Advent on Christmas. We seek the King of the Jews with the Wise Men on Epiphany. We walk with Our Lord to Jerusalem and the cross throughout Lent. With the eyes of faith we apprehend the Resurrection. And the Ascension. And Pentecost. We can say along with Simeon, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Our growth in Christ is compared to a green, growing plant, when the color for half of the year the color is green. We grow in Christ, never too old to learn of Jesus, the light of the world. The structure of our Church Year, filled with days of Our Lord like the Presentation, helps rescue us from a worldly focus and sinful self-centeredness. Our eyes our opened by the light of Christ to the fullness of the Scriptures and the salvation in Christ alone that they present.
The Lord comes to His Temple yet today. He is present in your bodies, which are a temple of the Holy Spirit whom you have from God. And, according to His rich and glorious promises, He is present in His Word and Sacrament. “My Eyes have seen Your salvation,” Simeon said. And to that we add a hearty Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.