CHRISTMAS 1, C – December 30, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Exodus 13:1-3, 11-15; Col. 3:12-17; Luke 2:22-40           

“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.” Luke 2

 

Each of us has songs we like and sing along with… even if it’s only in your car or at home. I’ll bet that you have sung songs with lyrics that you don’t understand; such as this one by the Scottish poet Robert Burns:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?

Auld lang syne: what does this mean? And, how about this verse?

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere! And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne.

    

Well, for nearly 2,000 years we Christians have been singing Simeon’s words, which are known as the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for, “Now let us depart”). What do they mean? Let’s consider this in this last Service of 2018.

We begin, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” Basically, you’re saying: “Lord, I’m ready to die. I’m at peace!” Really? Are you at peace with dying? Are you ready to leave this life and stand before your Lord? “Whoa, hold on a minute there. I’m not done with life yet! There are things to do and places to see. Die… me? That’s scary. I’m not that old!”

Sorry, but death does not come only to the very elderly. It comes at any age, and whether you are ready for it or not. Just yesterday I heard of the death of Bre Payton, a 26-year-old woman who worked for The Federalist and who I occasionally saw on TV. She got the flu and died very suddenly. You and I will also die; and when is not up to us, but is “according to Your word,” Simeon says. God declares the time, and also the reason. You and I do not die because of age, or disease, or injury. Ultimately, we die because God has decreed, “The soul who sins will die.” (Ezek. 18:20) The curse of death came because of sin; and, since everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, sins, death will come upon everyone, and at any time. Are you ready to die?

Simeon was. He was at peace and ready, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” God the Holy Spirit had promised him that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah, the Lord’s Christ. He not only saw his Savior; he even held Him in his arms! Jesus was 40 days old at that point. His parents had taken Him to the temple to consecrate Him to the Lord, in keeping with God’s command to His people in Ex. 13. It was there – the place where God’s Scriptures were proclaimed, sacrifices for His forgiveness were offered, and prayers to Him were prayed – that Simeon saw Jesus. He was a mere infant, utterly needy and helpless; and yet, Simeon praised Him as God’s salvation, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to [His] people Israel.” His eyes didn’t see this. He simply believed what God had said about the Messiah. By faith, his trust in God, Simeon saw God’s plans and was filled with peace. He was ready… not to die, but to depart; to leave this life and live with God in heaven.

Where do we sing his words? Here, in our Father’s house, the place where the Holy Spirit brings Christ’s salvation to us. We’ve confessed the darkness of our sins, and that we deserve to be condemned to hell for them, and have heard God forgive them; in Scripture and in sermon we’ve heard His words of life and salvation in Jesus; and, we’ve been led to see Jesus and take Him up – not into our arms, like Simeon, but into our mouths – through the bread and wine which are His true body and blood. Rejoicing in faith, we sing with Simeon, “My eyes have seen Your salvation!” God is with us as our loving Father, and we depart from here in peace, ready to live with Him in heaven!… or, to live with Him here on earth. It’s up to Him, “according to His Word.”

According to His Word; by His words God will now guide and direct our lives. Simeon warns us that life as Christ’s people will not always be easy. “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many, and for a sign that is opposed, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Falling and rising; opposition; this is what following Jesus will mean. Expect it!

The apostle Paul puts this way what following Jesus must mean for your life:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together.”

The gifts you have received in Christ: put them on! Wear them and use them!

God has gifted you so greatly in His Son. In Him you are “God’s chosen, holy and beloved.” In Him God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13-14) Although the darkness of sin and opposition to Jesus assail us in this life we now live under the care of a good and benevolent King who rules over our sins and every opponent of our faith. God is with us to help us; we can, then, be confident of going to heaven. It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky wish!

We’re not there yet, however. We still live in this fallen world. So: “Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.” By works of humility and love you make visible as a blessing for others the Savior you have seen and received here. The gift of Jesus is re-gifted. But, make sure as you re-gift Him that you don’t wrap Him in the paper and ribbon of your own desires.

Take forgiveness. It is a hard gift to give, for it means you have been sinned against and hurt. Our natural response to someone who has hurt us is to withdraw, not draw near; to hold onto anger, not humbly reach out with love and mercy. When forgiveness is wrapped in such paper and ribbon, it is given like this:

Ø  “I’ll forgive after he comes to me and apologizes, but not before.”

Ø  “I’ll forgive, but it will be a long time before I forget what she did.”

We are called, however, to shine with the light and salvation we have received. “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Jesus came in great humility among us, and He forgave you before you asked for it, even before you knew you needed it and were sorry. He did so completely, and keeps no record of your sin in His mind and heart. Sure, people who do wrong must repent, must be sorry and change. But, Christ forgave in order to bring about such change, not only after there was such change. We are to put Him on, be wrapped in Him and shine forth His light in all we do.

Can you do this? Can you not only depart in peace but live in peace; bringing Christ’s peace? Yes, you can; as you keep on receiving Christ. So: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” God does not ask you to give what He has not first given. As you receive His words and worship Him Christ comes to dwell in you. He makes you rich that you might regift Him and share His riches with other poor sinners. In this way the blessing of Christmas, of Christ come to us, continues. It will last until we “depart in peace” to our eternal Christmas celebration in heaven and see our Savior with our eyes. May it come soon! “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace;” living in peace here, and waiting eagerly for the eternal peace on heaven! Through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.